Physical therapy students, faculty engage in service learning in Malawi

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Following a fall semester of preparatory discussion sessions, third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students Grace Wang and Emily Gee, Assistant Professor Casey Nesbit, and Associate Professor Jet Lee spent two weeks in Malawi, where there is a critical shortage of physical therapists.

Physical therapy students and faculty in Malawi

During their visit, they provided a three-day rehabilitation training program for 60 home-based palliative care community health workers as well as physical therapy services at St. Gabriel’s Hospital.

Nesbit has been providing physical therapy service for the 200,000 people in the large catchment area at St. Gabriel’s Hospital for the past 11 years.

The three-day program was the fifth year of annual training and focused on a review of skills, goal writing, case management and leadership development. Wang is a participant in the 2017/2018 UCSF Pathways to Discovery in Global Health project; the training in Malawi additionally incorporated focus groups and surveys as part of her UCSF Global Pathways Legacy Project.

Physical therapy services were provided for patients at the 300-bed hospital, 20 bed inpatient rehabilitation unit and home-bound patients in the surrounding villages. The SF State/UCSF physical therapist students also had the opportunity to work with Ruth Kanjirawaya, a third-year Malawian physical therapist student.

The service learning project received full support from the home-based care coordinator and the hospital director. The DPT students demonstrated cultural competence, ethically-driven clinical decision making and adaptability in a resource-limited setting. Their ability to work as a collaborative team with Malawian heath care providers, patients and families was remarkable.

Pictured (left to right): Casey Nesbit, Emily Gee, Ruth Kanjirawaya, Grace Wang, Jet Lee