Grant Builds Bridge Between Physical Therapists at Pacific and in Malawi

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Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 with Malawian children

A unique aspect about programs at Pacific, specifically the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is that students have access to experiential learning opportunities that help shape practice-ready professionals. Student physical therapists are building their skills by applying them in international settings, providing physical therapy to patients and assisting in training Malawi community volunteers in providing proper care.

In December, Dr. Casey Nesbit, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, along with Carolyn Coghlan ‘14Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 traveled to Malawi where they were able to participate in service learning, teaching and research. The trip was partially supported by the Rupley-Church for International Relations Grant.

As part of the service learning component, the students participated in an elective course taught by Dr. Nesbit which helped them plan and prepare for the trip. In Malawi, the students spent the majority of their time at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in a palliative care ward caring for patients who suffered from a physical disability.

“I’m so thankful to Dr. Nesbit for welcoming us into her Malawi family, for her commitment to St. Gabriel’s and her efforts to improving the quality of care in Malawi. When I reflect on my Pacific experience, I know that I made the right choice. I love that Pacific values international and local relationships and partnerships, and I love that they are hiring professors, like Dr. Nesbit, who can tangibly bring that mission statement to life,” said Coghlan.

Carolyn Coghlan ‘14, Elisa Carey ‘14, Kristen Damazio ‘14, and Dr. Casey Nesbit with Malawi community workers

St. Gabriel’s is home to 300 community health workers who dedicate their spare time to the community assisting patients who need additional care at home or those who live in rural areas. Due to the lack of physical therapists and home care resources in Malawi the workers are the only resource for these patients. As part of a new program, Dr. Nesbit and the students coordinated a three day training session for 20 community health workers. The training consisted of lectures, practical teaching and application during a home visit. Participants were provided with a manual of 22 newly learned skills such as range of motion, how to properly roll someone in bed and how to use a cane. Once the skills were taught, the workers were tested on how well they learned each skill. Dr. Nesbit and the students also shadowed the volunteers on home visits to see how well each skill was applied in a real life setting.

“Our hope was to teach skills that were devised for carryover. I saw the effectiveness of our service through the knowledge assessment, the skills competencies and the observation,” said Dr. Nesbit. “I believe our students made a big impact in that they created a huge bridge between Pacific and Malawi. Hospital staff and patients were impressed because once the students returned home they kept asking where the students went,” she added.

The manual that was distributed during the training received high praise from the director of the National Palliative Care Association of Malawi and, as a result, will be be distributed as part of the national guideline for their respective training. Dr. Nesbit will be continuing this collaboration with St. Gabriel’s to graduate 20 individuals from her training each year.The students were also grateful for this unique opportunity. Coghlan explains “When I witnessed the enthusiasm that the community health workers had in learning basic physical therapy techniques and the excitement they had while applying this new knowledge in their community, I realized it’s these moments that make me proud to be a physical therapist and honored to share my knowledge.”

In addition to the training, Dr. Nesbit taught two courses to two classes at the University of Malawi in the School of Physiology. Each class was made up of 40 students and these students represented the first ever student physical therapists in Malawi. She also conducted research focused on physical therapy ethics in a global context.

When asked about the personal impact of this trip Carey replied “The biggest personal impact was working with a people that experienced so many daily hardships yet exuded joy like no one I have ever met. They were an amazingly welcoming community, always excited to share their culture, all the while eager to learn from us too.”

Dr. Nesbit has a long standing relationship with St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Malawi which allowed for a smooth transition. For the past eight years she has been spending two months out of the year practicing physical therapy there.

Q&A with Dr. Sandra Reina-Guerra

Q and A feature logoQ.  What do you believe is your greatest achievement in your life thus far?

A. That I’m not ready to settle now with what I’ve “achieved” in the past.

Q. What is your greatest memory at Pacific?

A. My first day as a student in the physical therapy program and my first day as an instructor returning to Pacific.

Q. What inspires you?Sandy Reina-Guerra

A. The perseverance of our students, the devoted service of our department’s and school’s leaders, the work of recovery of the patients we serve and their loved ones.

