College opens physical therapy clinic

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University has launched a pro bono clinic to provide physical therapy services to underserved and underinsured populations of Western North Carolina.

The clinic, operated by students in WCU’s doctoral program in physical therapy under the supervision of faculty members, is open from 6 until 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. It is located in Carolina West Sports Medicine clinic space on the first floor of the Health and Human Sciences Building on Little Savannah Road on WCU’s West Campus.

Jenna Floyd, Elizabeth Carter, Ashley Hyatt (standing, assistant professor) and Amy Broadwell assist a patient in the physical therapy clinic.

Jenna Floyd, Elizabeth Carter, Ashley Hyatt (standing, assistant professor) and Amy Broadwell assist a patient in the physical therapy clinic.

The physical therapy clinic is among several clinics located in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building that are designed to provide much-needed health care services to WNC residents while giving students in the health care professions valuable hands-on learning experiences, said Doug Keskula, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“Through the new physical therapy clinic and other clinics in our building, we are able to deliver exceptional health services to our community while simultaneously supporting the education and development of the highly skilled health professionals of the future,” Keskula said.

“The truly extraordinary aspect of this clinic is that it is a student-led initiative,” he said. “Our physical therapy students have been involved in creating and implementing every aspect of this much-needed clinic. Under the guidance of faculty member and clinic director Dr. Ashley Hyatt, our students are learning the professional roles of patient advocacy and social responsibility firsthand.”

Hyatt, who joined the WCU faculty in 2013, has previous experience working in a pro bono clinic during her years in graduate school. “I participated both as a student and as a supervising clinician, and I was able to see firsthand how beneficial the clinic was to the community,” she said.

Three student volunteers, Dan Henry, Lauren Huber and Jamie Bowen, perform a subjective interview with one of the clinic's first clients.

Three student volunteers, Dan Henry, Lauren Huber and Jamie Bowen, perform a subjective interview with one of the clinic’s first clients.

Soon after her arrival on campus, Hyatt began working on a proposal for a clinic at WCU. Students in the physical therapy program formed a student board to develop plans for the clinic, under the supervision of an advisory board composed of faculty and staff from WCU as well as community partners.

“It has been very exciting to see all of the hard work that these students have put into this clinic come to fruition. It is also really rewarding to see our students apply what they have learned in the classroom to actual patients who truly need their help,” Hyatt said. “We all learn something each clinic night, and this will be a constant work in progress. We would like to start expanding the clinic to other professions in the college once we get a bit more comfortable.”

Last September, WestCare Center for Family Medicine launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the building. That clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, Carolina West Sports Medicine opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, providing services to the community and clinical practice opportunities for WCU faculty and students. The building’s interdisciplinary clinic also hosts WCU’s nationally recognized Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic, and Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.

Opened in the fall of 2012, the Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility built on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired by WCU in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.

Mary Goforth (right), a student volunteer, and Clinic Coordinator Matthew George (left) work with a client referred to the clinic from the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.

Mary Goforth (right), a student volunteer, and Clinic Coordinator Matthew George (left) work with a client referred to the clinic from the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.

In addition, the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University recently issued a request for qualifications for a project to develop a medical office building to be constructed near the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

The office building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on the West Campus as part of the Millennial Initiative. Expected to encompass at least 30,000 square feet of space, the building will become home to a mix of office space for health care professionals, along with space for health-related businesses.

The Mountain Area Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic is available to individuals who do not have insurance coverage for physical therapy.

For more information about pro bono physical therapy services, contact the clinic at 828-227-3527 or MAPPTClinic@wcu.edu.

Former operations coordinator Joshua Jones brings student volunteer Mary Goforth up-to-date on clinic procedures.

Former operations coordinator Joshua Jones brings student volunteer Mary Goforth up-to-date on clinic procedures.