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Physical Therapy program helps community members


Annie Alvarez works with Steve Mair while Arthur Chu and Angie Howard observe.
The first thing one notices about Sacramento State’s Physical Therapy program’s Mock Clinic is the degree to which the graduate students are helping to rehabilitate community members with movement difficulties due to neurologic damage.

Jen Hammer and Sara Devencenzi are gently helping Alan Marblot from his wheelchair to go through his rehabilitative regimen. When the Sac State graduate suffered a brain stem injury three years ago, Marblot was not expected to live, let alone walk or regain brain function. The 30-year-old’s progress to date is a tribute to his indomitable personality, family support and the therapy he’s receiving at Mock Clinic and at home from student volunteers.

Elsa Santos is no less grateful for the Mock Clinic. Students Tim DeGeorge and Ben Olivo are working to help restore her mobility and balance that were robbed by a severe stroke that affected her left side. The rapport between them shows a relationship that is aiding her incremental recovery.

Steve Mair’s stroke felled him several months ago. The 55-year-old’s life as a lawyer came to a sudden stop as he struggled to remain alive, then regain his motor skills. The progress he’s made flows from the care he received from physical therapy students Angie Howard and Annie Alvarez, and other student volunteers who have come to his home.

Little wonder clinic director Mike McKeough is so proud of the students who personify Sacramento State’s core mission of teaching, learning and service. “Our Mock Clinic is a win-win situation for the community, students and the University,” he says. The clinic provides local residents with rehabilitation they would otherwise not have received. It provides students with hands-on experience working with people with neurological problems,  and the University provides a free service unavailable elsewhere in the community.

In Mock Clinic, two students work with each participant under the supervision of a licensed physical therapy faculty member. Each student is responsible for helping the participant achieve a single goal like getting stronger, walking better, or reducing the risk of falling. Working in pairs helps to enrich the learning experience as students support each other and help the participant reach ever-higher goals. “They complement one another by helping the person’s walking, balance and strength,” McKeough says.  “That’s crucial because most of the folks who come here are susceptible to falling and serious injury.”

The clinic’s eight-week rehabilitative program works with community volunteers who have some type of neurological damage, including stroke, spinal-cord injury and multiple sclerosis.  The students visit the participants’ home for several hours after the third week and complete a written evaluation of their ability to perform daily activities. Selecting rehabilitation goals after completing a thorough physical therapy examination, including a home visit, enables the work done in the clinic to best serve everyday needs.

Service is what this program is about. “We concentrate on those whose needs are the greatest,” McKeough says. “Nearly everyone who participates wants to continue from semester to semester, but some improve to such a degree that they no longer need our help.” He’s also proud that many of the department’s upper-class students return as teaching assistants.

Neurologically damaged individuals frequently confront a double shock in their lives. Not only are their motor skills damaged, but their condition can cause others to shun them because of simple fear. That’s all the more reason why the moral support they receive from the clinic is so crucial to their recovery.

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