The School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training considers its fundamental mission to be consistent with that of the College of Health Sciences. Specifically, the School seeks to:
- Address the physical therapy and athletic training needs of the community, state, and nation by graduating practitioners who are cultivated in evidence-based practice, patient-centered care, and inter-professional healthcare;
- Generate and disseminate new knowledge related to physical therapy, athletic training, and related disciplines by conducting innovative and translational research;
- Provide service to the academic, professional, and general communities in which the School is involved.
Nursing and Physical Therapy Students Partner with Physicians for Peace
For most students, spring break conjures up thoughts of relaxing somewhere warm in tropical breezes, far from schoolwork, perhaps on a Caribbean vacation. But, for seven nursing students and two physical therapy students from ODU, a work-free spring break in 2013 took a back seat to teach Resource Mothers, also known as Madres Tutelares, perinatal health education in the Dominican Republic.
Resource Mothers was created by Physicians for Peace in the Dominican Republic based on the need to mentor at-risk teenage mothers to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy, delivery and first year of a child's life.
The nursing students offered instruction on perinatal topics such as signs and symptoms of infant dehydration and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Hands-on-training included reinforcement of vital sign assessment. This training and education helps Resource Mothers assist their clients in seeking medical attention and preventing more serious complications. The physical therapy students focused on teaching the importance of recognizing infant motor milestones, as well as ways to reduce musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy.
"I saw this trip as a way to gain a different perspective from what I've been learning in nursing school, " said Marcella Kennedy, an ODU nursing student who graduates in August 2013. "I've learned that the problems I've seen in my clinical experiences are international problems as well."
To gain a better understanding of the women's daily struggles and living conditions, the students interviewed Spanish-speaking Resource Mothers and their teenage clients. During the week- long trip, students had the opportunity to accompany Resource Mothers as they worked with clients in their local neighborhoods. Students also toured the maternal child regional hospital, Los Minas Maternity Hospital, and the Dominican Association for Rehabilitation facility.
"Access to healthcare is a significant problem for young women of the lower socioeconomic classes in Santo Domingo," said Janice Hawkins, Chief Academic Advisor for ODU School of Nursing, and chaperone on the yearly trip. "Nursing students who go on this trip gain a new understanding of the limited healthcare services in the Dominican Republic compared to our own in the U.S."
The multidisciplinary spring break international outreach coordinated in collaboration with Physicians for Peace is now in its second year, and includes physical therapy and nursing students, as well as faculty from both specialties. Interestingly, two students on the trip are also involved in the Norfolk based Resource Mothers program where they work with low-income teenage mothers through their community health class. Kennedy is one of these students who had the opportunity to bridge her clinical work locally with the recent study abroad trip.
"It was so interesting to meet the Resource Mothers internationally after having worked with women with similar problems in my own backyard," Kennedy said. "In particular, teenage girls in both countries have problems with transportation to doctors' appointments and affording diapers. The two groups aren't as different as I imagined,".
Infant mortality rates are high in the Dominican Republic at 21.3 deaths per 1000 live births in 2012, compared to 6 deaths per 1000 live births in the United States, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Ramon Lopez, Director of Physicians for Peace Latin Americas, said this is due, in part, to high teenage pregnancy rates. "Many of these girls have not graduated from high school," Lopez said. "This is why the Madres Tutelares are so important. They provide education and motivate these girls toward economic independence.
We give hope of a better life," Dr. Lopez said of the Madres Tutelares. "We motivate these girls to want a better life for themselves and their babies."
Old Dominion University School of Physical Therapy uses the Physical Therapy Centralized Admissions Service (PTCAS). Students wishing to apply will send one set of their materials directly to the PTCAS, and will then pay to have the service process the files and forward them to any PT programs chosen by the applicant.
Timeline of coursework for the Physical Therapy Program