Blog Post

Founder Letter: 10 Reasons to Attend Ascend

Why you should join us to learn, network, and kick back at this year’s Ascend in Phoenix, Arizona from September 21-23, 2023.

Heidi Jannenga
5 min read
June 7, 2023
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“There’s no place like home.” I’ve had that iconic line from The Wizard of Oz running through my mind as I’ve thought about this year’s Ascend, and it feels as true for me as it did for Dorothy as she closed her eyes and clicked her heels all those years ago. There’s nothing quite like coming back to where you feel most comfortable after an extended absence—and that’s exactly what we’re doing by hosting this year’s Ascend in Phoenix from September 21-23. As much fun as other venues have been over the past few years, there was only ever one choice for where to hold this milestone event.    

Of course, for those of you who live in other parts of the country, venturing to Arizona is not unlike making your way to the land of Oz. (Fortunately, it only takes a plane ticket to get here, not a tornado.) So why should you set off down the yellow brick road to join us at this year’s Ascend? I’ve got 10 good reasons to pack your courage, heart, and brains (and your little dog, too) and head to the valley this fall.  

1. Celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Ascend.

While every Ascend is special, this year’s event carries a bit of added weight. In addition to being the 10th anniversary of Ascend, this year also marks WebPT’s 15th birthday. And given those milestones, it’s only natural to stop and think about how much we have grown and developed from humble beginnings. WebPT has managed to grow from a couple of people working in the back room of a coffee shop, serving five Members in our first month, to a company that now serves more than 160,000 Members and employs over 950 people worldwide. Similarly, Ascend has grown from what began as a small gathering of rehab therapists and WebPTers in Dallas, Texas (oh, the memories!) to what is now one of the most significant educational events in the industry—and one that pulls in some of the biggest names in rehab therapy to join the growing list of world-class speakers.  

As I said in my 2023 predictions, I’m incredibly grateful for everyone who has helped make this remarkable journey possible. I think that Ascend is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all of you—and to celebrate with you. I also predicted that this year’s event would break records for attendance, so I’m counting on all of you to help prove me right! 

2. Enjoy the full Phoenix experience. 

Ascend 2023 is also an opportunity to celebrate the city and the neighborhood that WebPT has called home since its inception. As one of the fastest-growing and most innovative cities in America, Phoenix is the home of many exciting, groundbreaking businesses of all kinds, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, WebPT was among the earliest businesses to set up shop in the Warehouse District, which became part of the larger Innovation District (now known as the PHX Core) as more businesses moved into the area. We’ve been fortunate enough to be a leader in helping to create this thriving business community. And within that flourishing Downtown Phoenix startup community, the word ‘generous' has been used often to describe the entrepreneurs and people who work alongside one another, build connections, and share ideas—not unlike what we try to do with Ascend.

Of course, it’s not only about Downtown Phoenix’s business pedigree. It’s also home to many critically acclaimed restaurants, rockin’ bars, world-class museums, theaters, and perhaps our city’s most treasured cultural institution: the Phoenix Suns. In a lot of ways, the Suns mirror the path of Downtown Phoenix: a long history of peaks and valleys (no pun intended), with a shot of revitalization in recent years. 

As the fifth largest city in the U.S., and one known for its luxury resorts and golf courses, Phoenix has become a premium destination for events of all stripes. (We did just host Super Bowl LVII, after all.) But, you don’t have to take it from me; here’s what Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had to say:

“As a growing hub for bioscience technology and innovation in top-notch medical care, Phoenix is the perfect destination for the Ascend Business Summit. Our city has made a name for itself in hosting events big and small, from the Super Bowl to conventions spanning the professional spectrum. Between our expansive parks, unique restaurants, and thriving entertainment venues, there’s no shortage of places to explore and fun to be had. We look forward to welcoming the Ascend Business Summit and its guests to Phoenix this September so they can experience everything we have to offer.” 

3. Discover new technology—and a helping hand. 

In keeping with the spirit of the Innovation District, Ascend promises to feature the latest and greatest in cutting-edge products and technology that can help you move your practice forward. But it’s not just about the technology; it’s also the people and ideas behind that technology, as well as the generosity of our attendees and speakers to share their time, energy, and expertise that makes Ascend so special. 

I am blessed to be a part of two incredibly generous professional communities that are always willing to help lift others up so that everyone can thrive. The companies that make up the Phoenix business community have always been ready to do what they can for up-and-coming startups, recognizing that their success is everyone’s success—keeping in line with my favorite saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And as rehab therapists, “helping” is who we are and what we do. It’s what our businesses are built upon, and that attitude extends to our peers and colleagues as well. That attitude, and an eagerness to help and educate, are on full display at Ascend and are what keeps people coming back year after year.  

It can be hard to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology that’s being introduced into rehab therapy at such an accelerated clip, and more than a little daunting to think about how you could possibly adopt it into your own practice. That’s why we’re so selective about the vendors we choose for Ascend; we want to find the most impactful products and companies that share our passion for helping rehab therapists move our profession forward. Whether you walk away as a buyer or not, you’ll have time to learn not only what these products do, but how they can benefit your practice.    

