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Wheeling Jesuit University physical therapy students travel to Mexico

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Seventeen Wheeling Jesuit University students are reflecting on the 14th annual physical therapy service-learning course held in the Yucatan, Mexico.

The trip gives students the chance to help those in that country who do not have ready access to rehabilitation services and health care while gaining better clinical and interpersonal skills. According to Dr. Mark Drnach, WJU associate professor of physical therapy, students from the program traveled to two Mexican cities, Izamal and Merida, located due west of Cancun in the Yucatan Peninsula, Feb. 11-19.

"Every year we go, we work with our established community partners in the area," Drnach said. "Currently we have 14. Those communities are like a second home for our faculty and students. They are comfortable and familiar.

"That is a good feeling, which has developed over the years working along side the wonderful people in the Yucatan."

Students worked with community partners in the two cities providing free clinical work while under the supervision of a U.S. licensed health care practitioner. They also had a day of manual labor where they helped paint, clean and fix medical equipment and facilities. The students worked with groups like the Sisters of Charity who run the shelters called the Queen of Peace and the City of Saint Vincent. They also work at the Patronato Peninsular Pro Ninos con Deficiencia Mental, a school for children with disabilities.

in addition to working in the clinics with patients, students also had the chance to participate in a culture tour and see Mexico's natural beauty and the historic Chichen Itza, A UNESCO World Heritage site.

"The service-learning experience to the Yucatan was wonderful," said WJU physical therapy student Stacey Warren. "I was able to use the knowledge that I have gained so far from the physical therapy program to help others who do not typically have access to physical therapy services.

"Having the opportunity to help others and bring joy to another person's life was the most rewarding aspect of the trip."

Drnach said one of the key reflections the students had was an expression of gratitude for the things and circumstances they have at home, considering the needs and conditions of the communities in which they served.

The physical therapy program has since moved from WJU's main campus on Washington Avenue to downtown Wheeling in the fall of 2013 to accommodate its growth. Drnach said that the PT department looks to do more trips in the future and are exploring a third city, Valladoid, to visit next year.