The team, which included three alums, spent 10 days gaining valuable experiences while treating patients and assisting local physical therapists and students

Second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student Sydney Campilii went to Guatemala with the goal of helping physical therapists and local PT students, and to work with patients. What she came away with from the 10-day service trip was eye-opening.

“We went there to give the PTs and PT students presentations on such things as stroke care and hip dysplasia and how to transfer patients without hurting their backs, but I got so much more out of it than what I gave,” said Campilii, who was part of a team of six DPT students and three alumni serving as clinical instructors who traveled to the Central American country in earlier this month during the semester break. “They taught me new techniques that I never even knew existed. It was an incredible experience.”

Led by Dr. Jane Baldwin, an assistant professor in PT and coordinator of the IHP’s Marjorie Ionta Physical Therapy Center for Clinical Education, the trip was a collaboration with Move Together, a U.S.-based non-profit that collaborates with various physical therapists and physical therapy educational programs aimed at assisting healthcare providers at Guatemalan facilities throughout the year. The goal of these collaborations is to foster sustainable healthcare and to improve the health of local communities.

“They have no monetary resources. They have no infrastructure resources. They have no health literacy resources,” Baldwin said, noting that the students saw maladies they might only see in the poorest of regions in the United States. “We have our issues with our health system and have major health disparities here, but it’s nothing like what they experience.”

The team spent the first several days at a clinic in Villa Nueva just outside Guatemala City, where they focused on providing educational resources to the Guatemalan physical therapists and students, as well as co-treating patients. The learning was collaborative in nature, as IHP students learned much from the Guatemalan students. Learning to be creative with limited resources was a recurring theme.

The team then traveled five hours north of the capital city to the rural mountainside village of Canilla, where they worked in a health clinic that also included a nursing home. The region is so remote that there are no physical therapists working there; patients are treated by health workers who have little PT experience and facilities that pale in comparison with those at the Villa Nueva clinic.