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Programs News Kevin Storr October 20, 2023

“Here in the Department of Physical Therapy, both our Vision and Mission Statements reflect a commitment to preparing students who not only impact the patients they will serve, but also the communities they engage in across society,” said Patty Perez, PT, DScPT, OCS, director, Student Affairs. “We are fortunate that so many of our students enter our program with a proven track record of serving their communities in a variety of ways. We try to harness that passion by engaging the students in various service-learning opportunities.”

As a department, UAB PT eagerly supports community service opportunities and is always looking for ways that the department can make a meaningful and lasting impact in our communities.

Breakthrough Birmingham

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Breakthrough Birmingham provides free multi-year programs for middle and high school students year round. Their mission is to “achieve post-secondary success while also empowering aspiring leaders to become the next generation of educators and advocates.

This summer, in collaboration with the UAB OT and School of Nursing Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, our PT students and faculty spent the day with middle and high schoolers from Birmingham area schools, teaching them about what it means to be a physical therapist and showing them some common exercises physical therapists use with their clients.

"There is so much value in exposing our youth to the field of physical therapy, DPT students, and DPT faculty,” said Kyle Golden, first year DPT student. “Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy is now an option in these kids’ minds, as they consider what they want to do after they finish their time in primary and secondary education.”

Summer Health Professions Education Program

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UAB is 1 of only 12 partners in the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP). The goal of this free summer program is for students underrepresented in health professions to explore medicine, dentistry, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, public health, and more.

This unique program offers students a chance to develop health care skills, plan their academic career, gain clinical exposure, and meet others in these fields. Our PT faculty and students were able to meet with SHPEP students multiple times to build relationships and continuously mentor them throughout their time in the program. SHPEP students had the opportunity to experience a mock interview for a doctor of physical therapy program, take PT classes, have a Q&A session with our entire faculty, and more.

Come Roll with Me

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Come Roll with Me is a program developed by UAB Physical Therapist Cathy Carver, and it is designed to bridge gaps in communication, empathy, and respect for how wheelchair users engage in everyday activities. A simple change in mindset can help people learn how to appreciate the variety in how people do life- no matter how different.

Every semester, DPT students participate in Come Roll with Me with various student organizations and schools at UAB. Kam Adams, a student volunteer, said “Come Roll with Me is an eye-opening experience to understand how inaccessible the world is for wheelchair users. It was also great to work with SHPEP students and teach them how certain areas of buildings, parking lots, and ramps are not accessible for wheelchair users!”

Gone Fishin’, Not Just Wishin’

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This program, put together by Exceptional Anglers, teaches basic fishing skills to students with special needs from Alabaster and Pelham city schools, along with Shelby County and Jefferson County schools. This summer was PT’s first time participating in this event, but it will not be the last.

“This event is a great opportunity for our students to partner with area schools and a local non-profit organization to provide a fun outdoor experience for individuals with disabilities,” said Perez. “Our students are eager to impact the community through service and this was no exception.”

Equal Access Birmingham

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Equal Access Birmingham (EAB) is a student-run free clinic that provides continuity of care to the medically underserved. It provides a meaningful, service-learning experience to augment clinical education at UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine and Department of Physical Therapy.

“EAB provides an invaluable service to those patients who are underinsured or uninsured and need PT services,” said Don Lein, Bergman/Pinkston Endowed Associate Professor and director, Continuing Education and Community Outreach. “Not only does this clinic help students to learn and practice important skills they will use as physical therapists, it also helps the client receive the necessary resources to manage their condition that they would otherwise go without.”

Since UAB PT’s inception, service has lived at the heart of who we are and the department is always adding new experiences for their students to make change in their community.

If you have a service opportunity that you’d like the PT department’s involvement with, please contact Dr. Patty Perez at perezp@uab.edu or Dr. Donald Lein at dlein@uab.edu.

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