Q. What are your goals in the next five years?

A. I would like to see expanded opportunities for Pacific’s physical therapy program graduates to maintain and grow their relationship with Pacific through activities such as student mentoring and continuing education.

Q. What is great about Pacific students?

A. Our students recognize that a quality education is more than just the curriculum they can access by virtue of their enrollment—they are committed to the process of face-to-face engagement with instructors, advisors, one other, and citizens of the local and world communities.  They fuel the learning environment with their curiosity, uphold Pacific’s reputation with their competence, and inspire me with their willingness to serve others.

Sandra Reina-Guerra ’97, ’99, ’03 Named New Chair of Department of Physical Therapy

Sandy Reina-Guerra
Dr. Reina-Guerra named new Chair of Department of Physical Therapy

Pacific is proud to be home to dedicated faculty members who as educators, inspire students everyday. One of these members is Dr. Sandra Reina-Guerra ’97, ’99, ’03 .

Dr. Reina-Guerra received all three of her degrees here at Pacific: her bachelors in 1997, masters in 1999, and her doctorate in 2003. As an undergraduate, Dr. Reina-Guerra chose to enroll at Pacific because she was confident that her bachelors would prepare her well for the University’s Physical Therapy graduate program. She returned to teach at Pacific because of the continued tradition of excellence in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program. Dr. Reina-Guerra says, “I witnessed the work of the students who graduated after me and realized that the program continued to improve each year. I maintained a wonderful relationship with the department faculty after my graduation and this lead to my return as an instructor in 2001, accepting a full time position in 2004.” Dr. Reina-Guerra is currently a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and its Sections for Pediatrics and Education. She is also a member of the Pacific Physical Therapy Alumni Association and serves as a liaison between its board and the faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy (PT). In July she will begin her appointment as department chair.

Many students may wonder, why if at all they should pursue academia in their careers. For Dr. Reina-Guerra, the answer is a simple one: “Teaching students is the best way I know to provide a lasting benefit to those in need of our services, particularly children with special needs and their families. The academic environment affords me the opportunities and support for scientific inquiry that are less available solely as a clinician.” Her teaching philosophy is that the student’s learning experience take place in the mind, body, and spirit. She believes it is her responsibility as a teacher in the DPT program to challenge students to develop and test their clinical rationale through inquiry, debate, and physical application of movement theory. Dr. Reina-Guerra states, “I hope students are confident in their choice of profession upon graduation and that they are fulfilled in their work for decades after graduation. My goal is to convey adequately the opportunities for them, affirm their abilities, and inspire them for continual growth.”

As for the students she guides, Dr. Reina-Guerra only has positive things to say. She believes that Pacific students are committed to the process of face-to-face engagement with instructors, each other, and citizens within the community as well as outside. She explains further, “Pacific students fuel the learning environment with their curiosity, uphold Pacific’s reputation with their competence, and inspire me with their willingness to serve others before and after their graduation.” Dr. Reina-Guerra continues to be moved by the perseverance of her students, the service provided by the dedicated PT department and University’s leaders, and finally the recovery of the patients that Pacific serves. Building on her almost 20 year history with Pacific, Dr. Reina-Guerra is excited to see what the future holds.

Q&A with Dr. Jim Mansoor

Q and A feature logoQ. Who is your hero/role model and why?

A. Leonardo DaVinci.  He was a great artist, great thinker and way ahead of his time. If only…

Q.  Why have you chosen Pacific?

A. I chose to work at Pacific because it allowed me to have close contact with students in a rich teaching environment but also to keep myself involved in the research world.  I love teaching and I enjoy the research group I work with.

MansoorQ. What is the best way to get ahead in life?

A. To get ahead in life?  Just enjoy it.

Q. What motivates you?

A. I am motivated by learning new things.  You never stop learning.

Q. If you hadn’t become a professor what else might you have done?

A. I would have become a ski guide in Europe.


Spotlight: Kylie Rowe, PT

Kylie RoweProfessor Kylie Rowe joined the Department of Physical Therapy as Assistant Clinical Professor in September 2013. She earned her Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy from Sydney University in Australia. She is currently working towards completing a transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of South Dakota.

