Doctoral Students Bring Injury Prevention and Wellness to Schools, Rehabilitation and Senior Centers

PT students with charter school students
Physical Therapy students from left, Lucas Parsons, Josh Morris, Rachel McKeon; back row Alex Papanastassiou and Jake Lenthal; and right, Caroline Pisinski are shown with Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School students, back row middle, Davonte Ngeth, front, Hayleigh Mclaughlin and Adrian Delgado.

By Karen Angelo

The “Jeopardy!”-style quiz created by physical therapy students triggered discussions, laughter and teamwork among high school students at the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School. The high school students wagered points, competed in small groups and, along the way, learned about health and wellness. 

For the six physical therapy doctoral students who recently wrapped up the semester-long project at the charter school, it was a learning experience, too. They were among eight groups of PT students who partnered with local schools and rehabilitation, dance and senior centers as part of their service learning course. 

“The service learning project has helped me as a clinician in terms of communicating health and wellness strategies, thinking of ways to keep it interesting and empowering the people whom I am trying to reach,” says Luke Parsons, who expects to complete his degree in 2020. 

Middlesex Academy Charter School nurse Amy Hendl, who worked with the PT students during the semester, says the school values its partnership with UMass Lowell. 

“The physical therapy students are dependable, professional and receptive to feedback,” says Hendl, who earned a B.S. in nursing from UMass Lowell in 1992. “We’ve been very happy with this partnership, because our students are receptive to the PT students and therefore absorb the health information. The UML students take their role very seriously and are very easy to work with.” 

The physical therapy students taught the high school students about nutrition, sleep, vaping, stress, exercise, nutrition and more. 

PT students Luke Harmeling, Jennie Pisarik, Casey McNamara and Josh Kilmonis pictured in a classroom at the Rogers School in Lowell
PT students Luke Harmeling, Jennie Pisarik, Casey McNamara and Josh Kilmonis taught healthy habits and safe exercise practices to the cross country team at the STEM Academy at the Rogers School in Lowell.
Clinical Assoc. Prof. Edgar Torres, who teaches the service learning course, stresses that people may not realize that in addition to treating injuries, physical therapists promote health and wellness strategies to encourage healthy behaviors. 

“The service learning course integrates community service with instruction, which provides our students an opportunity to understand the power of education and outreach as it relates to health,” says Torres. “We are grateful to all of our community partners that provide this valuable real-world learning experience for our students.” 

Another team of physical therapy students collaborated with the STEM Academy at the Rogers School in Lowell to teach healthy habits and safe exercise practices to the cross country team. 

“The doctor of physical therapy students provided our middle school students instruction on dynamic and static stretches, as well as essential strengthening exercises,” says Kerien Driscoll, the school’s STEM resource teacher. “The interactions my students have with the UMass Lowell students are one of the most impactful parts of their experience.” 

Physical therapy student Casey McNamara says that it was rewarding to teach young athletes about fitness, health and wellness. 

“I learned that it is important to make activities fun while also serving a purpose,” says McNamara. “Keeping people happy and enjoying their time with you is important for patient success.” 

The other groups of students worked with the Chelmsford Senior Center, Andover High School, Nashoba Learning Group, John Adams HealthCare Center, Lisa Pilato Dance Center and the Dance Junction Performing Arts School.