Taking Lessons from Wheelchair Patients

When Shiren Assaly ’11 and Garrett Norris ’11 were given an opportunity to take part in the Rotary Wheelchair Distribution in Peru, they had more than a few reasons to say yes.

“I went there to help others live a better life, and little did I know that they would change my life in such a positive and inspirational way,” said Shiren. “This mission was a good way to learn more about physical therapy and at the same time it gave me a chance to see Peru,” added Garrett.

The wheelchair distribution missions are organized through a partnership with the Department of Physical Therapy and Rotary International with support from Equip Kids and Hope Haven International which work to provide wheelchair customization and fitting to adults and children in third-world countries such as Peru. In 2010 two student physical therapists visited Guatemala, Mexico.

Shiren and Garrett spent much of their time in Peru at the Clinica San Juan De Dios, both in Cuzco and Chiclayo, supporting the wheelchair distribution mission. Their responsibilities included evaluating the individuals’ condition and taking measurements to assess for head support, lateral trunk support, seat depth, and tilt angles to make sure the individual were well-fitted.

Prior to leaving for the trip, Shiren and Garrett met with Pacific faculty members to gain a better understanding of the cultural differences. The students also took lessons in Spanish, which is one of the main languages in Peru, to help improve their communication skills abroad.

For the student physical therapists, taking lessons in Spanish was just the first step in breaking the barrier when working with their patients. Garrett recalled a moment when he set himself up as a target in order to encourage his patient to use his arm to push himself in the wheelchair. “Sometimes all it takes is playing games to motivate the patient to perform at his full potential while in the wheelchair. It was a lot of fun,” commented Garrett.

While Shiren and Garrett had hoped to educate their patients about how important a well-fitted wheelchair is and the usability of the wheelchair, they were also taking lessons from their patients.

“The people I met throughout my experiences taught me life lessons in compassion, adversity and determination. The strength and courage of the Peruvian people has shown me the importance of working hard and always believing in myself,” says Shiren. “I learned to not take anything for granted. We are all extremely lucky to be where we are and have healthy lives. Not everywhere in the world is like the U.S,” Garrett responded.

The school provides a number of experiences such as this one, and the students enjoy them. Shiren and Garret hope that many student physical therapists will follow in their footsteps.

“It is a learning experience that will allow the students to enhance their knowledge, share in a once in a lifetime opportunity, and make a difference in the world of others,” they agreed.


Dr. Cathy Peterson Awarded Fulbright Grant

This year University of the Pacific set a new record for receiving prestigious scholarships with four members of the University – two faculty members and two students – receiving Fulbright grants;  one of which is our very own Dr. Cathy Peterson, Department Chair and Associate Professor for Physical Therapy.  In January, Dr. Peterson was awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in Malawi.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” The program has provided almost 300,000 participants —chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

In January 2012, Dr. Peterson will be teaching Physical Therapy courses at the Malawi College of Medicine.  “I am honored to have been selected for this grant and the ensuing opportunity to contribute to the development of a new physical therapy program in Malawi,” Peterson said. “With only 28 physical therapists in a country of approximately 14 million people, this new Physical Therapy program is essential for improving healthcare.

Dr. Peterson will also be completing a case study on a man with Guillian Barre Syndrome, a progressive autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks itself.   In a culture that believes in black magic many community members believe that he has been ‘ju-ju’d’ or cursed. Dr. Peterson plans to describe how the clash between the medical system and his social support resulted in him being ostracized from his village.

This will be Dr. Peterson’s fifth visit to Malawi.  Most recently she travelled there with seven Rotarians and her father to deliver medical supplies.  Before that, during three Pacific-funded visits, she established an internship site for Pacific’s Doctor of Physical Therapy students. She met with all 28 physical therapists in the country to learn about their educational experiences and how Pacific could help them become faculty members for the newly developed physical therapy program in Malawi.  She will be preparing a manuscript describing their learning styles and preferences.

The Fulbright grant will help cover the costs for airfare, provide a stipend for teaching supplies and books, and a living stipend to offset housing or provide housing.  Teaching supplies and books purchased in Malawi will remain there for use in the School.

Dr. Peterson’s Fulbright Teaching Award will be mutually beneficial for her hosts in Malawi, her Pacific students and colleagues, and her.  Her Malawian colleagues and their students will have at their disposal a dedicated and successful teacher with expertise fitting their areas of need.  In addition, her experience as an academic administrator will be an asset to this newly developed program with a physical therapist new to academia and administration at the helm.  She and her Pacific colleagues and students will benefit because she will no doubt be shaped significantly by this experience and will share the learning with her students and colleagues and her perspective will continue to grow in depth and breadth.

