“Wah gwaan mi friends?” (What is going on my friends?) was a common Patois refrain heard by the Emory DPT contingent that traveled in March to Ridge, Jamaica. Unlike coastal beach towns for which Jamaica is famous, this rural community is located in the beautiful mountains of St. Elizabeth Parish. Known as “the breadbasket of Jamaica”, this vast area has a population of approximately 150,000 persons, but is lacking in medical care that can be found in larger cities. The trip was a service component of an Advanced Neurorehabilitation elective taught by Dr. Tami Phillips. Joining Dr. Phillips as clinical instructors for 8 students were alumni, Dr. Anna Fidler Stromquist (’09), Dr. Brian Maloney (’11) and Dr. Sarah Caston (’11).
The students spent a week working at a clinic that has been operated by an American, Dr. Brooke Riley, since the Fall of 2004. An Arcadia University graduate, Dr. Riley felt a personal calling to provide physical therapy in this underserved area, where there are only 2 other PTs. Dr. Riley is assisted in her efforts by volunteers that arrive periodically for a week or two at a time. For the past 2 years, she has had the good fortune to have Dr. Jennie Brennan, another Arcadia alumnus, volunteer her time and talent.
Hypertension is a common and poorly managed healthcare issue in the West Indies. As a result, there are many individuals of all ages who have survived having a stroke. In an attempt to provide intensive physical therapy for her clients, Dr. Riley has partnered with Arcadia University, Washington University, and now Emory University to offer “stroke camps.” The week-long “stroke camp” is an opportunity for 8-10 stroke survivors to participate in 5 full days of PT services including therapeutic exercise, gait and balance training, and interventions for the upper extremities. Students work with their clinical instructors to design an individualized plan of care based on the results of outcome measures collected the first morning. These same measures are repeated on the last day of the camp to document individual progress. Treatment sessions may be conducted individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
The camaraderie between the clients, students, and therapists was evident from the first day. The week passed all too quickly and when it was time to say good-bye, more had been accomplished than just therapy. Visible was the demonstration of mutual respect and improved understanding of 2 very different cultures, along with a newfound admiration not only for the dedication of the physical therapy team, but the perseverance and positive outlook of the Jamaican people.