Guest blogger: Casey Nesbit, PT, DPT, DSC, PCS Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education at the University of the Pacific.

I’ve had the opportunity to be in Malawi with the physical therapy students for the past three weeks. I’ve been working at St. Gabriel’s Hospital for a few months each year for the past eight years, but this was the first group of physical therapy students to be at St. Gabriel’s. Physical therapy resources are limited here – I’m the only therapist providing service here and have worked hard to train the staff. The students were a welcomed addition to the care here at the hospital.

The community at St. Gabriel’s is grateful for everything the University of Pacific students did while they were here. The staff, patients, and community health worker volunteers all appreciated their teamwork, thoughtful approach and caring attitude. In the context of many cultural influences, the students were open-minded, responsive and energetic. They showed a respectful, deep commitment to their patients and their families.

They became educators themselves – training the community health worker volunteers, the ward assistants and the families. They experienced the impact of physical therapy – seeing how simple activities can change the quality of life, watching others quickly adopt physical therapy strategies to help their loved ones, and standing back so that those they have trained can enthusiastically teach others. They have also experienced the impact of resource limitations – seeing people who have not been moved out of bed for 13 years, working with people who do not have a clear understanding of their illness because of the lack of diagnostic tools, and meeting volunteers who travel 30 miles by bicycle to visit their patients. They were well-respected by the medical staff, and contributed to many discussions with the hospital doctors who valued their input. Each of these students is now prepared to move forward in their professional journey with a heart for service and a passion for for physical therapy in resource-limited settings.

Zikomo, zikomo! Thank you!

Elisa Carey, Kristen Damazio, and Carolyn Coghlan - University of the Pacific Students at St. Gabriel's hospital, Namitete, Malawi

Elisa Carey, Kristen Damazio, and Carolyn Coghlan – University of the Pacific physical therapy students at St. Gabriel’s hospital, Namitete, Malawi