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Healing in the classroom

On-campus pro bono clinic provides physical therapy services to patients with brain injury

January 3, 2019

Sarah Thomas ’19 DPT, left, and Miranda Arvidson ’19 DPT work with Marshall O’Boy during a physical therapy session. Assistant Professor Craig J. Newsam supervises the session, which is part of the student-run Neurological Pro Bono Clinic held each semester on the Doheny Campus.
Sarah Thomas ’19 DPT, left, and Miranda Arvidson ’19 DPT work with Marshall O’Boy during a physical therapy session. Assistant Professor Craig J. Newsam supervises the session, which is part of the student-run Neurological Pro Bono Clinic held each semester on the Doheny Campus.

By Tamara Murga ‘16

From the streets of Los Angeles to rehabilitation clinics in Mexico, students in the Mount’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program travel the extra mile to help make a difference. But their philanthropic work can also be found in the classroom.

Located on the Doheny Campus is a student-run Neurological Pro Bono Clinic, where students assess patients with neurological dysfunctions such as stroke or brain injury.

Students provide physical therapy for each patient through a series of interventions aimed at improving mobility and through functional training including walking, sitting and standing.

The clinic has attracted 10 volunteers from the DPT program since its start in early 2018. Students work in pairs and take on up to two cases each semester. They see their patients once a week for a minimum of six weeks.

The clinic is run out of the on-campus Research Experiential and Applied Learning (REAL) Center, which students use for research, skills testing and simulation.

Associate Professor Craig J. Newsam, DPT, who supervises the clinic and coordinates the program’s neuromuscular curriculum, said the idea came from a desire to offer students the opportunity to build skills before entering a clinical environment at internships and in their careers.

“Very few students have exposure working with people with neurological dysfunction before they graduate,” said Newsam. “In a field that’s highly competitive, this opportunity gives students a space for trial and error without being scored and provides a foot in the door to feel more confident.”

Patient Marshall O’Boy said three strokes left half of his body paralyzed but physical therapy sessions with Mount students “saved (his) life.” 

“Dr. Newsam and his students are skillfully supplying this therapy in a positive, healing environment,” he said. “The students are focused, energetic, caring and empathetic. I am often astounded at the depth of the knowledge of their craft.”

O’Boy is one of six patients who have received care at the Neurological Pro Bono Clinic since it opened. Referrals come from adjunct faculty members who treat patients in need of continued therapy but are no longer eligible through their medical insurance.

“Besides gaining a clinical skillset, this is also an opportunity to serve members of the community who wish to continue physical therapy but lack the insurance coverage or financial resources to do so” said Newsam.

The clinic is only part of several pro bono projects Mount students have participated in, including a healing team for the homeless at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and rehabilitation work for children in Mexico.

For more information about the doctor of physical therapy program, visit msmu.edu/graduate-programs/physical-therapy.