Physical Therapy Receives University Awards for Service
Students in the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions are positively impacting communities near and far. Georgia State honors this impact by awarding the Department of Physical Therapy’s Community Practice in Nicaragua the Outstanding University Program.
The Department of Physical Therapy helped a community in Nicaragua where the population is in need. In January, thirteen PT students along with two faculty, co-directors of this study abroad program, Anne Lorio and Kimberly Morelli, assisted the residents of an organic coffee farm in the small farming village of Los Robles, Nicaragua.
In cooperation with Communidad Connect, the students provided PT services, completed community projects and enjoyed cultural immersion. The PT students also conducted home visits with individuals who had amputations, complications from diabetes, neurological conditions, spinal cord injuries and children with developmental delays.
“Service-learning can be one-sided but this was different because we were welcomed into a mutual effort of giving,” said student Emily Lloyd.
Lloyd and Lorio both described how little things went a long way for the people they served. In particular, a woman in a wheelchair had stayed in just one room in her house for the past two years. The student PTs showed her and her family members how she could navigate around the house and the woman was overjoyed when she was in her kitchen and able to cook again for her family.
In addition to the home visits, students participated in community projects that included building ovens for local residents. Lloyd said they were able to overcome language barriers through hand gestures and a few words, but the most important lesson was how the people of Los Robles help each other.
“The community members are expected to put in service to get their help, such as a new oven, and they get help by volunteering for others. They earn merit points for service and then can qualify for a home-improvement project,” said Lloyd.
A crowdfunding program at Georgia State helped pay for the program and Lorio is excited to bring another group of students to Nicaragua next January. She believes the problem solving skills and critical thinking that students engaged in during this project is the best real-world experience.
“Some of the cultural barriers, such as Nicaraguan women don’t believe in sitting on floors, made the students think about how to modify therapies that would work in this setting,” said Lorio.
Lorio hopes that when the students finish the program that they will still give back to communities. Lloyd is committed to that goal and hopes to return next year. She also aims to spend time working with communities in need upon graduation.
In addition to the PT Patton Award, the Department of Nutrition’s student-run Panther’s Pantry received the 2016 Carl V. Patton President’s Award for Community Service and Social Justice: Outstanding Student Organization and one Lewis School health informatics student, Alexis Collier, received the George M. Sparks Award. The Sparks Award recognizes Georgia State’s unsung heroes.