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Leahy Center Reflection by Professor Renee Hakim

November 20, 2017
By: Renée M. Hakim, PT, Ph.D., NCS

I first became involved with the Leahy Center in 2003 after the dedication ceremony described innovative opportunities for faculty, students and the community to work together to meet the health and wellness needs of underserved individuals. I recognized this as an opportunity to involve my students in a meaningful, community-outreach research project that combined teaching, service and scholarship. Subsequently, I devised a study that would allow my entire class (40 physical therapy students) to participate in a constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) program for persons with stoke. This was an ambitious project. I wrote a grant application and received funding from the Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Endowment in the amount of $10,000. This funding allowed me to conduct a Faculty-Student Research Program (FSRP) that focused on training functional movements of the arm/hand in persons with stroke. I worked with community partners to recruit participants who had completed usual care, but still had residual functional loss. In the fall of 2004, we completed the program in the multipurpose room located in the basement of McGurrin Hall. Several small groups of students completed testing and training activities with participants seated at large round tables, as others were able to observe all of the activities from behind a large two-way mirror that was located in the adjacent conference room. Because there was not much organizational structure for health care programs at that time, I faced many challenges with scheduling, transportation and parking. However, in spite of these logistical issues, the Leahy Center clinic was a large, inviting space that enabled us to run a meaningful community-outreach program.

Eventually, the Leahy Center implemented a more structured health and wellness program. Although I was not involved initially, a Physical Therapy (PT) clinic was founded by PT faculty to address a gap in health care access. The hours of operation were very limited and the services were provided by one PT faculty volunteer for a few hours weekly. This practice model continued for several years.

As our students continued to express interest in having more patient care experiences, I returned to my Leahy Center roots two years ago as the faculty director of our newly reorganized student-run, pro bono PT Clinic. Consequently, I have become a part of the now thriving LCHFC under the direction of Andrea Mantione. On this 10th anniversary of the LCHFC, I can truly appreciate how far this clinic has come. The Leahy Family’s vision has enabled PCPS to have continued growth in programs and outreach in our community. There are local professionals, faculty, volunteers and students working hand-in-hand to provide much-needed services to local residents, while simultaneously providing the opportunity for community-based learning (CBL) to our students. As I watch our PT students working as “men and women for others” each week, I am looking forward to many more years of continued growth and meaningful service in the LCHFC.

This article appeared in the fall issue of Challenges, which is in the mail but you can see a sneak peek here.

Hakim is a professor in the Physical Therapy Department.
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