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Physical Therapy Student Completes Placement in Kenya

Doctor of Physical Therapy student, Danielle Gilbert, recently completed a four-week experience in Migori, Kenya. Gilbert opted for an independent study during her Advanced Clinical Practice Selective course and worked at St. Joseph Mission Hospital. A third-year student from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Gilbert completed her undergraduate degree at Elon in 2009 with a major in exercise science, and had studied abroad in Ghana during a winter term.

Gilbert could have chosen from other, more established domestic options for her selective but she had a strong interest in pursuing an option in Kenya. “I have always had a strong passion for service and am always looking for ways to broaden the scope of my experiences,” she said. “Even in middle school, I talked about going to Africa, and in particular Kenya, to meet the people and see the beautiful landscape and animals. Now that I have a medical skill to offer, I felt even more compelled to make the journey”.
Dr. Jane Freund, associate professor in physical therapy, mentored Gilbert for the project. According to Dr. Freund, “Danielle, who is extremely self motivated, is the type of student independent studies are designed for. She thoroughly researched and designed her experience to get the most out of it.”

Gilbert identified a program with Medics to Africa through which she would be able to volunteer in a clinical setting and work directly with patients. She exchanged several emails and spoke on the phone with the program representative and was also able to contact another student from the United States who had worked previously at St. Joseph. Gilbert had many questions and some concerns about the logistics, safety, and the overall process, and worked closely with the Isabella Cannon International Centre (ICIC). Paul Geis, Assistant Director for Affiliations and Exchanges, worked with Gilbert. “We were very happy to support Danielle throughout the process,” Geis said. “She was motivated and very enthusiastic about this experience. As an independent program, this required a great deal of commitment and a certain level of comfort with ambiguity. Many students would not have followed through but Danielle did everything she needed to and our office provided logistical support like getting her enrolled in international health insurance”.

Gilbert worked for three weeks at the hospital. She was able to provide direct care to patients with a variety of injuries and conditions. Some of the care she provided included reviewing x-rays, providing plaster casting for fractures, soft tissue mobilization, therapeutic exercise, and post stroke rehabilitation. She even scrubbed in for orthopedic surgery and treated a patient who had recovered from a 3-week coma following a severe case of meningitis.

Speaking about the differences in how patients are treated and the procedures that a physical therapist may be called on to conduct, Gilbert commented that “physical therapy in Migori was a fee for service care where resources were limited and the therapist was continuously challenged to be creative in intervention strategies. Physical Therapists were called on frequently to provide more physician extender roles and often played as a key orthopedic specialist”.

Dr. Freund noted that, “the experience in Kenya has allowed Danielle to use her knowledge and skills to provide physical therapy to people of a different culture in a setting with minimal resources. The flexibility, creativity and sense of service gained from this experience will be invaluable throughout her career. “
Gilbert’s time in Kenya was an enriching experience. “It was such a challenging, yet insightful opportunity where I was able to fully immerse myself in the everyday struggles people in this region of Kenya experienced. I boiled water to drink, cooked on metal plates over propane tanks, road small motorcycles to town, and slept under a mosquito net each night, all the while providing the best physical therapy interventions I could to such a disadvantaged and grateful community.”

Gilbert has been invited to be a board member for Medics to Africa and has designed a program brochure to promote opportunities to other students. She will complete her final internship in San Francisco, CA and will graduate in December.

Click here to view the brochure Gilbert designed for Medics to Africa

Gilbert works with a patient at St. Joseph Mission Hospital

Heidi White,
6/2/2011 9:30 AM