For two weekends in June, students from the 2nd and 3rd year DPT class volunteered their time with the South Georgia Farmworkers Health Project in Bainbridge and Valdosta, Georgia. Faculty members Sara Pullen, Kathleen Geist, Tami Phillips, Jeff Hoder and Professor Emeritus Susan Freed also volunteered their time during these weekends, as did alumnae Anna Fidler ’09 and Jaci Brandt ’11.
This project was established in 1996 when Emory physician assistant and medical students first took a caravan of cars down to southern Georgia to provide medical care to the workers who labor in the corn and bell pepper fields. The Farmworker project consists of traveling clinics, setting up each day at a new worker camp or mobile home community to attend to needs of this vastly underserved population.
The Emory DPT program has been involved with this project for four years and it is now under the direction of Dr. Sara Pullen. Physical therapy students work with trained physical therapists to evaluate and treat farmworkers for common injuries such as low back pain, knee and shoulder injuries. In addition, students conduct a “back class” on proper body mechanics for lifting, throwing and catching heavy boxes of farm produce. Clinics start early in the morning and run as late as midnight, with the clinic sites changing daily based on local needs. One group of students summarized their experience saying “We met wonderful people, and most importantly made an impact in the farmworkers’ lives; providing them care they were very unlikely to have access to otherwise.”
We hope the program will continue to grow in years to come. Working with an underserved population is an invaluable opportunity for any healthcare provider, and we enjoyed working with such a brilliant and dedicated group of PAs, MDs, and volunteers.