Professor Rowe has been practicing in physical therapy for 27 years working in fields ranging from outpatient and inpatient care through rehabilitation and home health. Her clinical work has allowed her to work with patients of all ages ranging from infants to adults as old as 104. Before coming to Pacific, Professor Rowe provided physical therapy in the orthopedic outpatient center at Sanford Health in North Dakota for seven years. While there she worked with patients who suffered from low back pain, neck pain and chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia.

“Being a physical therapist is a gift,” says Professor Rowe who believes that Pacific has very caring students. They are the reason she loves to teach. Her goal is to spark enthusiasm and curiosity in the students, nurture their thoughtfulness and cultivate a desire to continue lifelong learning.

Professor Rowe hopes to become more active with state and national physical therapy associations and explore research opportunities and practices nationwide. She also plans to continue her work with people suffering from chronic pain and develop relationships with community groups that serve these people.

Outside of the classroom, Professor Rowe enjoys swimming, walking, listening to jazz music and attending musical theatre performances. Professor Rowe lives in Concord, CA with her husband and three daughters.


School Hosts Inaugural Physical Therapy Employer Showcase

pt showcaseDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students of the Thomas J. Longs School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences suited up on October 30, 2013 to take advantage of one of Pacific’s greatest assets: its network of professionals. Similar to the University’s Meet the Firms event, the Physical Therapy(PT) Employer Showcase featured employers from Stockton, Modesto, Sacramento and elsewhere who were specifically looking to hire Pacific graduates. The DPT students were able to meet and greet practicing physical therapists as well as recruiting and staffing managers. Some of the exhibitors at the showcase were Burger Rehabilitation, Golden Bear Physical Therapy, Therapists Unlimited, Therapy Specialists and even our very own Pacific Career Resource Center (CRC).

As the students waited eagerly to connect with the showcase attendees, Allen Herinckx ‘15 shared what he hoped to gain from his first experience at a PT showcase. Herinckx explained, “Just talking to possible employers and seeing what they can offer. I want to get a different perspective of physical therapy, and learn new things.” Hannah Main ‘14 responded, “The benefits for me are being able to gain new skills, and hopefully being able to find a job. It also gives me experience in talking with possible employers.” A majority of the students there had the same idea; they all wanted more practice speaking to not only professionals but also potential employers.

The event gave students the opportunity to promote themselves with real recruiters in a casual and stress-free environment, which gave them practical interviewing skills they needed. Other benefits and take-aways of the showcase were getting an idea of what to expect in the future, what different practices settings are like and what employers are looking for in future graduates. Although most of the exhibitors at the showcase were looking for local graduates to recruit, they were also able to provide insight on the different types of organizations to graduates who plan to return home. Nevertheless, the employers were able to give them insight on the different types of organizations out there; Shanna Herman ‘15 said, “I was able to see different offices from different areas that could offer me a lot of opportunities. I learned that some organizations offer specialties like aquatic therapy.”pt showcase students

This event helped the students realized they had options after school that they could pursue, but what exactly did the employers gain? The PT Employer Showcase was an opportunity for not only soon to be graduating PT students to expand their career horizons, but also a chance for local employers to take a look at Pacific’s graduates; Pacific’s reputation for producing outstanding health care practitioners drew many employers to exhibit at the showcase. When asked what the benefits of attending the showcase were, Jocelyn Sarmiento, a recruiting manager for Burger Rehabilitation said, “By going to these showcases, we can make positive contact with students, increase our brand awareness, market job opportunities and hire passionate people.” Many of the exhibitors were looking to hire on the spot. Karen Fabreo-Hittle ‘02 of Therapy Specialists emphasized, “I’m actually looking for one recruit right now, so spread the word!”

