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UTC spreads good will in Haiti

June E. Hanks, Ph.D., P.T, UC Foundation Associate Professor, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (D.P.T.) is leading a team on the southern coast of the southern peninsula of Haiti, where the all-volunteer group is training professionals and families to care for patients and loved ones. Two D.P.T. graduates, Sherry Cook and Alison Osborne Bales, are part of the team. Cook is employed by Siskin Rehabilitation Hospital, where administrators and colleagues have encouraged her participation in the trip to Haiti.

Edith, a student at St. Vincent School for
Handicapped students. Through the
Advantage Program, Edith is sponsored to
attend school. In a visit to the U.S., Edith
received prosthetics for both legs, which
had been amputated below the knee, and
for plastic surgery to create her nose.

“We are doing some interesting things, such as conducting a training seminar for nurses on how to manage a patient after a stroke,” Hanks said. “We are also conducting day seminars for patients who have suffered a recent stroke, and we are educating the families on how they need to continue to work with patients upon discharge from the hospital.”

This activity is taking place in the Advantage Program, the rehabilitation program of Lumiere Hospital and Clinic in Les Cayes.

Hanks says the team is evaluating potential candidates for the next cohort of students for the Bernice Johnson Center, a vocational training program for women with disabilities. Named in honor of Bernice Johnson, one of the first nurses at Cayes Clinic and the founder of the rehabilitation program, this program was established so that the physically disabled women being treated at the rehabilitation clinic would not suffer the usual fate for the physically disabled in Haiti, which is to become a beggar. Instead, the women are offered vocational training, so that they will learn to earn a living. The team is also checking on longtime patients of Hanks’ at the Cayes Clinic.

Travel to the country became easier this trip, as the team flew from the U.S. to Port-au-Prince, and then took a 30-minute flight to Les Cayes.

“This is a huge improvement over the previous four-six hour jeep drive over rough roads,” Hanks said.

Unrest in Haiti has hampered U.S. travel in recent years, but there is reason to hope the situation is changing. Nearly two weeks ago, Rene Preval, was sworn in as the country’s new president, bringing much needed stability to the government.

Hanks said if Haiti remains calm, the chances are good for resuming trips with physical therapy student interns. She recalls these student trips as wonderful experiences.

“The benefit to the students and reciprocal benefit to the people of Haiti is tremendous,” Hanks said.

Hanks said volunteers for future trips and support for rehabilitation work through the Advantage Program is always welcome.

May 26, 2006

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