The Department of Physical Therapy holds the distinction of having the first doctoral-level service-learning course in the entire California State University system and third-year students in the PT565S course got to display their projects at “An Evening of Service”.
With the leadership of Dr. Leslie Zarrinkhameh, physical therapy students had the opportunity to apply what they learned outside of the classroom through service to their communities. She said many of her students invested a lot more time than required.
“I asked them to give 16 hours of service and they gave much more,” Zarrinkhameh said. “Many created new projects that were not there before. Many reached out to organizations they had never reached out to before, but they forged relationships with different institutions and departments.”
The students worked on projects that ranged from working with young children with developmental delays, to teaching an undergraduate anatomy course, to reaching out to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and to educating the community on exercise and nutrition.
Christian Lopez and his groupmates worked on a project that targeted children ages 1 to 4 that had developmental delays, such as walking late, crawling late, issues with social interactions or speech delays.
“We got a lot of kids with autism and some kids were just not walking at the correct time,” Lopez said. “What we did was incorporated a group environment. We had circle time with kids. You can’t treat a kid as you would an adult in physical therapy. You have to do tasks and play games in order for them to get them to do what you want them to do.”
The project took place at a facility called My Gym, which was equipped with a big playground. The facility had the proper equipment and games that help children develop their motor skills.
“That is why this environment was very good for them,” Lopez said. “Kids learn by mimicking. If they see their peers doing something it makes them want to do it more. We had a kid that would not walk, but was of walking age. When he saw kids running around and moving, it kind of made him walk around a bit more and engage.”
Lopez said that children with autism have a hard time speaking, making eye contact and staying on task.
“They were able to sit independently and say their name and things that the parents said was huge,” Lopez said.
Annie Wu and Andrea Staples’ project consisted of informing caregivers of how to protect themselves from injury in their occupation. In order to do this, they reached out to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“We reached out to them and showed them how to lift properly, how to transfer patients properly, positioning the patients and also letting them know that maneuvering the wheelchairs are important in preventing injuries,” Wu said. “I also gave them resources that they can find to help themselves and support their patients.”
Wu believes that these types of service-learning projects are beneficial to her future career as a physical therapist because it provides a space to practice her knowledge, as well as inform others.
Chris Fiorentino, director for the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State, said the doctoral service learning class contributes to a larger culture of service, which engages about 60 percent of Fresno State students in a single year.
“The Ritcher Center is that primary office on campus that is all about promoting service learning,” Fiorentino said. “We do that in a variety of ways and we have what we call a continuum of service. Whether is going out for one hour and donating blood or being involved in a service-learning class like this, or being involved in a scholarship program that requires service as a part of that, or an internship program. If it is service to the community, we are promoting that.”
Joseph Fonseca and his group developed their service-learning project by teaching human anatomy to students as part of the biology program on campus. They gave a lecture to a class of an estimated 83 students who got the chance to see studied concepts in action.
“We combined anatomy with movement, providing the structure to the function of the body and how things work,” Fonseca said. “It was good that we got to lecture. We got to demonstrate some exercises and talk about posture dysfunctions and how to prevent them.”
For his project, Spencer Lee recruited people from his church and taught them the importance of nutrition in direct relation to chronic diseases, as well as implementation of an exercise component. He had a total of four sessions, with two for exercise and two for nutrition. Participants were allowed to attend one or all four sessions.
“My two exercise sessions consisted of a bike ride and a hike,” Lee said. “The bike ride was 19 miles and the hike was nine miles. It was open to anyone who wanted to come. Most people can learn a lot about exercise and nutrition, so those were my two main focuses.”
Lee said that he gave a lecture in his second session, where he talked about nutrition in direct correlation with chronic disease and during the last session he showed a film that discussed the interaction between nutrition and disease.
“I’m in physical therapy, but I am passionate about preventing disease” Lee said. “The goal was just to educate people on how life style can influence if you get a chronic disease or not.”
Zarrinkhameh said many of students that were a part of the doctoral service-learning course went above and beyond what was required of them and because of that, this opportunity became an important learning experience.
“The reflective papers that students gave us really talk about how this is going to impact their future classes as a clinician because they learned so much more of what it is like to design a program and get it off the ground,” Zarrinkhameh said.
-Written by Sierra Frank, CHHS Communication Student Assistant