It Takes a Village

March 7, 2013 marked the beginning of a journey where the lives of many were changed through a trip across the world. Nine Nazareth College doctor of physical therapy students and professors Jennifer Collins, PT, Ed.D. and Elizabeth Clark, PT, DPT traveled 8,700 miles from Rochester, N.Y. to Kerala, India. Their mission: to help develop a clinic, modeled after the physical therapy clinics that are part of Nazareth's York Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute, that will provide care to the underserved in the Kannur area.

During their trip, the students and faculty were able to exchange cultural and medical philosophies and treatments. Nazareth students were taught by Kerala students how to practice the healing treatments of an ancient medical philosophy called Ayurveda. During this process of evaluation, the patient’s physical, as well as their emotional and spiritual health are assessed. Holistic and patient centered models of care such as this are emphasized at Nazareth as students are prepared for their future in the medical field.

“Nazareth is unique because we provide on-campus clinics that allow students to get real experience and sharpen their clinical skills while providing a service to our local community,” said physical therapy student Glynis Jones ’14. “We hope to share this model of community outreach with our new partners in India.” 

In addition, students had the unique opportunity to work hand in hand with local physiotherapists at Lourde Hospital to co-treat patients who had suffered strokes.  Bridging cultural and language barriers, the students were able demonstrate how an ankle brace or wrapping could help the patients in their daily lives.

“After we got one of the patients walking, he tapped my shoulder and when I looked up he was smiling at us and trying to express to us that he liked it. It is awesome to think that an intervention that we regularly use in the U.S. can be so helpful to someone else,” said Staci Dudden ‘14. 

The students also visited several sites operated by the missionary sisters of Dina Sevana Sabha (DSS) and Lourde Institute for Allied Health Sciences (LIAHS), which provide homes for men, women and children with disabilities. Equipment such as canes, crutches and bands were provided by generous donors from Rochester, N.Y. including Monroe Wheelchair and Hanger, Inc. (a prosthetics and orthotics company).

Nazareth plans to open a clinic in partnership with LIAHS to provide physical therapy for those living in rural villages. While Nazareth College and LIAHS shared the goal of forging an international partnership in health through the trip, they all left feeling a far greater emotional reward. Chris Mitchell, ’14 reflected, “While time, effort, and lots of sweat were given and invested, you quickly understood that you gained the world in satisfaction and truly felt wholeness afterwards.”

Dr. Collins said, “As we toured the many different facilities run by the sisters of DSS, held hands of elderly ladies who haven’t been out of bed in years, listened to young girls with developmental disabilities sing and dance for us, and looked into the eyes of many people who simply wanted a smile and a hug, I knew we were doing the right thing at the right time in the right place. We were all brought together for a purpose – to care for others and one another.”