Physical Therapy Prepares for Service Learning Trip to Honduras

Share or print this article
UM-Flint physical therapy students and faculty are traveling to Honduras for the second year in a row.
UM-Flint physical therapy students and faculty are traveling to Honduras for the second year in a row.

A group of twelve University of Michigan-Flint students are heading to Honduras in August to provide physical therapy and other support to residents in need.

The nine Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student and three undergraduates will work on the island of Roatán, with two UM-Flint faculty members, for the first half of the month.

The university crew will be working with staff from a clinic and bilingual school, and provide treatment and services at multiple sites on the island, said assistant clinical professor Michele Lambaria. She organized the international service learning trip, along with assistant professor and associate director of clinical education Jamie Haines.

The group expects to help out a wide variety of people, including children with special needs, people with chronic pain, the elderly, and others. The students will likely be working in churches, community centers, and other locations within the community.

“These people otherwise would not get physical therapy,” Lambaria said. “It is a reciprocal kind of thing. Hopefully the people get as much or even more benefit than us. Our hope is that we are giving back and are not just the only ones benefiting.”

Lambaria and Haines went to Honduras last year, with nine students. This year, it officially became an elective for DPT students. The undergraduates are also participating through official programs. The group includes undergraduates in pre-physical therapy, education, and pre-physician assistant studies.

UM-Flint physical therapy students and faculty are traveling to Honduras for the second year in a row.
UM-Flint physical therapy students and faculty are traveling to Honduras for the second year in a row.

“We felt like it is a great opportunity for them to learn and develop,” with each student helping according to their background and skill set.  The group will help faculty with needs assessments,  provide physical therapy evaluations and treatments with supervision from faculty, help with public health teaching, volunteer at the local bilingual elementary school and learn about Honduran cultural and political issues.

Brandon Worden, a pre-physical therapy student, is taking the trip for his UM-Flint Honors off-campus study.

“Our main focus is to serve the people,” Worden said. “Being able to have an education major, a pre-physician assistant, we are going to be able to cover more bases (for the patients),” Worden said.

The junior from Frankenmuth said working with the graduate students has been helpful, especially since he is in the process of applying for admission into the DPT program.

The UM-Flint group collaborated with the Hispanic Technology & Community Center of Greater Flint in preparation for the trip. Residents that use the center served as patients and allowed the students to conduct evaluations in Spanish. The university group visited the center three times to prepare.

The Hispanic Technology & Community Center of Greater Flint helped prepare students for their trip.
The Hispanic Technology & Community Center of Greater Flint helped prepare students for their trip.

“It really helped the students practice, not only their Spanish, but their confidence in doing evaluations and treatment,” Lambaria said. “The people were so wonderful at the center.”

San Juana Olivares, executive director of the community center, said the arrangement helps strengthen connections with the university. The center offers several services, including tutoring, free technical computer training, and after school art sessions.

Samantha Robinson, a second year DPT student from Flushing, will be taking the Honduras trip for the first time. Working with the Flint community center helped ease her back into Spanish.

“I took Spanish through high school. My Spanish is very rusty but it’s been good to gain some of that skill back. They have been so helpful there, it’s a wonderful experience. It gives us a little practice.”

Robinson said she is looking forward to working with a new mix of patients.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to practice our skills and give back to the people who are in need,” she said.

Robert is a staff writer in University Communications & Marketing. Contact him with comments, questions, and story ideas.