So what exactly are recruiters looking for in students? Christine Richards, staffing manager, responded, “We’re looking for a PT student who is passionate, loves physical therapy and who wants to make a positive impact regardless of their setting. More specifically, we’re looking for someone who can take assignments, travel and be adaptable.” Bobby Ismail ‘94 of Golden Bear PT said, “We want someone well-rounded, with great interpersonal skills. We also want someone who is compassionate and looks after a patient’s well-being. Most importantly, we’re looking for someone who has a compatible personality with our organization.” To add onto that, Deb Crane from the CRC had a few suggestions, “The best person to hire is someone who can be a leader, and also someone who does community service or volunteering because it shows that they’re well-rounded.”

Our Pacific tigers are students who go above and beyond, and commit to academic achievement, but how do they fare in the eyes of real-world professionals? According to Sarmiento, Richards, and Ismail they all see great potential in Pacific grads. Ismail said, “We see huge potential in Pacific grads. The DPT students are great clinicians; they have a great personality, which is fitting for outpatient physical therapy.” All signs point to great careers for our future Pacific DPT grads. For those looking for great opportunities, recruiting and staffing managers have suggested that students attend trade shows or conferences, have a referral, and make contact with PTs online or by phone. With an established reputation in the field and an army of alumni to support them, DPT graduates have a bright outlook.


Thank You for Helping Our Students Become the Next Generation of Physical Therapists

Scholarship at the School and in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program makes impact on our students and their success. Thank you to alumni and friends for their generous support.

Preeti Oza: Pacific is the Perfect Opportunity

Preeti Oza_headshotPreeti Oza, Ph.D., PT, joined the Pacific Family in August as Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. Oza came from Fresno State University where she taught neurological physical therapy and was coordinator of the DPT program for three years. After moving to Livermore to be closer to her family, Dr. Oza searched for the “perfect opportunity” and when she came upon Pacific she was “so excited because I knew this was it.”

“I chose Pacific because I was impressed by the faculty and department. I felt like I could bring valuable contributions to the department and that the department and University would support my career goals,” said Dr. Oza.

Dr. Oza will be teaching Neuromuscular Physical Therapy and hopes that once students have completed her course they will have a better understanding of the cognitive, emotional, and physical challenges of a person who suffers from neurological disorders.

“Treating a person with neurological disorders requires you to look at the patient as a whole because it’s important to understand what the patient’s goals are. Only then will the treatment be effective,” said Dr. Oza.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Oza hopes to continue her clinical research working with individuals with Parkinson’s disease and gain more clinical practice experience. Since August, she has already established a relationship with the Stockton-San Joaquin Parkinson’s Disease Support Group. Her hope is to serve as a resource for the group.

Dr. Oza finds inspiration in new ideas, especially when working in groups or collaborations. Currently she is working with Rachel Stark, Pharmacy and Health Sciences Librarian, on a pilot research project that will assess how students gather and receive data and conduct research and how an institution can help enhance student literacy.

Dr. Oza earned her bachelor’s and master’s in physical therapy in India and her doctor of philosophy in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitative science from The University of Iowa.


Big Shoes to Fill: The Decades of Giving Program

Decades of Giving 2014Second year students of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, Nicole Molina ’14 and Devon Flannigan ’14 are excited about the 2014 American Physical Therapists Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Las Vegas. This national conference held in February hosts more than 10,000 physical therapy (PT) professionals and provides a vast wealth of knowledge and networking opportunities for Molina and Flannigan’s tight knit class of 34 students.

As representatives of the Decades of Giving Program, both young professionals must rally up support to send their class to Las Vegas for an opportunity of a lifetime. The DPT class of 2014 has participated in fundraisers to raise enough funds to go to Las Vegas, but they need alumni support to make it all the way. Molina puts it this way, “Without alumni, we wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting. Being full-time students, many of us do not have jobs that can serve as a source of income.” The estimated fee is $400 per student for travel and lodging and the students will have to pay for additional amenities.

The Decades of Giving program involves past Pacific Alumni supporting and contributing to the goals and dreams of current Pacific students in the Department of Physical Therapy. Alumni support is crucial to students’ advancement. Not only do alumni provide information and knowledge of the real world, but also opportunities for Pacific students to network and develop professionally. Flannigan states, “Alumni support is important because they are the few who can imagine what it’s like to be in our program, and literally be where we are right now. Even having that connection is special. Knowing that they support us in taking advantage of this amazing opportunity means a lot emotionally and financially.”

