Josh D’Angelo sums up his School of Kinesiology experience with a quote from Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”
Josh graduated in 2010 with his bachelor’s in Movement Science. He credits Kinesiology for launching him out of school with the necessary resources, community, and network to make a difference.
“The school had a comprehensive set of classes that thoroughly prepared me for the future. Those classes demanded excellence. They challenged me in ways I hadn’t been challenged before,” he said. “I realized that I could take this experience anywhere and have the tools to succeed.”
He remembers Kinesiology students and faculty creating a sense of intimacy.
“You get to know your classmates, you become close with your professors, and you develop collaborative relationships where students and professors are seeking to help each other,” he said. “It creates a shared sense of success, and it’s fostered throughout the program and the school as a whole.”
The university’s tradition of developing leaders also gave him confidence.
“Specifically knowing my peers would go on to become medical doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists … helped facilitate my own confidence and wear Michigan’s banner proudly,” Josh said.
Now Josh is moving the world one touchpoint of access to healthcare at a time. The non-profit he co-founded, Move Together, i increasing access to quality rehab medicine around the corner and around the world. It combines the necessary local capacity building, skillsets and knowledge, and healthcare with community leaders’ input to create a shared vision towards helping people move better.
“Our vision is to have a clinic in every community, and a sense of community in every clinic,” Josh said.
The value of servant leadership has always been engrained in Josh. His father was a social worker in suburban Detroit, and his mother was a nurse. His dream in physical therapy school was to open a pro bono clinic in Detroit.
He found an additional calling during a service trip to Guatemala that provided rehabilitation services to those in need.
“It made me realize even though we’re in different parts of the world, we come from different cultures, and we have different languages, we’re a lot more similar than we are different,” he said. “I thought to myself, if I have a skill set that is meaningful to people, I want to be able to help deliver that skillset to others who need it, whether it’s in the United States or abroad.”
Josh and colleague Efosa Guobadia started Move Together with the goal of expanding patients' access to physical therapy and rehabilitation services. The organization serves uninsured or underinsured individuals domestically and abroad, where there are limited rehabilitation services and resources.
Access is critical to developing sustainable solutions for quality care, according to Josh, which is why it serves as the organization’s foundation.
“Oftentimes, there are structural reasons why individuals in underserved areas don’t have access to care,” he explained. “We work with local communities … to understand their challenges and barriers, their values and cultures, and then build a shared vision of how we can increase access to care, together.”
Move Together has four programs: the Clinic Development Program, Pro Bono Incubator, Catalyst Club, and PT (Physical Therapy) Day of Service.
The Clinic Development Program works to establish new physical therapy clinics in underserved international communities.
“We don’t want to go in with a mindset of … we know the best way to do things,” Josh said. “We want to make sure we’re getting to know the community leaders and members. We hope to set the stage for continuously improving the clinic so that it becomes a fully sustainable, quality clinic.”
Move Together built its first clinic in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, in 2017. Prior, the city had one full-time physical therapy clinic serving the entire 1.5 million population.
A team of 30 Move Together volunteers and 100 community volunteers spent an entire day building walls, the roof, windows, and doors, and equipping the clinic’s interior. With darkness approaching, they had transformed a concrete foundation into a fully functional physical therapy clinic.
The clinic started seeing patients and working hand-in-hand with local therapists the next day and now averages 10,000 treatments per year. It has introduced additional programs for amputees, caregivers of individuals suffering from strokes or spinal cord injuries, and exercise programs for individuals with lower back pain.
“What’s special is how it has truly become their own clinic, and they’re continuing to improve it. Every time we come back, they have added a new program, built new equipment, or have new staff to better serve their local community,” Josh said. “It really speaks to our vision of a clinic in every community, and community in every clinic.”
Move Together completed one other project in Guatemala, a physiotherapy clinic in San Pedro Sacatépequez, and are partnering to complete a physiotherapy clinic in San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán and equip Villa Nueva's newest hospital’s rehabilitation wing.
They have also adopted a project in Rwanda.
The school had a comprehensive set of classes that thoroughly prepared me for the future. Those classes demanded excellence. They challenged me in ways I hadn’t been challenged before. I realized that I could take this experience anywhere and have the tools to succeed.
Domestically, their initiatives include the Pro Bono Incubator, which provides up to $10,000, along with mentorship and resources, for individuals or groups looking to improve care access. Move Together has awarded $30,000 to 16 projects over the last three years. Some of those projects include the establishment of a brand new pro bono clinic at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and a program in Bend, Oregon, taking individuals with neurological diseases on ‘adventure’ and social outings, such as hiking and kayaking.
Josh noted that Move Together also funded programs designed to transition individuals off opioids using education and rehabilitation activities.
“It’s been this incredibly diverse set of innovative ideas, all driven by local community leaders, that help individuals gain more and better access to care,” he said.
Finally, Move Together started PT Day of Service, where members of the physical therapy profession around the world serve together on the same day. In its inaugural year in 2015, more than 3,000 people participated. Now, it has grown to over 18,000 people across 50 states and 80 countries around the world.
“It speaks to building local capacity, creating the environment and inspiring local leaders to serve,” Josh said “and it speaks to our shared desire to contribute to our local communities.”
He added that it doesn’t matter whether you are in the physical therapy or rehabilitation areas or not, Move Together can always find a place for someone to volunteer. Learn more about its mission and volunteer opportunities at movetogether.org.