Sunday, April 3, 2011

To the Dominican, and Beyond!

A little over a year and a half ago my class was approached with the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to assist the people there with any physical concerns we could. As a part of a team from Northwoods Church teaming with Solid Rock Missions, we would travel down for a week long medical mission trip. I jumped at the chance to not only serve the people there but also to gain more practice in using the skills I'm learning in PT school.

During our preparation time, the earthquake that shook Haiti to crumbles put a change in our plans. Now, instead of only going to the Dominican, some of our group would travel to Haiti as well. The town where Solid Rock had contacts is only a few hours away from the border to Haiti. This provided an easy starting point to bring physical therapy assistance to the people suffering from that tragic day in Port Au Prince.

I was part of the group that stayed in the Dominican for our trip. The guesthouse we stayed in is part of a compound that built a clinic where patients could travel from all around to receive chiropractic, medical, and dental care from us. The physical therapy aspect was actually served at a local clinic.

There we had the opportunity to evaluate and treat patients that had traveled from as far as 3 hours just to be seen once. The main therapist from the clinic said people were lined up the day before we arrived because they were so anxious to get treatment from us. The limited time we spent with them was truly life changing, for both parties involved.

Since we have been back, I know I have been thinking about returning. The trips through Northwoods have been so full, we Bradley students did not have a chance to go this last time. We still wanted to help out in anyway we can. Last weekend we performed with a band our professors are a part of to put on a benefit concert for Solid Rock Missions. So half a dozen PT students put on our musician hats and covered ten songs. During our set, we passed around a donation bucket encouraging people to donate to a good cause. We were able to raise over $300 from just one night of fun.

In addition to helping the people in the Dominican, this trip also helped us sharpen our skills. We had just been learning techniques we were able to apply directly to patients. We were also more comfortable with direct patient contact due to more experience in this area. This inspired us to bring a little of the Dominican home to us.

Around this same time there was an article published talking about Student Led Pro-Bono PT clinics. This was very encouraging to us because we felt we could do something similar. We wanted to be able to provide services to people who need it, while at the same time sharpening our clinic skills, just like we did in the Dominican. This idea had already been brewing in our department director's mind, so when we brought it up it was very well received.

At this time, we are working to partner with Heartland Community Clinic in Peoria to allow us to provide some of those PT services to people who cannot otherwise receive it. We are not trying to compete with area businesses, but rather provide services to patients who perhaps do not have insurance coverage or have met their maximum benefits.

This project will take a lot of dedication from both the students and faculty involved. Having this partnership form will hopefully lead to a continual relationship between the Bradley PT department and Heartland that will foster leadership and growth in the PT students while providing care to the underserved in the Peoria community.