Dec 112013
 
OT students Costa Rica Aug 2013

From left to right, ECU occupational therapy students Keli McColl, Farrell Wiggins and Brittany Robertson work with adults with autism in Costa Rica.

 In August, four students from the ECU occupational therapy master’s degree program traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica on a medical mission trip.

Katie Hopkins, Keli McColl, Brittany Robertson, and Farrell Wiggins spent a week working in a day program named ASCOPA for adults with autism. They assisted staff in creating activities and implementing sensory integration techniques to help enrich the lives of the participants.

Autism is not as well known in Costa Rica as it is in North Carolina. Even for those who know what the diagnosis entails, resources for adults and children with autism are scarce. This program is one of a kind, as most adults with autism in Costa Rica have two options: stay at home and receive assistance from their parents or be institutionalized. Instead, the program allows the adults to go to school and receive both a traditional education and life-skills training. 

The students from ECU created sensory-based activities for the adult participants and assisted with their daily activities. These included making paper, greeting cards, and gardening, which they sold at events throughout the year to raise money and awareness about autism. They also had an amazing time building relationships with the participants and staff, all of whom welcomed them warmly. 

In addition to volunteering at ASCOPA, the students traveled throughout Costa Rica to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the country. Costa Rica’s landscapes are as varied as they are beautiful. The students, who will graduate from ECU on Dec. 13, visited the mountainous rain forest, as well as the active Arenal Volcano and the beaches. 

OT students in Costa Rica Aug 2013

From left to right, ECU occupational therapy graduate students Farrell Wiggins, Brittany Robertson, Katie Hopkins and Keli McColl.

-Brittany Robertson, Occupational Therapy Class of 2013 

 

 

 

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Nov 262013
 

First year students in the Department of Physical Therapy volunteered at the Pitt County Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event Oct. 25.

(L-R) First year students from the Department of Physical Therapy,  Clara Martin, Kara Clowers, Caleb Polson, Jasmine Crayton, Laura Kraich, Liz Flannery, and Marianne Gross volunteered at the Stand Down event. (not pictured: Jon McPeters)

(L-R) First year students from the Department of Physical Therapy, Clara Martin, Kara Clowers, Caleb Polson, Jasmine Crayton, Laura Kraich, Liz Flannery, and Marianne Gross volunteered at the Stand Down event. (not pictured: Jon McPeters)

The Stand Down was hosted by the QSA Foundation, a local non-profit group that works to aid homeless veterans and military families. The event’s title comes from the term “stand down” in the military culture, which is a time when exhausted combat units stop fighting and recover at a secure base camp. This is an opportunity for the unit to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, eat warm meals, and receive medical and dental care.

Applying this same idea to a community of homeless veterans, a Stand Down in the community refers to helping the homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets. For a few hours, hundreds of homeless veterans are provided with a range of services and needs, such as food, clothing, medical and dental help, job counseling, sleeping bags, and blankets. More importantly, the Stand Down was a chance for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and provide some assistance.

While at the Stand Down, the group of students registered veterans for the event, helped veterans sign up for haircuts with the barber, handed out hygiene supplies, shoes and clothing, and provided veterans with breakfast and lunch.

“I know all of us learned a lot from this event and walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the surprisingly large group of homeless and low income veterans in our community,” said physical therapy student Clara Martin, “We hope to participate again next year.”

Next year’s event will take October 24, 2014. For more information about Stand Down, visit the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StandDown2013/info.

Oct 142013
 

From Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, students in the East Carolina University Physician Assistant Studies program celebrated National Physician Assistant Week by honoring their professors and giving back to their community.

PA

The ECU Physician Assistant Studies program class of 2015. (photo by Michelle Messer Photography)

Events included a faculty appreciation ice cream social Thursday afternoon, held in the East Carolina University Heart Center. PA students recognized the program’s faculty for their dedication to preparing the students for careers as physician assistants.

The students continued their celebration of PA week by decorating pumpkins with the children at The Little Willie Center. The center, a facility located on Fifth Street that provides after school tutoring and mentoring services hosted the students Friday afternoon.

“Being a PA student is an awesome yet challenging experience,” said Caitlyn Fulp, a member of the class of 2015, “It can be difficult to look past the quizzes, exams, assignments, and labs that pile on top of balancing family, friends, gym, chores, and grocery shopping. Spending time with the kids at the after school program helped me do just that! Laughing, painting pumpkins, and coloring pictures of Minnie Mouse were just what I needed to recharge and get some perspective. I am excited to participate in more opportunities like this in the future.”

The East Carolina University Physician Assistant Studies program, which graduated its first class in 1999, currently has 102 enrolled students.  The program operates on a 27 month curriculum and is one of only seven PA programs in North Carolina. In 2003, the program transitioned to a master-level program with all graduates since 2005 earning Master of Science degrees in PA studies.

To learn more about the Physician Assistant Studies program at ECU visit http://www.ecu.edu/pa/.

 

 

 

Oct 012013
 

Each day in North Carolina, accidental falls account for 531 emergency room visits, 69 hospitalizations and two to three deaths. As you may imagine, nearly 90 percent of these falls involve the elderly. Causes include taking more than four prescriptions and accompanying side effects, physical deconditioning, poor balance, dehydration and failure to properly adjust someone’s home to the changing needs that come with age.

But, for Dr. Jane Painter-Patton, professor of occupational therapy who leads ECU’s Fall Risk Assessment Clinic, there is a seemingly counterintuitive cause that she pays particular attention to. According to Painter-Patton, seniors who have anxiety about the possibility of a fall are actually more likely to experience one.

It is a vicious cycle.

“When people are more afraid of falling, they are more sedentary,” says Painter-Patton. “But we know that weakens their muscles and makes falls much more likely when they do get up to walk around. We try to address that with our patients and make sure that they know that the best way to prevent falls is actually safely increasing activity.”

Questions about anxiety and depression are part of the screening process at the clinic, which has been operating on ECU’s campus for more than five years. Painter-Patton and her team, which includes a geriatrician, geriatric pharmacist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, social worker, and nurses send patients home with a set of recommendations to improve both their mental and physical health. But, she says, old habits die hard.

“You’ve got someone who is 80-years-old and has never really exercised; it’s hard to get them to start,” she said. “But we start with simple range of motion activities (like Tai Chi) to get them moving, which we know improves their mood.”

So, while accidental falls remain a concern for the elderly, ECU is helping seniors realize that a proactive approach is the surest way to reduce risks. 

Other fall prevention strategies used by ECU’s occupational therapy department include incorporating Matter of Balance, an evidence-based fear of falling education program; the American Arthritis Tai Chi program and Free for Falls educational program for those with multiple sclerosis; and volunteer opportunities for ECU occupational and physical therapy students to assist with Eastern N.C. Falls Prevention Coalition activities. For example, ECU students helped screen almost 300 older adults for their risk of falls at the annual Falls Prevention Exposition held at the Greenville Convention Center during National Falls Prevention Week.

Jul 262013
 

Amini03Dr. Debbie Amini, assistant professor and certified hand therapist, recently contributed to an article, “Summer Parties Made Easy” in the August/September issue of Living with Arthritis.   

From the article:  Setting up, grilling, time on your feet—it’s enough to make you shy away from hosting a cookout altogether. But it doesn’t have to be so exhausting! We asked certified hand therapist Debbie Amini, EdD, OTR/L,CHT, from the department of occupational therapy at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, for tips to help your party go smoothly. Here’s how to sidestep joint pain and fatigue while enjoying everything a barbecue has to offer—food, friends and fun!  Read the full article is HERE.