June and Bill Figgins have a Friday routine that never gets old. The couple visit PT Heart, the UM-Flint student-led, pro bono clinic, for 45 minutes of therapy. The clinic, housed within the Catholic Charities North End Soup Kitchen in Flint, offers free physical therapy, health education, and rehabilitation treatment to uninsured and underinsured people.
For about a year, the Figgins have received treatment, after their insurance reached its cap. Bill, who has had his right leg amputated below the knee, and who is in a wheelchair, gets help walking. June, recovering from an ankle injury and knee issues, works with physical therapy students on a range of balance and flexibility exercises.
“They are so dedicated and smart and caring,” June Figgins said about the UM-Flint crew at PT Heart. “They want the best for you.”
The therapy, and interactions with the students, has helped Bill Figgins build up his strength and make it easier to move between different places within his home. The therapy also keeps his blood circulating, which is a key treatment for living with the effects of a stroke. June Figgins has developed strength and balance in her ankle.
“They are experts. They know what they are doing,” June Figgins said. “Where would I be without their help? I don’t know if I would have been able to walk by now, it was that bad.”
The clinic started in January 2012, and is staffed and managed by physical therapy and health education students. Students schedule patients and student volunteers, and manage the ordering of equipment, fundraising, and promoting the clinic. There are also faculty advisors that assist them, but students are responsible for operations.
The clinic operates every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Physical Therapy students also provide basic health screenings, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and body mass index.
Dave Schultz, of Burton, has been visiting the clinic for the past three years. He receives treatment for pain and stiffness related to his cerebral palsy.
“The students do a top-notch job here,” Schultz said, whose therapy includes an assortment of stretching and walking exercises. ‘It’s helped me quite a bit because it keeps me active.”
Kelly McCloskey, a Doctor of Physical Therapy student at UM-Flint and director of PT Heart, said the clinic provides critical learning opportunities for students while offering essential care for community members.
“It is beyond rewarding to know that while I am there helping myself to improve my own self with my techniques and skill sets, I am also helping others at the same time,” McCloskey said. “It is crazy to see the changes over time from when I first started working with these individuals this time last year and all the improvements they have made since then. Our patients are always so nice and appreciative and we really create a sense of community within PT Heart, which I value a lot.”
Student Neletha Skelton, the PT Heart co-director of health education, said the experience helps her gain understanding of health disparities within the Flint community, including lack of access to healthy foods, transportation, and housing issues. She works with community members on how to manage stress, develop healthy habits, and learn about community resources.
“What I try to do is help them gain access to these resources so it helps mitigate any issues,” Skelton said.
Flint resident Joyce Jack-Hughes visits the clinic weekly for health screenings, and consultations with the health education students. She deals with a host of medical issues, and said the support from the UM-Flint students helps her monitor her actions and the status of her overall health.
“It’s a good program,” she said. “I love it.”