4. Learn from the best of the best. 

We are so fortunate to have many of the top thought leaders in rehab therapy raring to share their expertise at Ascend, and I know this year’s slate of speakers won’t disappoint. To give you a sampling of what to expect, here are just a few of the amazing speakers we featured at last year’s event:

  • Kendell M. Jno-Finn, PT, DPT, TPI-M2, Founder and President of M3 Performance and Physical Therapy, Robin Black, Chief People Officer at Ivy Rehab Network, and Tobey DeMott Yeates, PT, DPT, Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University, joined me for a panel on diversity, equity, and inclusion in practice in the rehab therapy industry; 
  • Jon Elwell, CEO at Kno2 discussed how interoperability can drive positive patient outcomes;
  • Keaton Ray, PT, DPT, OCS, Co-Founder and COO at MovementX, and Fred Gilbert, PT, DPT, OCS, Chief People Officer at MovementX, held a panel on how the patient experience in your practice is impacting outcomes; 
  • Rick Gawenda, PT, President at Gawenda Seminars & Consulting, James Heathers, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Cipher Skin, and Kathleen Rosas, PT, DPT,  shared the stage with me to help educate attendees on compliance, use cases, and the benefits of remote therapeutic monitoring;
  • Brian Gallagher, PT, Founder and President of MEG Business Management, educated attendees on how to encourage intrapreneurship from staff while balancing their own ambitions; and
  • John Woolf, PT, MS, ATC, COMT, Ph.D., CEO at Patient Success Systems, presented a new perspective on the skills and psychology of building a patient-provider relationship. 

We are still finalizing our full roster of presenters for this year, all of whom will bring the heat (pun intended) with engaging and thought-provoking sessions. However, we do know for certain that the likes of Rick Gawenda, Brian Gallagher, and Kendell Jno-Finn will be back on the stage this year, as well as newcomers JeMe Cioppa-Mosca, Josh Funk, and Pedro Teixeira. Stay tuned —we’ll be announcing even more speakers very soon.

If you think you’ve got a compelling topic to cover and are interested in presenting, you can apply to be among our speakers.   

5. Gain insights to grow your business. 

While big ideas and big dreams are great for our profession, you’re probably also looking for advice that can be put into practice to help improve your business in some way immediately. Luckily for you, we’re all about creating content that gives actionable advice—which is why Ascend offers something for just about every specialty and role as well as business size. From technology and innovation to billing, marketing, and more, everyone from clinic owners and managers to students will walk away having gained some valuable insights.   

6. Meet like-minded professionals.

The opportunity to meet your people is what sets Ascend apart from any other industry event. Educational sessions are great, but they’re only half of the equation for a stimulating, engaging,  and impactful event. The best part of any in-person event is meeting new people, connecting with old friends, and sharing ideas both big and small. It’s the reason I was so excited for Ascend to once again be in-person in 2022, and why I’m looking forward to this year’s version as well. With that goal in mind, we always carve out plenty of networking opportunities into our Ascend schedule—unlike other conferences that shuttle you from one session to another all day. And it’s not the awkward, forced networking sessions that you might have been a part of at those other events; instead, we’re giving attendees the chance to have organic conversations and find their people among their peers. 

If you’re dealing with a particular problem area in your practice, chances are that someone else has the same issue—and that another person has found a solution, or at least useful advice based on their experiences. That’s why we have The Exchange, a peer-to-peer discussion session where we organize tables around specific topics, supply an industry expert as a moderator, and allow you to share big wins or bring your challenges to the group. It’s another prime example of rehab therapists helping each out—and of our focus on giving you actionable takeaways from each Ascend.       

7. Have your practice recognized. 

You didn’t get into rehab therapy for fortune and glory—but some nice recognition for you and your hard-working staff should always be accepted. Ascend’s Practice of the Year and Innovator of the Year awards are the only programs recognizing exceptional business results among outpatient rehab therapists. It’s also free to apply, so if you think your outpatient rehab practice has produced outstanding business results or launched a successful, innovative approach that advanced your business—or the profession as a whole—why not throw your hat in the ring? Plus, there are a slew of perks that come with being awarded, including free tickets to Ascend 2024!   

8. Enjoy the finest in Southwestern food and drink. 

Part of any conference experience is getting to kick back after a long day and enjoy what that town has to offer—and Phoenix won’t disappoint on that front. Our city has great options for Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, both downtown and throughout Phoenix, Scottsdale, and the surrounding suburbs. And the same goes for delicious Southwestern-inspired cocktails (imbibed responsibly, of course.) Personally, I love some good tamales or shrimp tacos, and perhaps an Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea) to wash it all down. 

And it’s not just Southwestern fare that Phoenix does well—befitting our status as an ever-growing metropolis, our city is garnering national attention for a growing list of new and exciting restaurants offering amazing dishes from across the country and around the world.  Really, there are no wrong choices for dining in Phoenix—so come on out to take advantage of our food and drink along with our educational content.     

9. Earn continuing education credits (CEUs).

While the combination of educational and networking opportunities and culinary delights at this year’s Ascend will be worth the trip alone, it’s also nice to get those much-needed CEU credits. Ascend attendees will be able to earn CEUs, pending approval from state APTA chapters and the AOTA.   

10. Take advantage of early-bird pricing.

Having listed all of those exciting opportunities, I can’t wait to have you all here in Phoenix for Ascend 2023. And with how this year is already flying by, September will be here before we know it—so don’t procrastinate on getting your tickets. There is still time to take advantage of our early-bird pricing to save some money on tickets. But the early-bird discount ends on June 15, and those limited tickets are moving quickly!

This is a can’t-miss event, given WebPT’s reputation for throwing a great party and putting on memorable and, most importantly, impactful events. I can’t say enough about how hard our team works to ensure that everyone has a positive experience and leaves better equipped to run their business and treat patients than when they arrived. Based on the feedback of our previous attendees, we know that everyone will also leave having built friendships (and even partnerships) that last for years. I sincerely hope that you’ll come out, come out to join us! 



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