So what does attending the Combined Sections Meeting really mean for the students? Flannigan responds, “It’s going to be our first chance to be a professional other than being in the clinic. It adds another aspect to the profession for us and serves as another resource to gain skills that we can apply in the clinic.”

While at CSM, the students will be able to listen to lectures, and have access to tools and tricks of the trade. It also demonstrates the reality of working in different industries of physical therapy. For the class of 34 students, attending CSM offers another way to get help in the areas they struggle in. It is expected to be a flurry of activity and knowledge so grand it may overwhelm, but Molina and Flannigan have a plan; both have decided to keep an open mind and try to see and do as much as possible during their short stay. Molina laughs, “I think you just have to jump in head first. You’ll find your feet.”

As representatives of the Decades of Giving program, Flannigan and Molina want to thank Pacific alumni for helping them take that step towards professionalism. The CSM will provide them with research and innovative ideas outside of the classroom. Molina adds, “To have alumni who are in the field and say ‘hey, we’d really like to support you, your dreams, and what you’re doing and trying to achieve,’ that’s really important. We want to say thank you to all the people who support us.”

Molina’s interest in physical therapy bloomed in high school after shadowing a physical therapist over the summer. “I thought it was the coolest thing. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.” She followed her passion at Notre Dame de Namur University of Belmont and obtained a bachelor of science in kinesiology. Flannigan also launched her journey in high school where, as an athlete, she was introduced to an athletic training course. She continued her education at Chico State University where she graduated with a degree in exercise physiology. As a junior undergraduate student she worked as an aid at a physical therapy clinic. “I loved it. Working with the clients and getting to know them…and then it just stuck!” Both Flannigan and Molina entered Pacific’s Department of Physical Therapy in the fall of 2012.

When asked, why Pacific Molina and Flannigan concurred that it was both the fast paced accelerated program as well as the close knit structure of students and faculty that drew them in. Flannigan explains further, “You would go through your educational experience with others, not just by yourself. We have 34 in our class, and we go to all of our classes together.”

It wasn’t all fun and games for them; Molina is the first in her family to go to college. “It’s a big jump because nobody’s been there before.” Flannigan explains further, “For both Nicole and I, it’s [physical therapy] something we had in mind before we even started college. It was always there to motivate us and we didn’t really have the option to slack off.” More specifically, Pacific’s stringent physical therapy courses have kept them extremely focused on a successful career. As Molina describes it, “Pacific is a school where they tell you something once and you have to know it and be on your toes. A rigorous course translates well into being great clinicians.” But Pacific’s faculty haven’t left them to flounder. “The faculty meets our needs. Because our class is so small, they always have time for us.” This enormous focus is leading them toward bright futures. Although Molina and Flannigan have yet to decide on their career paths but they are open-minded and ready for anything. Molina is currently interested in the pediatric field while Flannigan’s interests lie in traveling to third world countries as a licensed physical therapist.

When asked what advice they would give to students in their shoes 10 years from now, Flannigan and Molina agreed that it will be interesting to see what happens during that time. “The PT field has grown so much in terms of what we can do for patients and in healthcare in general. So over 10 years, seeing those students and seeing what they’re learning, it’ll be amazing. In terms of advice? I’d say to ask a lot of questions and question everything because it’s a great way to learn. Because absorbing what they’re giving you is only one part of it. You only get so far with that.” Flannigan continues, “Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on things. Every PT out there is different. There’s a lot to consider but just because your plan is different from what others would do doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Take pride in that, and in formulating unique treatment plans.”

In the future, Flannigan and Molina hope to return the favor by supporting students. “I hope so! I plan to. Especially because we are representatives, and we know how we’ve reached out to them. We want their support, and so I would love to return the favor. Once we graduate we will forever be tied to the School,” said Flannigan.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a student click here.


