For Romin Ghassemi, the opportunity to spend up to an hour at a time with a patient is the reason he chose physical therapy. Rachel Plummer says her undergraduate studies in biology and exercise and sports science revealed her appreciation for human movement. And Kim Currie discovered her desire to help people have the best quality of life despite injuries after her own injury forced her to transfer undergraduate institutions.
Although their reasons for seeking out a physical therapy program differ, the reason they chose Campbell University is the same: relationships.
“Just as Campbell has shown us, I have learned not to view each patient as just another chart but a unique individual who deserves excellent care,” Ghassemi said in a recent student spotlight.
Soon Ghassemi, Plummer, and Currie will be providing that care that emphasizes personal relationships in the field no longer just as student physical therapists. They and 33 other classmates will become Campbell’s first Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates Saturday, Dec. 17.
Compassionate Care, Interprofessional Education
Campbell announced the addition of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in 2011. Housed in the university’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, the program added breadth to the health sciences degree offerings and would meet anticipated shortages in the healthcare industry.
Campbell aimed to train student physical therapists to be compassionate healthcare providers by immersing them in innovative experiences, like learning how to effectively interact with other professions through an initiative called Interprofessional Education.
“There is so much to learn and gain from working together as a team,” Plummer said. “I’ve learned very quickly that the best patient care comes only from cooperative and compassionate interprofessional teamwork.”
Inspired by the collaborative nature of the health sciences at Campbell, the charter class founded the Campbell University Student Physical Therapy Clinic as a way to give back to the campus community.
Also known as the PT Pro Bono Clinic, it serves as an immersive learning experience for physical therapy students to practice the skills they have learned during their clinical rotations and in class.
Patients include Campbell students, faculty, staff, and their family members.
Third-year student physical therapists work in teams to treat patients of the clinic at no cost to the patient. Each team features a first-year student, as well, who observes in preparation for future rotations.
“Participating in this project has been one of the most meaning of all my involvements within the program,” said Lynisha Ochogu, a member of the physical therapy’s charter class. “It afforded me the opportunity to give back and serve those in need which is of great importance to me.”
Serving the Underserved
Providing compassionate care to patients and working collaboratively with a healthcare team made up two-thirds of the unique physical therapy curriculum Campbell designed. The rural communities in North Carolina inspired the third component.
Dr. Greg Dedrick, founding director of Campbell’s DPT program, signed on to set up the program in July 2012. He, his wife, and then-infant twins moved from Texas to North Carolina because he said Campbell was in a position to educate and train students within rural counties like Harnett.
With North Carolina falling to 38th in the nation in number of licensed PTs practicing in the state, Dedrick believed exposing students to rural, underserved areas while in school would inspire graduates to serve there after they graduated.
Though gradutates of Campbell’s inaugural physical therapy class will practice in Texas, California, Tennessee, and Michigan, the majority will stay in North Carolina and fulfill the Doctor of Physical Therapy’s mission to graduate students who deliver compassionate, patient-centered care to the state’s rural healthcare environments.
Ochogu says the graduating class knew they were working on the foundation for something bigger than themselves.
“Campbell University is notorious for establishing successful academic programs. There was never a doubt in my mind that we would be successful,” she said. “If there was one take away from the entire experience it would be this: When you truly invest in something important and meaningful, the payout is always more than you expect.”