In addition to her academic endeavors she will undoubtedly enjoy the adventures of Malawi—village shopping, Malawian cuisine, and of course, a safari here and there.

Fun in the Sun

On July 24, 2011, the Pacific Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP) hosted their annual Spring Picnic with nearly 400 students and faculty members in attendance.  The students were able to socialize with friends, enjoy great food, and get some Vitamin D after spending much time in the Rotunda and PHS115 for the week preparing for exams. Thanks to the Dental Hygiene, Physical Therapy, and Speech-Language Pathology students for coming out to join the “Pharmers” for some fun in the sun.

The picnic started off with free t-shirts (sponsored by Walgreens and designed by the talented Antionette Dinh ‘13) and “stunna” shades featuring the new ASP website at asppacific.com – come check it out.  Water gun fights started and students bombarded the inflatable bounce house and water slide.  Some geared up for sumo wrestler fights and mechanical bull riding, while others tried to dunk professors and pharmacy fraternity presidents at the dunk tank with softballs and soccer balls.  Thanks to Dr. Xin Guo, Dr. Wade Russu, and Miss Tea from the Café for volunteering. The dunk tank was run by Phi Delta Chi, and raised over $400 to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

After working up an appetite, a mass exodus of students formed lines for food and raffle prize tickets.  Lunch was catered by Carniceria La Sierra in Stockton.  They came out with their food trailers to grill chicken, tri-tip, sausages, and kabobs – it was delicious! After lunch the bake-off began with our Walgreen representatives as the judges. They sampled peanut butter cookies, cobbler, and apple cake, among other mouth-watering baked goods. Christine Giang ‘12 was selected as the winner for her Guiness Chocolate Cupcakes. Clara Chia ‘13, the bake-off organizer, said, “I’m really thankful for the Walgreens representatives for coming out and helping us with the bake-off competition.  I hope they enjoyed taste-testing the desserts prepared by our own students.”

The watermelon eating contest gathered some last minute contenders to see who could eat their watermelon quarter the fastest – with no hands, of course. A crowd gathered and students cheered as their fellow classmates dove into their slices.  Antionette won the contest after receiving the loudest cheers for her finished watermelon quarter slice.

Special thanks to the ASP Board and Semester Officers (Alex Vu ‘13, Chintan Shah ‘13, Jennifer Lee ‘13, Antoinette Dinh ‘13, Barrett Smith ‘13, Christian Ngo ‘13, Clara Chia ‘13, Michelle Malewski ‘13, and Allison Lai ’13) for putting on a great event to gear up for finals. Thank you Walgreens for another successful Spring Picnic!

To learn more about what our students do and view more pictures from the picnic, visit www.facebook.com/asppacific.

DPT Faculty Receive University’s TEC Award

In March 2011, Drs. Katrin Mattern-Baxter and Todd Davenport received the Technology in Education Committee (TEC) award for their proposal “Use of Flip Cameras to Enhance Learning of Psychomotor Skills in Doctor of Physical Therapy Students.” The award is given to proposals that would have the most pedagogical impact or introduce truly innovative new ideas into Pacific’s academic experience.

The TEC is a faculty committee that has the primary responsibility of providing recommendations to the Academic Council, the Information Strategy and Policy Committee (ISPC), the Office of Information Technology (OIT), and the participating academic units concerning the use of instructional technology and services to support teaching, to promote student learning, advance scholarships and support research.

“This award will provide physical therapy faculty with an opportunity to use digital media inside the classroom to enhance student learning and support innovative teaching strategies in our laboratory classes,” said the faculty members.

The digital cameras will allow student physical therapists to record one another while performing a variety of physical therapy evaluations or treatment techniques during lab activities. They can then download the media clips onto their laptops immediately to receive instant feedback on their psychomotor skills and provide video files of patients during clinical practicum (reviewed by students) and clinical practice (reviewed by instructors) in order to analyze patient problems for in-class and homework assignments (with patient’s written permission).

Prior to the award, a limited number of cameras were borrowed from the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning for use inside the classrooms.

With this award, Drs. Mattern-Baxter and Davenport hope that student physical therapists will be able to more accurately learn required psychomotor skills, connect to “real life” patient scenarios, create a library of correct performance by students for use on Sakai, and be comfortable self-critiquing and receiving critiques from others.

Drs. Mattern-Baxter and Davenport are currently working with the editor of PT in Motion, a professional magazine of the American Physical Therapy Association for a 2012 – 2013 publication.