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Patients appreciate free Sac State clinics


Physical therapy student Josh Thatch (right) works with a patient at a free clinic.

Sacramento State prides itself on serving students and the community at large. Nowhere is this more evident than the free clinics offered by the Physical Therapy Department.

Last spring Mike McKeough oversaw a graduate clinic for neurologically damaged individuals who lack medical insurance. This fall, Professor Clare Lewis’ graduate students are providing rehabilitative therapy to students and the occasional community member who needs help.

Help is the operative word.

Graduate student therapists, under faculty supervision, routinely improve the mobility and lift the spirits of their patients. The interaction among them bespeaks a common bond.

Ben Olivo has an easy manner that can overcome the most recalcitrant patient. His sense of humor lightens the mood as he persuades his patient to undergo some strenuous stretching exercises.

Jillian Gong is no less engaging as she puts her patient, a cross-country runner with knee problems, through several arduous paces. The Bakersfield native is on track to graduate next year and should have no problem landing a job given her skill and ability to relate to people in pain.

The same is true of Autumn Hanson, who is especially good with patient Anastasia Vourakis, a physical therapist trainee herself. “I was working with patients in this lab several weeks ago,” Vourakis says, “before developing lower back problems.” Now she gets to see what it’s like from the other side of the examination table as Hanson massages her lower-back muscles and applies ultrasound and heat treatments.

This will be Vourakis’ second master’s degree. She wants to become a physical therapist because of the good that therapy did for her 78-year-old grandmother. “She broke her hip and is walking again without pain because of the treatments.”

Lewis’ students appreciate the training they are receiving from Sac State’s respected Physical Therapy program, whose graduates score 98 percent on the licensing exam and boast a 100 percent job-placement rate. “The patients we work with,” she says, “are grateful for the care they receive.” And the students benefit by working on people who respond to the treatments.

“Most of our patients are referrals from the University Student Health Center,” Lewis says. But now and then a community member will come in for treatment, making the free clinics have been a win-win experience for the University and the community it serves.

Department chair Susan McGinty says the pro bono clinics are a valuable part of the program. “Nothing is more authentic to training than being able to treat actual patients,” she says. “This is applied learning at its best.”  

For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

– Alan Miller