Real Patients, Real Experience

by Sofia Tokar

In 2010, Mark Landers’s life changed completely when a tear in his aorta necessitated the amputation of his right leg at the hip. With a missing right leg and limited use of his left, the formerly active hiker and golfer began his journey to what he calls “the new normal.”

Along that journey, he’s been assisted by many—most recently by the physical therapy faculty and students at Nazareth College. Landers heard about the College’s on-campus clinical services from a Nazareth alumnus working at Strong Memorial Hospital. “I was running out of insurance visits,” says Landers, “and was looking for a way to maintain and improve my physical therapy training when I found out about Nazareth.”

On-campus services include the orthotic-prosthetic clinic, now in its third year, which features hour-long sessions in the spring semester for seven weeks—at no cost to patients. Last year, the clinic focused on individuals with prosthetics. “Teaching about amputations and prosthetics can be challenging when limited to textbooks or videos,” explains Andrew Bartlett, Ph.D., PT, MPA, assistant professor in physical therapy. “These clinical sessions enable small groups of students to work with real patients and to monitor their progress and treatment.”

From intake evaluations, histories, and goals, to sensory assessments and functional measures, the students identify the patients’ specific impairments and monitor the interventions throughout the sessions. The patients present with a range of diagnoses, including amputations suffered as a result of cardiovascular issues, traumatic events, or surgical procedures. As a result, the students often get the opportunity to communicate and work with the patients’ extended networks of health services professionals, from prosthetists to cardiologists.

Landers’s condition—a full-leg amputation, as opposed to above or below the knee—is one of the rarest. Michael Seils ’13 has worked with him for the past year and a half, first in the Physical Therapy Neuromuscular Clinic and now in the orthotics-prosthetics clinical sessions.

“All of the patients contribute a richer and more diverse learning environment to the clinical component of our degrees,” says Seils, “but there’s an especially strong bond with amputees such as Mark.” Progress is determined by many factors, and one of Landers’s early challenges was standing up from his wheelchair and trusting the prosthetic to bear his weight.

“He started walking with the bars, then the walker, and now the crutches. In one session, he walked for six minutes and we measured the distance to show how his strength and endurance were improving,” says Seils, impressed by his patient’s progress and positive attitude.

And Landers is likewise impressed by the dedication of the Nazareth faculty and students. “It’s a win-win experience for all of us, and with enough help and support someday I’d like to try to golf again.”

Sofia Tokar is the assistant editor in Nazareth's marketing department.

physical therapy clinic

Michael Seils '13 (left) and Andrew Bartlett, Ph.D., PT, MPA, assistant professor of physical therapy, assist Mark Landers in an on-campus P.T. clinic for amputees.

Learn more about Nazareth’s PT clinics in the York Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute