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Students Design PT Clinic for Disabled Orphans

Self-Contained Unit Will be Sent to Impoverished Countries

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PT students Randy Jean, Ryan Burke and Thomas Sniezek designed a self-contained pediatric physical therapy clinic tailored to orphanages for disabled children in third-world countries.

By Thomas Sniezek

For student Randy Jean, designing a physical therapy (PT) clinic for disabled children in impoverished countries had special meaning. 

“With family living in Haiti, I am familiar with the hardships of a third-world country,” says Jean. “I was excited to work on this project to take what I’ve learned these last three years and truly make a difference in people’s lives.” 

The student team of Jean, Ryan Burke and Thomas Sniezek – all of whom receive their doctor of physical therapy degrees in May 2012 – worked with the International Medical Equipment Collaborative (IMEC) in North Andover to build the unit, which was a service-learning project for the trio. Founded by former hospital executive Tom Keefe, IMEC supplies impoverished communities around the world with working-condition medical equipment donated from hospitals. 

Many orphanages for children with disabilities in third-world countries are ill-equipped to deal with the complex needs of the children. As a result, the orphans are restricted to their beds, mats or floors. 

To help solve this problem, the students applied their knowledge about rehabilitation for different physical conditions to design a self-contained PT pediatric suite that could be easily shipped. It includes all the necessary equipment for caregivers to help improve a child’s mobility and quality of life. The team took the design a step further and built a finished suite that is ready to be delivered to those in need. 

“This was a great opportunity for us to not only put our skills into practice in a creative manner, but to do so in a way that will hopefully improve the quality of life for children with disabilities,” says Sniezek. 

Keefe was grateful to the team for finding a practical, real-world solution. 

“The project completed by the UMass Lowell students was simply outstanding,” he says. “The model they produced for serving orphanages for disabled children in impoverished countries exceeded our expectations. Their work is helping us to better serve these children now and in the future.” 

The students’ design is now considered the “gold” standard that will be used to create future pediatric suites. 

“There is a great need for projects like this across the globe” says Burke. “Hopefully our design for a pediatric suite can help change a child’s life.’’