Lifting Up Others
Heidi Jannenga ’92 is addressing the diversity gap in physical therapy.
Jannenga, a physical therapist, co-founded WebPT, an electronic medical record platform for her industry in 2008 — growing it to become a $100 million company today. In 2019, private equity firm Warburg Pincus acquired a majority interest in WebPT, and soon after, Jannenga created Rizing Tide, a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusiveness within the physical therapy workforce.
For the past five years, WebPT has surveyed the industry in effort to gather data about its customers. The State of Rehab Therapy Survey gets information from more than 9,000 respondents each year.
“And every year, one of the topics that bubbles up is the lack of diversity in our profession,” Jannenga said. “But every year, the numbers haven’t really changed.”
Then, as part of the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation, she further explored what advocacy was being done through the industry.
“There was a handful of small organizations — I can count them on one hand. That was an aha moment. No one is really taking action,” she said. “I love to be a problem solver. So that’s what I did.”
Jannenga started Rizing Tide, kicking it off with five yearly scholarships: Three for incoming physical therapy students pursing their doctorate level degrees and two for graduating students who are entering an accredited residency program. (Physical therapists enter doctorate level professional programs after earning their undergraduate degrees. Residency programs are optional, and then state licensing is required to practice.)
Jannenga has written extensively about her own background and why she started Rizing Tide.
The daughter of immigrants, Jannenga grew up in Texas and then in Florida. A rising student-athlete, she attended UC Davis on a basketball scholarship. But her junior year, she injured her knee, prompting her to learn more about physical therapy. The experience changed her career trajectory.
She was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Alumna Award from the Cal Aggie Alumni Association.
Over the past year, she said the murder of George Floyd and negative responses to her personal articles fueled a desire to act.
“At the end of the day, with Rizing Tide, I want to be able to [offer community],” she said. “One of the benefits of being a scholarship winner is you will be invited every year back to a group of advisors and mentors, and every year that cohort is going to grow.”