Introduction| Volume 21, ISSUE 1, P2-3, January 2008

The Common Thread of Hand Therapy

      The British Museum in London recently held an exhibit of exquisite handmade Japanese items from craftsmen who have been designated as Japanese National Living Treasures. The stunning display of hand woven and hand-printed kimonos were breathtaking in their fine and perfect detail, intricate patterns, and rich textures. The weaving of fabric, whether in a delicate kimono or strong denim work jeans starts with the same thing: one thread.
      As current and past presidents of the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy (IFSHT), our desire is to continue weaving international cloth made from the common thread of hand therapists around the world. No matter the language, the culture, or the health care system, all hand therapists endeavor to provide high-quality care to return hand patients to productive living. To accomplish this, all hand therapists eagerly seek to learn from their patients, their peers, and their mentors. The International Federation supports this desire by bringing together hand therapy societies throughout the world.

      The Thread of Written Communication

      Evelyn Mackin as the first editor of the U.S.-born Journal of Hand Therapy threaded the loom and began weaving international communication into the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT). Before the inception of this journal, she fostered international communication by establishing the ASHT International Hand Therapy Newsletter. As president of ASHT, and later as first president of IFSHT, she recognized the worldwide specialty of hand therapy long before a global economy was part of our consciousness.
      This journal continues to strongly carry on this tradition of international representation of hand therapy in more ways than just this international issue. Fifty-nine percent of the primary authors of scientific/clinical articles (excluding special issues where contributors are invited), since the beginning of 2006 are from countries outside North America. So perhaps even without realizing it, we are already greatly influenced by our professional peers the world over. As the number of advanced degree programs in hand therapy has risen around the world, there are now many hand therapy experts in specific areas of hand therapy, providing a new and rich resource for all of us.

      The Thread of Evidence-based Practice

      Therapists and surgeons worldwide are aware of the acute need to prove we know what treatment is most effective for our patients. Information gathered by one individual or location can be greatly enhanced by multicenter studies and cross-cultural evaluation of results. To gather this significant body of knowledge, we must begin to collectively seek answers for our core clinical questions and share more widely the results of our scientific investigations. Continued submissions to this and other peer-reviewed hand therapy journals will do more to advance our future role as hand therapists than any other action we can take. To quote the doyen of Indian industry, Dhirubhai Ambani, “Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one's monopoly.”
      How can we as busy clinicians access this ever-growing worldwide resource of knowledgeable and experienced therapists? We would like to make some additional suggestions to you.

      The Thread of Professional Meetings

      If you are adventuresome and enjoy travel, attending the annual meeting of an individual country society can provide direct dialog with the teachers in that country. A listing of the annual meetings of all member countries of IFSHT can be found on our Web site:, where information about each society and contact information can also be found. For a greater concentration of therapists consider attending one of the regional meetings:
      • North America is represented by the annual ASHT meeting.
      • European therapists are represented by the European Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy which convenes at the Eurohand meeting usually held every other year.
      • Societies in the Pan-Pacific area are represented by the relatively newly formed Asian Pacific Federation of Society for Hand Therapists.
      • South American countries are drawn together at the South American Hand Therapy Society Meeting.
      Dates, locations, and contact information for these meetings and many of the IFSHT member country annual meetings are now listed in each edition of this journal on the IFSHT Update page and on the IFSHT Web site (
      In June 2010, hand therapists in the United States will have a special opportunity when, for the first time, the 8th IFSHT Triennial Congress will be held in Orlando. This congress will offer the rich opportunity for U.S. therapists to gather with therapists from around the world to exchange scientific and clinical information. Mark your calendar for June 2010 in Orlando for this exciting opportunity for dialog with your fellow therapists from around the world!!

      The Thread of Electronic Communication

      Time zones vanish when electronic communication is possible among hand therapists around the world. E-mail addresses for members of the IFSHT executive board are available on the IFSHT Web site: and the e-mail addresses of each member country delegate. If you want to reach a therapist in a specific country we can likely find an e-mail address for someone in that country or direct you to additional resources.
      If you read about someone doing research in an area of interest to you, we encourage you to make direct contact and share resources. IFSHT maintains a document that lists all post-graduate education opportunities for hand therapy in our member countries, providing you information which can lead to further contact with those doing specialty study.

      The Thread of Direct Exchange

      Many would say the best exchange is when there is opportunity for person-to-person communication with another hand therapist. This exchange is even more enhanced when it occurs in a clinical setting.
      We encourage you to look at the IFSHT Web site ( under “visitors programme” to find the specific listings of clinics that are willing to have foreign visitors, and we urge you to consider listing your clinic as a visit location for those visiting your country.
      Additionally, many North American therapists travel to underserved countries to provide short-term support work, often traveling and working along side a group of surgeons. We encourage you to contact therapists who have made such trips to provide you with contacts and recommendations. This involvement is usually shared informally among therapists, but the ASHT International Committee can likely guide you in finding individuals who can provide contact information.

      The Future Fabric of Hand Therapy

      In the world of textiles, the future is in fabrics that have extraordinary atypical characteristics such as resistance to fire, water, and extreme mechanical forces. These new-age fabrics will allow us to explore and experience previously inaccessible places and circumstances. The same exciting future awaits the fabric of our worldwide hand therapy community as we weave new threads into our definition of practice. We all have something to learn from our international colleagues as well as something to give. We invite you to weave your personal thread into this fabric.
      International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy
      Judy C. Colditz, USA; President
      Margareta Persson, Sweden; Past-President
      October 2007.