International trip an empathetic experience for PT students

June 20, 2019

By Alex Branch

Clinic Web
 
Treating impoverished people in Costa Rica gave UNT Health Science Center physical therapy students real-life lessons in compassion and the diverse needs of others.

Nine first- and second-year students helped treat and provide health education to men, women and children suffering from orthopedic problems, seizures, high blood pressure and more.

The students worked with Emily Paslay, DPT, a licensed physical therapist and Assistant Professor in the UNTHSC Department of Physical Therapy, and a licensed Costa Rican physical therapist.

“We had one 5-year-old girl with really flat feet who was complaining of lower leg pain,” Dr. Paslay said. “We did some fairly basic interventions, and her mom brought her back the next day to tell us she had much less pain at school that day. It was a great experience.”

The week-long trip was organized by Brandy Schwarz, PT, DPT, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, through International Service Learning, an organization that guides volunteers around the world in providing essential community and medical services to underserved populations.

Students were housed in a Catholic Church dormitory in the city of Alajuela, northwest of the capital of San Juan, and provided free care to an underserved urban community between Alajuela and San Juan. The group turned an empty, one-bathroom room into a makeshift clinic by arranging tables and chairs, and then went door-to-door to let residents know about the services available.

Interpreters worked with Dr. Paslay and students to measure patients’ vital signs, perform some basic physical therapy treatment and provide health information for patients to manage acute and chronic health conditions. The results were eye-opening.

“In just a matter of a day and a half, I saw the difference we made in someone’s life,” said Heather Elswick, a first-year physical therapy student. “This trip has lit a fire in me to become the best version of myself in my profession.I want to continue to motivate my patients and care for them in the best way possible.”

Madison Butzer, a second-year student, said the trip was a valuable opportunity to practice empathy, a skill emphasized in the UNTHSC curriculum.

“This experience gave us the opportunity to use this trait in a unique and diverse manner,” Butzer said. “We couldn’t even speak the same language, yet we were collaborating as a team to ensure our patients were given the best care possible.

“Overall, it brought these patients true joy, and that is what matters.”

The experience is one of a growing number of international opportunities for UNTHSC physical therapy students. Training rotations have been created in Malawi and Italy, and department leaders are pursing potential partnerships in Australia, Philippines and China.

Jialiang Liu Fc
Path to PhD begins with dad’s inspiration and a professor’s encouragement

By Sally Crocker When Jialiang Liu was a little girl, she wanted to be just like her dad. Her father is a pediatrician in China, and both parents have always encouraged their only child to go for her personal best, even if it meant spending years away from home to pursue graduate school in...Read more

Jun 4, 2020

Dr. Ryan O'neill Mask Fc
TCOM alum fought COVID-19 in a Long Island hospital emergency room as New York became epicenter of the outbreak

By Diane Smith Dr. Ryan O’Neill’s fight against COVID-19 intensified this spring when more and more victims of the mysterious virus showed up at Long Island’s Huntington Hospital Northwell Health emergency room. One night during the week leading up to Easter, the Texas College of Osteopa...Read more

Jun 2, 2020

default photo
50 Heroes: Dr. John Bowling

John Bowling, DO, could sense if a student was cut out for rural medicine. The founder of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s nationally recognized Rural Osteopathic Medical Education program evaluated all sorts of factors, such as students’ home town and parental income. But it...Read more

Jun 1, 2020

Rand Horsman
Rand Horsman receives Founders’ Medal for his contributions to HSC

By Jan Jarvis After a day on the golf course, participants in the Rand Horsman Scholarship Golf Tournament would leave with more than the sense of satisfaction from a game well played. They were inspired. The event’s namesake, Rand Horsman, would always say a few words, and his passion fo...Read more

May 29, 2020