From working in student-run clinics to modifying ride-on cars for children with mobility impairments, students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program have access to a plethora of engaging and rewarding educational and service opportunities.

MEDiC

Established in 1990, MEDiC is a student-run program of the School of Medicine and Public Health, which includes seven health clinics throughout Madison. MEDiC's goal is to improve the health of underserved populations in the Madison area while providing educational opportunities for UW-Madison health professions students.

MEDiC is an interprofessional program, which provides an opportunity for physical therapy, medical, physician assistant, nursing and pharmacy students to work and learn together.

GoBabyGo

Students modify a car for physically impaired children

GoBabyGo is an outreach program that modifies toy ride-on cars for children with mobility impairments. The project is an innovative joint venture of UW physical therapy, occupational therapy and engineering students along with American Family Children's Hospital therapists.

Pro-bono physical therapy clinic

The vision for the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program's pro-bono student clinic is to create a unique and caring environment for treatment of uninsured and underserved patients. Our goal is to fill a gap in pro-bono physical therapy services in the Madison area by using student services with faculty oversight.

Facts about the pro-bono student clinic:

  • The interdisciplinary clinic is led by UW-Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy Program students with faculty advisement.
  • Speech-language pathology students also provide therapry to clients being seen in this clinic.
  • All services are provided free of charge by current students who operate on a 100 percent volunteer basis.
  • Seventy-five percent of the 2017-18 first- and second-year students volunteered their time to treat 11 clients.
  • On average, two to three students are paired with a client on a weekly basis.

Services of the pro-bono clinic are primarily focused on neurological rehabilitation such as gait, balance, proprioception and coordination training.

There is limited space available and qualified clients are considered on a first come, first served basis and according to need. Services are ongoing and are available only through scheduled appointments. 

Global health service

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 650 million people with disabilities worldwide, and most live in developing countries with little or no access to rehabilitation.The American Physical Therapy Association has continued to support global efforts by their members and educators to expand their involvement in meeting the global rehabilitation needs.

All students participate in service learning as part of seminar courses. Service learning projects involve working with either local or international community partners. The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program recognizes the important role that service can play in a student’s professional development.

Students in a PT clinic
Students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program have have the opportunity to learn while helping underserved communities around the globe, such as Honduras, which the program visited in 2012.

Our global health objectives

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program aims to support global health experiences that:

  • Are of high educational value
  • Will be responsibly implemented with appropriate supervision and structure
  • Offer benefit to both trainee and host site
  • Are ethically sound and culturally appropriate
  • Will allow for prioritization of the safety and welfare of the students

An average of 16 students from each of the past three years completed their service learning requirements internationally. There are some financial assistance and fund raising opportunities available for international service learning experiences.

Current global health projects

Belize

This program involves Doctor of Physical Therapy Program second-year students and faculty members traveling to Punta Gorda, Belize in January each year. The purpose of this trip is to engage in a service learning experience related to the topics of physical therapy and educational outreach.

Currently, Belize has very limited to no rehabilitation services. Students work with community partners and faculty to develop their own projects but are encouraged to build on the past projects, which include disability awareness in elementary aged school children, training of staff at a non-profit clinic and community outreach.

Guatemala

This program involves Doctor of Physical Therapy Program second-year students and faculty members traveling to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala for a service-learning experience for two weeks in early summer. The project is coordinated with the School of Medicine and Public Health students and the community partner is with the San Lucas Community Health Care Program. Group participants will travel to rural satellite clinics around the southern and eastern areas near Lake Atitlan and work with local health promoters to enhance the rehabilitation care for the communities. Spanish language proficiency is recommended.

Uganda

Established in 2010 in conjunction with the UW Center for Global Health, Doctor of Physical Therapy students and faculty travel to Uganda to participate in a three-week service learning project. Community partners in Uganda include Mulago Hospital and Makarere University in Kampala and Providence Home in Nkokonjeru which is a home for children and adults with disabilities. This project is offered in May to students at the end of their second year and coincides with the Health and Disease in Uganda Global Health Program.

Past global health programs

In past years, students in the program have also traveled to Ecuador and Honduras. The program will work in Belize and Peru this year.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Organization

All students are encouraged to join and participate in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Organization, UW-Madison's physical therapy student organization. The organization performs service, social and fundraising activities, such as:

  • Outreach activities that help others learn about physical therapy, wellness and prevention
  • Fundraisers including annual clothing and Bucky Book sales, a Bucky Race and massage days
  • Social events for new and returning students
  • A Big Brother/Big Sister Program, in which second-year students help orient first-year students to the program

The organization received the UW-Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service Award for Outstanding Service. The "Bucky Award" for service recognizes a student organization that has participated in service activities throughout the academic year and has hosted at least one service activity beneficial to the campus community. The selected student organization must also collaborate with at least one other student organization, while providing reflection for members after each activity.

Interprofessional Health Council

The Interprofessional Health Council represents multiple health professions programs and schools, with intent to engage in academic and non-academic activities.