Service Learning in PT School

Name: Austin Adamson, Class of 2020 Service Officer

Undergrad: Saint Louis University

Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA

Fun fact: I recently dove with manta rays and sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef!

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As students of physical therapy, we are undertaking a career that is founded upon the ideas of service and care for others. We spend countless hours in both classrooms and clinics learning a craft that allows us to heal our patients and restore their function and participation, ultimately serving them in a life-altering way. But, for many students of Regis University, the call to serve others extends beyond the classroom. It is a part of who we are, and who we are called to be.

The young Class of 2020 has only recently begun its efforts to serve beyond the community of our school and classmates. Our first service effort began in February, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Members of our class were generous enough to donate time and toys to Children’s Hospital Colorado to wish children and their families a happy Valentine’s Day.  Both the Van Gogh’s and the less successful artists in our class handmade over 150 cards, sending best wishes and love to remind every child that they are cared for, even through the challenging time of a hospital stay.

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These cards accompanied nearly $100 worth of toys and games that helped make the time in a hospital more enjoyable for the children being treated, their siblings, and their parents.

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Left to right: Josh H, Auburn BP, and Austin A delivering Valentine’s Day cards and toys to children at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

With the turning of the seasons and the coming of beautiful summer weather, members of our class turned to the mountains to participate in a trail building and conservation effort for National Trails Day.  On a warm Saturday, a small group of students and significant others made their way out to Hildebrand Ranch Park to volunteer with Jefferson County Open Space.  The group worked to construct a small section of new trail that will be opened in 2019, and also helped maintain an existing section of trail by cutting back overgrowth of invasive plants.

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Left to right: Meghan R, Nicole R, Emily P, Austin A, and Hannah D serving at Hildebrand Ranch Park.

Ask any Coloradan, native or otherwise, and they will tell you about the importance of trail work! As avid nature hikers, trail-runners, and mountain bikers, the Class of 2020 will continue to give back to the beautiful mountains we know and love as well as the community members who use them.

These are just a few examples of the service and work being done for others by my classmates and professors. Service is an integral part of our time here at Regis University, and is preparation for a lifetime of service as we will enter the field of physical therapy with hopes of serving our patients and empowering their lives. Some are called to service through the Jesuit Mission that is incorporated at Regis, which teaches us to be men and women for others. Some draw strength from acts of selflessness that bring joy and comfort to others. And still others enjoy building a community by meeting new people in service opportunities, and sharing experiences with one another. Regardless of the reason, the students of physical therapy at Regis University work to be engaged in both the local and global community. We are pursuing not just a degree, but the ability to shape a better world through our work!

Global Health Immersion: Students in Peru

In preparing my capstone presentation and reflecting on the last three years in physical therapy school at Regis, I began to see a theme linking all of my most rich experiences from which I learned the most: discomfort. From patient labs and practical exams to clinicals to presentations to service learning, we are constantly thrown into situations where we do not know exactly what to expect, are not sure of our abilities, and have to be willing to be flexible and a little bit vulnerable. These are the times we grow and learn the most. The global health immersion to Peru this spring was no different, and it even amplified those familiar feelings of unease. But I have found that those times of the unknown, unexpected, and unsure are the times when the most growth occurs. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the global health program at Regis, to learn from the people of Peru, to challenge myself to practice with cultural sensitivity, and to gain a better understanding of a culture different from my own.

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Third year students Allie Smith, Elena Absalon, and I traveled with Dr. Heidi Eigsti to Peru where we spent three weeks working with therapists and patients in the city of Huancayo. We spent much of our time with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which is a Non-Governmental Organization that serves primarily women and children.

CMMB has two programs in Huancayo. The first is CHAMPS, which focuses on promoting health, hygiene, nutrition, prenatal care, and access to health care providers. The second, with which we worked, is Rehabilitación Basado en Comunidad (RBC), or Community Based Rehabilitation. The program focuses on serving children with disabilities and their families in the most impoverished neighborhoods in Huancayo, Chilca, and Azapampa. Two physical therapists, Carmen and Loreley, and one psychologist, Lucia, care for 40 children and their families with both home and clinic-based treatment. The goal of the program, in keeping with the World Health Organization’s initiative to improve accessibility for people with disabilities around the globe, is to provide community-based rehab that is relationship focused and incorporates functional activities into everyday routines to improve patients’ participation in their homes and communities.

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The impact that RBC was having on the community in Huancayo was evident. The families with whom we worked were well educated on goals of therapy, extremely involved in home exercise programs, and motivated to do whatever they could to help their child improve. The therapists focused on all aspects of the child’s well-being and had developed strong relationships with them and their families. The Jesuit value of cura personalis was definitely at work, incorporating mind, body and spirit into care. The therapists put together events to connect the families, and they were working to develop of community of support. It was a valuable learning experience to see such a team-based, holistic approach being implemented in an underserved community. CMMB is definitely working to create a sustainable solution to removing the barriers to health and participation faced by the women and children of Chilca and Azapampa. That sustainability is imperative in making a lasting difference in the area, and I am excited for future Regis students to have the opportunity to continue to develop this new relationship with CMMB.

I should mention the whole immersion wasn’t all work. We went on an artisan tour in the mountains surrounding Huancayo where we learned about gourd painting, silver jewelry crafting, and textile production. We hiked to the glacier on Huaytapallana mountain at around 16,000 feet and completed a three-day trek to Machu Picchu City. These experiences introduced us to more of the beautiful landscape and culture of the country, and we were welcomed everywhere we went by warm people of Peru.
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Blogger: Abby Burger, Class of 2016