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Class of 2014 Mission/Service Trip to Dominican Republic

The USA PT Department partnered with Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama (CMMSA) for a mission/service trip to Juan Dolio Dominican Republic in August 2013.  The students will have designation as an official University Study Abroad experience on their transcript for the experience.  Ashley Wells PT (PT class of 2005), Mary Bounds PT (PT class of 2007), and Diane Pitts PT (PT class of 1986), and Maria Barriero PT joined Dennis Fell PT (PT class of 1993) to lead a group of 9 PT students from the class of 2014 on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We provided care and did community clinics in a local hospital two day, two separate nursing homes, and set up a village clinic in a local church in a very small community.  The 15-team members screened and provided physical therapy services and personal care to 141 patients for a total of 455 service hours.

Our team included 9 DPT 3rd-year students, with clinical supervision by two PT faculty, two PT alumni and and one local PT clinician (fluent in Spanish), and the trip coordinator Duane Baxter (also a USA alumnus) from CMMSA (Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama).  The students say that the experience transformed their lives while being able to serve others.  They gained an appreciation for how much we have in the US, and how content people can be with far less.  They were very glad to be able to practice their clinical skills while sharing their faith.  The language barrier was an issue but with translators, though still difficult, they were able to overcome and communicate.  Body language, combined with a little Spanish vocabulary goes a long way.  And many of them commented on how kind the Dominicans were.  Contrary to expectations, people are people everywhere.

You can view the blog the students wrote http://ptdr2013.wordpress.com/ to see more details. You can view Dr Fell’s favorite DominRepub photos at this Facebook link.

Class of 2013 Service Trip to Guatemala

Twelve students from the Class of 2013 (Kayla Braddock, Matt Howell, Jessica Isacson, Morgan Jackson, Caroline Mayer, Melanie McDonald, Caitlin Oliver, Katie Peavy, Coral Quinn, Amanda Schermerhorn, Katherine Strickland, Madison Walker) planned and executed a service trip to La Antigua, Gautemala, in cooperation with Maximo Nivel.  Some students worked with pediatric patients at a Catholic church (mostly orphans, many with CP, who had been left at the church) and others did geriatrics, especially patients with general debility and strokes.  In both facilities, patients were lined up in wheelchairs in a courtyard waiting for therapy, the only activity many of them would get during the day.  The group also donated many supplies to the facilities. 

They also spent time in very poor neighborhoods in neighboring towns, playing with kids (soccer, jump rope, sidewalk chalk, playing with balloons).  The group enjoyed excursions to climb a volcano, make coffee at a coffee plantation, zip line, and see a volcano erupt at night! 

The group thought it was an amazing trip, growing united as a group, One student said "It made us very grateful for what we have, not just material things but for our families, education, and resources."

Dr. Dennis Fell Sabbatical in South Korea 2010-2011

After decades of international collaboration, and as the result of several years of networking with physical therapy colleagues in South Korea, Dr Fell was invited to spend a sabbatical year at Daegu University in Daegu, South Korea.  The Trustees approved his sabbatical and he says that his Korean adventure, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, spent in Daegu. South Korea (pop 2 million) with his wife Noel, was stimulating, rewarding, productive, rejuvenating, and personally very fulfilling.  One of the most refreshing aspects for him was being away from the administrative Chair’s role for the past year. 

While being immersed in a new culture and a new language, he was involved in undergraduate (entry-level) and graduate PT education (teaching all his lectures in English), collaborated in research with Daegu University PT faculty, had opportunities to speak in regional and Asia settings, and added significantly to his scholarly record.  He kept family and friends abreast of his activities through daily Facebook posts, monthly photo updates and occasional blogging (which he hopes to continue as he reflects on the experience retrospectively).

In addition to physical therapy courses he taught, he and his wife volunteered during the lunch hour three days a week for English conversation groups with the Korean PT students and established many friendships.  They hosted many groups of students for an "American meal" in their small three-room dorm, making fabulous memories.  They lived in the International dorm on campus, rode bus/subway/walking/bicycle everywhere they went (never drove the whole ten months), tried many new foods, enjoyed the hot springs and steam rooms, participated in Kimjang (making kimchi – with the Jeong family), enjoyed Chuseok Korean Thanksgiving with the Kim family, and experienced their first "real winter" with temperatures dropping one time to 1°F.  We even got to meet some of the former USA ESL students with whom we had been conversation partners.  They had many opportunities to travel with friends and explore and enjoy the natural beauty and outdoors of Korea, including hiking on ten different mountains and many national parks in South Korea, as well as trips to the beautiful Island of Jeju with Halla Mountain, the East Sea, the southern coast (Busan), and Islands of the Western coast.  In all their activities, they were able to pursue their passion for birding and identified 83 new species of birds, most unique to Asia!

In the context of the friendship and collaboration with faculty and students, he had many opportunities to share his Christian faith, and Biblical truths to guide life, including the Crown Financial Bible Study teaching wise principles for handling the money God entrusts to us.  He was particularly pleased, in his many interactions with students, to be able to stimulate graduate and undergraduate students at Daegu to "think big, and become the best" in clinical expertise and academic preparation for their future, and to become future leaders of the PT profession in Korea and around the globe.  Many students are now very interested in pursuing higher degrees in the US with hopes for successful academic careers.

Dr. Fell speaks at Asia Confederation for Physical Therapy (ACPT) Conference in Bali, Indonesia He was an invited speaker at three different Universities in Korea, keynote speaker for the Korean Physical Therapy Association national student conference, and spoke at the Asia Confederation for Physical Therapy (ACPT) Conference in Bali, Indonesia.

Overall, Dr Fell summarizes "It was a fabulous experience in Korea.  The culture, the food and particularly the people were so wonderful!  It really couldn’t have been any better for us.  We are already planning future visits to see all of our friends in South Korea." 

Department Presence at WCPT International Conferences

1995, Washington, DC
1999, Yokohama, Japan
2003, Barcelona, Spain
2007, Vancouver, BC, Canada
2011, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Other International Lectures

Dr Coral Gubler
Dr Dennis Fell
Dr Elisa Kennedy
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