Student Spotlight: Michael Dessel ’15, DPT

michael_dessel_nyc_resizedFor Michael Dessel ’15, DPT his physical therapy (PT) experiences have been a study in contrasts. In 2014 he accompanied Casey Nesbit, PT, DPT, DSc, PCS Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, Meiying Lam ’15, DPT and Katherine Samstag ’15, DPT on a service-learning trip to Malawi. For his final clinical rotation, he went to New York City where he interned at Professional Physical Therapy, located between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. Despite the juxtaposition of these two settings, the level of care he provided to his patients was the same. Dr. Nesbit can attest to his commitment to provide all patients with optimal care.

Dessel’s patient-centered philosophy came from both his experiences at Pacific and his own set of personal values. “We learned that you need to treat your patients with respect,” said Dessel. He saw this exemplified in the actions of the Pacific faculty and his fellow students. Dessel shares that in addition to respect, his core values are integrity, compassion, accountability and empathy. He believes that as a physical therapist it is important to convey to your patients that you have their best interest at heart. Dessel adds, “The key to understanding your patients is listening to what they have to say. Develop a rapport with your patients.” He finds that when meeting with a new patient it is important to take the time to understand why they are coming to see you. “We didn’t choose the patients, the patients chose us for a reason.”

Dessel working with a patient during his trip to Malawi.
Dessel working with a patient during his trip to Malawi.

Dessel speaks from experience when he says that as a PT student at Pacific you are exposed to “a variety of patient populations in regards to pathology, clinical settings and patients with different socio-cultural backgrounds.” Through local outreach programs students have the opportunity to interact with members of the community. Dessel took advantage of experiential learning opportunities and has been a part of several outreach programs. He emphasizes the importance of gaining hands-on experience while you are still a student: “Of course you need the theoretical and practical background, but working with real people is vital to learning and developing yourself into a proficient clinician.” He adds, “You learn how to become comfortable with treating people.”

When asked if he would recommend the experiential service learning elective he answered, “Absolutely! I loved that elective. Getting that experience, going global with healthcare provided perspective. It sure provided perspective for me. I think that is something that everyone should take advantage of.”

Dessel was offered a Physical Therapist position at Professional Physical Therapy upon completion of his internship and he is currently living in New York. As he embarks on his career he shares that he is grateful for the set of experiences that led him to the place he is now. He reflects, “I like to travel, I like to work in different settings and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that.” For Dessel learning doesn’t stop once a degree has been earned. “I want to continue to learn and be mentored to by the senior PTs,” shares Dessel. “I want to be the best physical therapist I can be.”

 

 

Research Study Gives DPT Students Valuable Hands-On Experience

Preeti-Oza_headshotPreeti Oza, PT, PhD, NCS, believes that there is nothing that can compare to hands-on experience in preparing DPT students to be practice-ready upon graduating. Research studies are valuable not only for advancing the field of physical therapy, but also for giving students the opportunity to work side-by-side with experienced professionals. Oza says, “one of my career goals is to train students for clinical research.” According to Oza, one research study that is currently underway is the “effects of group exercises in quality of life and movements in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.” Working alongside Oza are three research assistants: Alysia Guerin ’16, Kayla Ledford ’16 and Darcy Schmalenbach ’16.

For Schmalenbach “So far, this project has given me experience using standardized tests and measures in order to collect baseline data from patients with Parkinson’s disease. […] This has given me the opportunity to see many different presentations of Parkinson’s disease.” In the fall Oza invited individuals from from the Parkinson’s support group of Stockton and of Lodi to a wellness clinic that was held on October 28, 2015. All 37 students in the Neuromuscular Physical Therapy course taught by Oza participated in the wellness clinic by administering assessments of balance and walking. The students then taught simple exercises that the individuals would be able to do on their own. They also introduced the use of technology, such as the Wii Fit, to help improve mobility and balance. Guerin describes her experience, “I was assigned to a patient and we worked with her through various functional tests and measures.” Guerin then “asked her a lot of questions about her good and bad days and how she keeps herself motivated.”

Each of the three research assistants have a specific reason for wanting to get involved in this particular research study. Guerin answers, “I have a big interest in neurological rehabilitation as well as a desire to partake in ways to help advance the field I [will] very soon [be] going into. I knew I wanted to take advantage of this great opportunity to learn from a very knowledgeable professor and work side-by-side on this project with her and fellow classmates.” For both Schmalenbach and Ledford working with people with Parkinson’s hits close to home. For Schmalenbach it is because of her grandfather who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when she was very young. She shares, “I was able to experience the effect that physical therapy had on him and the positive impact that it had on his overall quality of life. When I heard about this project, I knew I wanted to be apart of something that could help those who suffer with Parkinson’s disease.” There was also an intersection of personal and professional for Ledford: “As my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a year ago I became more interested in the disease process and its effect on functional mobility.”

All three agree that the courses at Pacific have prepared them for the transition from the classroom into a clinical environment. Guerin proposes that “All of the courses we have taken have prepared us for the clinical setting. Not only have we learned an immense amount about the various aspects of physical therapy and how to best treat our future patients, we also relate that knowledge to the clinical setting and make it a practical learning environment. Each class is structured to help us gain more confidence each day in the knowledge we gain and who we can best apply it to help our future patients.” Ledford identifies a few of the specific skills gained: “Through this therapist-patient interaction I am able to practice rapport with [individuals],” as well as assessments and treatment strategies. Ledford continues, “Being apart of the process of evidence-based practice is rewarding and has given me more confidence as I come closer to completing the program.”

Schmalenbach shares, “I feel very lucky to attend [Pacific’s] DPT program and I think it is wonderful that they offer opportunities like this research project.” Ledford explains, “I am blessed to be in a program that has so much built-in support.” Guerin echoes the sentiment, “It truly feels like a family.” Further, Guerin finds motivation in the knowledge that “we are all in this together. The professors have been nothing but amazing with their guidance, knowledge and support. We are very lucky as students to be learning from some very successful and knowledgeable professors within the physical therapy field. I am looking forward to graduation and embarking into my career as a confident physical therapist and being a part of a truly amazing and rewarding profession.”