Volunteerism and Service Learning: The DPT Student’s Recent Trip to the Dominican Republic

The Emory Physical Therapy team of four students, one faculty and three alumna recently concluded their trip to the Dominican Republic. The group of students and faculty arrived in the Dominican on March 4, with 4 wheelchairs, 17 walkers, 10 canes, 2 pairs of crutches, and several boxes of other needed medical supplies. During their stay the team visited more than one local hospitals and clinics to evaluate patients and provide care.

Typically, Physical therapy (PT) is considered a “luxury” in the country and is only available to the patients through private insurance which tends to expensive. Thereby, making PT unaffordable to majority of the population. The DPT students worked in teams to conduct home and clinic visits to maximize the number of patients they could serve. The students, met with the local health workers, nurses and doctors who work in these communities. The local care providers were eager to share information about the community, their research and unique patient cases. The team from Emory treated patients of all age groups ranging from 6 months to 82 years old with a wide variety of diagnosis from fractures to a patient with cerebral palsy.

To prepare for the visit the community health workers had created a list of patients they felt would benefit from physical therapy evaluations and interventions. The local health care teams helped to plan the evaluations at the clinic and at the patient’s home depending on the patient’s health conditions. This pre visit planning assisted the Emory team to utilize their time efficiently to provide patient care in each of the communities during their weeklong trip. Among the patients, the students saw, they particularly recall the child with cerebral palsy who was provided with a new wheel chair to replace his broken one.

In addition, Dr, Pullen and one of the students, Clarissa Myers, followed up with the patients seen by the previous group of students who visited the Dominican last year. They were pleased to see the improvements. Particularly, with a woman who had progressed from a near non-ambulatory status to walking in her home without any assistive device.

Overall, the team of students and faculty provided care for nearly 135 patients and distributed medical supplies to a number of clinics and patients.

Perhaps, the uniqueness of this international experience is best captured by our students, Ann, Caitlyn, Clarissa, and Kim who said that they “ (We)are very grateful for the opportunity to serve these patients, but most importantly we have all come home from this trip with a great appreciation and understanding for culture and community. The patients we saw blessed us in so many ways and taught us things that we could never learn in the classroom or clinic back in the states. This experience challenged our minds, creativity, and hearts in the greatest ways possible. “

The students and Dr. Sara Pullen would like to thank everyone for their contribution and support, which made purchasing the much-needed medical supplies and equipment possible! These medical equipment and supplies went to people who truly needed them, and have helped to change their lives for the better. The students and the faculty are also grateful for the local assistance as that allowed the team to be organized and to help as many patients as they could. They acknowledge their local host Ms. Rosa and Ms. Iris for their warm hospitality and for making their stay a great experience in the Dominican Republic! The current students and the faculty also thanks DPT alumni, Courtney Asker DPT 2017, Tiernan Damas DPT 2017and Lucia Rodriguez Vargas DPT 2013, who voluntarily joined from different parts of the country to experience this service learning opportunity. Their commitment to the alma-matter is appreciated.

The international service work specifically connects the students PT training with the service learning component of the Emory DPT program. See more about Volunteerism and Service Learning here.

Caitlin Behler, Clarissa Myers, Ann Colonna, Carmen Tejada, Lucia Rodriguez-Vargas, Dr. Pullen, Rosa Ipania Burgos, Kim Dietrich, Dhaysi Batista Berroa

Caitlin Behler, Clarissa Myers, Ann Colonna, Carmen Tejada, Lucia Rodriguez-Vargas, Dr. Pullen, Rosa Ipania Burgos, Kim Dietrich, Dhaysi Batista Berroa

Tiernan Damas, Dr. Pullen, Lucia Rodriguez-Vargas, Danilo, Kim Dietrich, Courtney Asker, Clarissa Myers, Caitlin Behling, Ann Colonna

Tiernan Damas, Dr. Pullen, Lucia Rodriguez-Vargas, Danilo, Kim Dietrich, Courtney Asker, Clarissa Myers, Caitlin Behling, Ann Colonna

Dr. Pullen (holding X-ray), Kim Dietrich

Dr. Pullen (holding X-ray), Kim Dietrich

service learning

Dominican Republic, March 2018