Alex Ray ’07 Opens Up About His New Clinic

Alex Ray_resizedAlex Ray ‘07 and his wife Nicole, own North Area Physical Therapy in Carmichael, California. I recently visited Alex where I toured the clinic and asked a few questions:


Susan: You take Pacific Physical Therapy students as a Clinical Instructor (CI). What is that like?

Alex: I have been pleased with the students from Pacific that I have worked with. Pacific students seem to have a broad range of what they have been exposed to and bring some new ideas and current physical therapy education to our more experienced staff.

What advice would you give a new grad as they enter the profession?
I would advise students to think of the first year of school as another step in their education and to absorb as much as possible, by year three out of school I think you tend to feel much more comfortable with whatever rolls through the door no matter what area of expertise you have begun to develop.

You and your wife Nicole purchased North Area Physical Therapy in 2012. Do you have advice for PT grads or students who would like to own a private practice?
For students thinking about owning private practice, I would advise taking a basic business management class, possibly interning with an owner as your CI. Getting exposure to as much of the billing and insurance authorization seems tedious but it is part of making PT a viable resource for patients to have access to.

NAPT has a great therapy pool! How does aquatic therapy benefit your patients?
Aquatic therapy has been an invaluable tool to utilize in the clinic. Most of the people we see have multiple co-morbidities or injury history other than what they are being referred for, the pool often gives people a chance who do not know how to get started on an exercise program.

Tell us about your family.
I married my wife Nicole during PT school and we have a three and a half year old son named Carson and a three month old daughter named Evelyne. I play some softball and am set to go to SF Giants baseball fantasy camp in January for the second time with my Dad and younger brother. I can’t wait to coach Little League.

Your clinic specializes in PT and sports medicine. Can you explain the difference? What type of athletes do you treat in your clinic?
Our clinic specializes in sports injuries which are usually the weekend warrior type or the high school soccer player. I love training an athlete with a specific goal to return to and really apply these concepts to our patients whether they are eight or eighty-eight years old.

What was your favorite class during PT school?
I really liked Neuro and Ortho labs and our Neuro professor Peggy Roller and Orthopedic professor Tamara Little (Phelan). Christy Wilson was my advisor when I first walked onto campus and she made me feel comfortable with my choice to attend grad school and deal with the outside stress of life.

Any words of wisdom for our current Physical Therapy Students?
I miss school and urge my students to enjoy that time in their career that they can never really replicate. You will always band together as a group to complain about tests, schedules, and presentations, but in the end you will really appreciate the experience at Pacific.



Carl Fairburn ‘10: A Passion for Higher Education

Carl Fairburn_resizedWhen Carl Fairburn ‘10 earned his doctor of physical therapy degree from Pacific, he thought he was done with school. After spending some time working in a small rural hospital in Oroville, CA, Fairburn will be moving to North Carolina to attend the CardioVascular & Pulmonary Physical Therapist Residency at Duke University.

“Resident programs offer the next step in higher education. There is always something new to learn,” Fairburn said.

The residency is one of only two cardiovascular and pulmonary residencies certified by the American Physical Therapists Association. Currently, only clinical-based residency programs are credentialed through the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education.

“I hope to further my education so that I may become a better practitioner. This residency will provide me with the knowledge to deliver optimal care and treatment for my patients,” said Fairburn.

What inspired Fairburn to continue his education was his passion. Throughout his career he went where his passion led him and found himself “curious and driven to learn more and provide better care for my patients.”

Fairburn was born and raised in Oregon and moved to California after high school to attend Porterville Community College. While earning his associate’s degree, he also played baseball competitively. Later he attended California State University, Chico to continue his education and collegiate baseball career. Fairburn knew he had an interest in sports but “really wasn’t sure what to do but, a counselor suggested exercise physiology” which ultimately brought him to Pacific.

At home, Fairburn loves to play the guitar, both acoustic and electric. He also enjoys riding his ’98 softail Harley Davidson and holds the Oregon state youth hunting record for bighorn sheep. In the future, he would like to return to academia and teach graduate courses.