Service Learning Across the Nation and Around the World
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Core Values include Altruism, Compassion and Caring, and Social Responsibility, and Arcadia University strives to integrate these core values throughout the DPT curriculum. During the first year of the curriculum, students participate in a non-credit-bearing service learning requirement, which offers DPT students the opportunity to meaningfully interact with members of their community (often in the context of wellness/fitness programs, and with populations and organizational structures that might be new to them) while reflecting on the social determinants of health through a developing PT lens.
With faculty oversight and in coordination with the facilities’ fitness directors, AUDPT students in the residential pathway are regularly welcomed at West Oak Lane Senior Center, an urban senior center day program, and at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, a continuing care retirement community, for this service learning requirement.
During the second year of the DPT curriculum, students are then required to participate a one-credit, satisfactory/unsatisfactory course that integrates the same reflections from the first year experience while serving the underserved through supervised PT practice. In this course, students collaborate with individuals in novel settings (i.e. telehealth, community-based programming, pro bono) who are underinsured or uninsured (Arcadia University Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic), and with individuals living with a complex progressive neurologic diagnosis (Dan Aaron Stay Fit Clinic), who are not frequently represented in typical clinical education settings.
This requires a breakdown of traditional content silos to refine evidence-based clinical skills of education, examination and evaluation, plan of care development, plan of care implementation, re-evaluation, and promotion of health and wellness that is very unique to Arcadia’s DPT program.
Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
In tandem with the clinically-focused experiences occurring during the second year, faculty members and students also collaborate to research, plan, and conduct presentations on the benefits of exercise to chronic disease support groups, community organizations, and clinicians. Students have presented on a variety of topics, including: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, end-stage renal disease, and childhood fitness.
International Service Learning
All Arcadia entry-level D.P.T. students have the opportunity to participate in an International Service Learning elective, with the goal of collaboratively expanding the availability of healthcare with long-standing international partners. Students can apply to take this 2-credit elective to provide education and physical therapy services, under the supervision of stateside licensed physical therapists and locally licensed clinicians, in countries such as Belize, Guatemala, and Jamaica. These planned, mentor-accompanied trips are generally two weeks in length and occur either during the terminal clinical experience or after completion of the didactic curriculum.
An example of Arcadia’s successful efforts to collaboratively expand healthcare accessibility in our global society is that of a program run by Arcadia University graduate, Jodee Fortner ’99. Fortner lived in Arequipa, Peru, and regularly hosted teams of physical therapists, Arcadia students and volunteers who provided services and equipment for children with disabilities. After seven years, Jodee has returned to the States and the Arequipa clinic is fully staffed by Peruvian physical therapists. The fact that the clinic is self-sustaining is a credit to Jodee’s efforts to “work herself out of a job.”
One current elective site is in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica, where Dr. Brooke Riley ’04, has directed the Friends of the Redeemer United clinic since graduating from Arcadia University’s PT program. The local clinic was established by Dr. Karen Sawyer and Karen Koch (Arcadia class of 1996) in 2002. In conjunction with local SPTs and clinicians, it provides predominantly out-patient services and home visits to people with musculoskeletal and neuromuscular diagnoses. Several times per year, the clinic runs an Intensive Neurologic Clinic for Jamaicans with stroke or incomplete spinal cord injury, highlighted in the video below.