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Rain, mud, equatorial heat ߝ nothing stops Asst. Prof. Deirdra Murphy of the Physical Therapy Department when delivering services to underserved rural areas.
The destination was Nicaragua, where 90 percent of the people get their health care at understaffed and underequipped public clinics. Those in the northeastern, more rural areas have virtually no access to care.
Murphy joined Dr. Jean-Paul Dedham, MD, founder of the Lawrence-based Hermanos Por La Salud. Its mission is to “empower communities in rural and impoverished Nicaragua to improve their own health, education and overall quality of life.” Dr. Dedham has led a series of medical service trips to Nicaragua.
Mary Ann Hibino, graduate of the UMass Lowell doctoral program in physical therapy, and Ryan Dono, medical student at UMass Worcester, rounded out the team for the weeklong expedition.
Murphy says, “The people we met make a life out of very few resources ߝ their resiliency made a powerful impression on me. We saw lots of families with developmentally delayed children and they were eager for information. Some had traveled long distances to attend our workshops.”
The presenters made use of a training manual developed by physical therapy graduate students Cheryl Nobrega and Linda Morin as a service-learning project.
The workshops for families with disabilities covered a range of topics from strengthening, flexibility and proper lifting, to general information about Downs syndrome, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy and developmental milestones.
The interdisciplinary team also made evaluations of children and adults, learning from each other as they worked together.
Says Murphy, “The medical team learned from us about disability, function and families since this was the first time physical therapy was incorporated into the trip. We learned about delivering health care in developing countries.”
Murphy continues to document her international experiences on a blog at murphyperu.wordpress.com/, as she aims to extend teaching, research and service beyond the walls of campus and across diverse communities.