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My Kind of Town

Chicago plays host to the APTA's Combined Sections Meeting in February

Vol. 23 • Issue 1 • Page 10

Conference Preview

The APTA's annual Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) will descend on the Windy City from Feb. 8-11. With a population of nearly 2.7 million people, Chicago is America's third-largest city, trailing only New York and Los Angeles. It has long been seen as the symbolic capital of the Midwest as well as a major hub for industry and commerce.

Chicago has the second-largest financial center in the United States, while its O'Hare International Airport is the second-busiest in the world. Many people also know Chicago as home of the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower. The tallest skyscraper ever when it was built in 1973, the tower soars to a height of 1,450 feet. Today it remains the tallest building in the United States and seventh-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

Chicago has also been home to current U.S. President Barack Obama and annually attracts millions of tourists to experience the city's history, entertainment, architecture, nightlife and culture.

In addition, Chi-town is renowned for its sports passion, with professional teams ranging from Major League Baseball's Cubs and White Sox to the NFL's Bears, NBA's Bulls and NHL's Blackhawks.

Local Perspective

Some might think of the Windy City as an unlikely destination during wintertime, but Illinois Physical Therapy Association (IPTA) President Sandra J. Levi, PT, PhD, related that attendees will discover much to make the trip worthwhile.

"You can expect Chicago to be cold and possibly snowy in February," she told ADVANCE. "But the transportation setup is usually very good and there will be a lot to do at the conference and in the city that's a lot of fun."

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A native of Boston, Dr. Levi has lived in the Chicago area since 1986. She is currently in the second year of her three-year term as chapter president and also serves as an associate professor in the physical therapy program at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

"From my perspective, Chicago is very livable and affordable compared to many other urban areas. It's also a very welcoming city. I think attendees will find Chicagoans to be friendly, good old Midwesterners."

City Sights

The conference will be held at McCormick Place in an area of the city Dr. Levi referred to as the South Loop. She spoke of several attractions that attendees can enjoy while they're in town.

"The conference hotels are within walking distance of what we call the Museum Complex," she said. "There is the Shedd Aquarium, which is large and nationally ranked, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium. Just a little further if you're a good walker is the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a fabulous art museum."

Dr. Levi also recommended using public transportation or a rental car to check out the Willis Tower observation deck.

"It's on the 103rd floor with a glass bottom so you can walk out over the city and see it from above. We call our train system the 'L,' which is partly above ground and partly below. You can take the L from Midway or O'Hare airports to the center of the city and many attractions."

When asked her favorite thing to do in Chicago, Dr. Levi was quick to answer.

"I could spend half my life in the Art Institute," she laughed. "They have all the old masters and many of their most famous works. They also offer an exhibit of rooms in the basement for anybody who likes dollhouses. There are 68 miniature rooms displaying interiors, in exquisite detail, depicting the 13th through 20th centuries of European and the 18th through 20th centuries of American home life. The homes have been carefully designed to represent different periods and events in history. I enjoy them very much."

For shoppers, there is a treasure trove of options in Chicago as well.

"We have a shopping district called the 'Magnificent Mile,' which is on North Michigan Avenue," Dr. Levi said.

This district boasts a mixture of luxury stores, restaurants, office buildings and hotels.

"I think for most attendees it would only be a short cab ride," Dr. Levi added.

Conference Highlights

But in addition to all the city attractions, visitors will likely enjoy many features of the conference itself. Dr. Levi noted the Combined Sections Meeting is something she tries to attend every year no matter where in the country it takes place. In fact, she has been to about 20 of them during the course of her 35-year PT career.

"I like the emphasis on clinical skills," Dr. Levi explained. "I also like the energy. It's a group of people who are committed to excellence. This is APTA's largest conference and the people who attend are really concerned about practice. I spend a lot of my life in research, so the practice end is very exciting to me."

The IPTA will be taking an active role in this year's event as host chapter.

"We are hosting a preconference course on Feb. 8 called 'Evolving Strategies in the Rehabilitation Management of the Patient in Critical Care,'" related Dr. Levi. "The speakers are Amy Pawlik, PT, DPT, OCS, and Cheryl Esbrook, OT, who are outstanding therapists at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The chapter will also be sponsoring a chance for PT leaders to socialize and network on Feb. 7 in a 'Night of Blues' at Buddy Guy's Legends club. My own role will be to share my excitement about CSM and all that Chicago has to offer."

Clinically, Dr. Levi plans to focus on geriatric offerings at the conference.

"I'm very active in the geriatric section so I always like getting together with them. Most of the different sections, there are 18 in all, will have some kind of member meeting on Friday evening the 10th. I'm looking forward to networking with people and celebrating those who have done interesting things in the area of geriatrics. It's particularly meaningful to me." 

Brian W. Ferrie is managing editor of ADVANCE and can be reached at


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