HAMDEN - Melissa Weber, of West Rutland, is among an interdisciplinary team of Quinnipiac University health sciences students who are visiting Nicaragua this month to deliver medical care and host educational presentations for local people in and near the City of Le n.
"This group characterizes our physical and occupational therapy students. I am delighted with their selfless dedication and creative energy," said Maureen Helgren, associate professor of physical therapy at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
Helgren is one of four faculty members accompanying the 15 physical therapy and occupational therapy majors - a mix of graduate and undergraduate students - on the Jan. 3-13 trip.
Two nursing professors are also going to explore roles for nursing students, who will join future trips. Quinnipiac's Albert Schweitzer Institute coordinates annual service trips to areas of need in Nicaragua.
"Our primary goal is provide quality care to the people of Nicaragua who are not able to access therapy services otherwise, along with providing the Nicaraguan professionals with rehabilitation knowledge," said occupational therapy graduate student Danielle Quinn, a student leader on the trip.
Quinn also acknowledged the trip's challenges.
"The experiences will push students to use their minds creatively and implement interventions with the most minimal supplies, time, and technology," she said.
Student teams will serve in an orphanage for children with special needs, where they will evaluate children and devise treatment plans. They will also see patients in a rural clinic and at home to evaluate patients and environments and make suggestions to enhance function.
"This is not about working in Nicaragua for a week, as if we are filling in for a therapist who is away," Helgren said. "It is about connecting with others in a sustainable way. For example, providing a customized seating device for a child with neurological dysfunction has ongoing benefits for that child's social and cognitive abilities."
Students have also scheduled two days of educational presentations at a hospital in Le n, where they will give lectures and workshops for local medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and rehabilitation specialists.
"What will be unique about this experience is the chance to be immersed in a different culture and the opportunity to infuse creativity in the clinical processes," said Salvador Bondoc, associate professor of occupational therapy. "The creativity comes when students are faced with the challenge of providing services when there are extremely limited resources."
Physical therapy graduate student Adam Kesten said the trip offers Quinnipiac students a rare opportunity.
"In this country, we live a very privileged life, and it's not every day we get a chance to give back by helping out those less fortunate," Kesten said. "Everything we have learned in all of our classes will impact our ability to piece together the problems we will see and plan the best course of rehabilitation for each specific person."
Students going to Nicaragua include: Adam Kesten, of Randolph, N.J.; Kristyn Wielgosz, of Meriden; Meredith Gebel, of West Long Branch, N.J.; Erin Sargent, of Tyngsboro, Mass.; Jon Rovan, of Newtown, N.J.; Bridget Assip, of Bellrose, N.Y.; Jennifer Weber, of Southboro, Mass.; Lauren Laferte, of Woonsocket, R.I.; Keniel McLennon, of Bridgeport; Amy Johnson, of Reading, Mass.; Melissa Weber, of West Rutland, Vt.; Larisa Bogdan, of Lynbrook, N.Y.; Brittany Michel, of Agawam, Mass.; Lindsey Raffol, of Natick, Mass.; and Danielle Quinn, of Sackets Harbor, N.Y.
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