Two groups of Lynchburg College medical students started 2016 by teaching and serving in the Caribbean.
Nine students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program worked with special education teachers in St. Lucia, while 17 Physician Assistant Medicine students performed clinical work in the Dominican Republic. The experience allowed the students to apply what they have learned in classrooms, but, more importantly, it helped them develop their sense of purpose and service, said DPT professor Dr. Lori Mize.
“I hope the students will gain a love not only of our profession, but of service and of people. Really that’s the most important thing that we can help them come to, or teach them,” she said. “To see that passion ignite in them that was the absolute best.”
This was the first time that DPT students traveled to the island nation, where LC has an educational partnership. It also was the first time Meaghan Dullea had participated in a service trip. “I thought building that program and being a part of that entire process would be really cool,” she said.
The group visited five special education centers in St. Lucia to provide physiotherapy assessments for students with identified needs. They also took note of the needs of the special education teachers, who spend a tremendous amount of their days lifting and carrying children or bending or kneeling down to get on the same level as the children. “They have some of their own aches and pains that physical therapists can treat,” said Jenny Franko.
The experience culminated in a day-long training where the DPT students taught 75 teachers from around the island about ergonomics and demonstrated how to safely carry the children they work with.
The experience allowed the students to demonstrate to themselves and others how they have internalized their training. “It showed me that I’ve learned a lot in this program,” said Claiborne Fletcher, who hopes to work in pediatric physical therapy. “I was able to implement all these techniques and help children. This is something I can definitely do in the future.”
The PA trip to the Dominican Republic was organized by the LC chapter of Students Without Borders. They spent 10 days in the country, including five days providing medical care and checkups in a clinic they set up in an empty church.
Liz Palmer was happy that she could provide meaningful service. “I’ve gone on other service trips before, but being in this program enabled me to do some really good that I couldn’t do in the past,” she said.
“We have a set of skills now that we can give to other people,” said Marcy Hoath.
The students learned a lot about practicing medicine in less-than-ideal situations — when some equipment, lab tests, and medications are not available. This allowed the students to practice their problem-solving skills to provide care in the best way possible given the situation. “It gets you away from a cookie-cutter approach,” said Taylor Lavery.
“It teaches you to be very flexible and adaptable,” said Minal Patel, president of the SWOB group.
For the faculty on each service trip, watching their students take leadership and practice their skills provided satisfaction and demonstrated that the students are on the right path. “It’s always exciting, after just two semesters, to see people practicing medicine and watch them be leaders,” said Dr. Jeremy Welsh, director of the PA Medicine program.
Dr. Welsh added that the experience allowed the students to take a break from the high-demand classes and come back for their third semester with renewed energy. DPT student Meaghan Dullea had a similar experience. “It reminded me of why we go through this process of being students for three years in a school that is very challenging and stressful,” Meaghan said. “The end goal is to be able to help people, not get a higher grade on this test. It got me excited again to be in school and learn more.”
See more photos from the trips below.
DPT in St. Lucia
PA Medicine in the Dominican Republic