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Blinn Physical Therapist Assistant Program students offer medical care abroad

Haley Hereld, Maribel Lara, Britney Lee, and Jill Moreland spent winter break on a medical mission trip in Mexico

February 7, 2017

Four students enrolled in Blinn College’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program used their developing talents to help others over the winter break.

Blinn Physical Therapist Assistant Program students offer medical care abroadFirst-year PTA students Haley Hereld (Edna), Maribel Lara (Giddings), and Jill Moreland (Bryan), and second-year student Britney Lee (Pflugerville), as well as Program Director Christy Gantt, teamed up with International Service Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, for a medical mission trip to Mexico.

Each day, the small group travelled with a guide to established temporary clinics and patients’ homes in several villages in and around Puerto Penasco to provide much-needed healthcare to the local people, free of charge.

“I always have wanted to participate in a mission trip to help people and to learn how medical practices are different in other countries,” Lara said. “This trip was definitely an eye-opener.”

The students learned methods to assess and evaluate patients without advanced equipment to determine the site and extent of an injury. The group found that many of the health issues they encountered – which ranged from broken arms and physical symptoms of diabetes to severe paralysis from a car accident – stemmed from a lack of common medical knowledge.

“I love being able to learn about other cultures, but this trip gave me a totally different perspective,” Moreland said. “It’s not just their culture that is different but also how they deal with medical issues. They don’t have the medicine, equipment, knowledge, or even the insurance to go to a doctor to get treated.”

This is the second consecutive year Gantt has organized an international medical mission trip with PTA student volunteers. Lee, who was one of two students selected by Gantt to travel to Guatemala during Spring Break last year, said the trip to Mexico gave her another opportunity to see how other countries operate with limited access to proper medical care.

“We take so much for granted,” she said. “It was a great experience connecting with and caring for these patients. I learned so much working through challenges I wouldn’t typically be faced with in the United States.”

The students not only gained invaluable hands-on experience working alongside physical therapists and doctors in unique environments, but also realized how small gestures of kindness, such as a simple conversation, could brighten the day of their patients.

“It was nice to be able to help somebody who truly felt the gratitude,” Hereld said. “They were so appreciative of our services and just happy to have us there to help.”

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, Blinn’s PTA Program is a two-year program that instructs students in various treatment procedures, including rehabilitation techniques, therapeutic exercises and patient training and education. After completing approximately 63 semester hours, students earn an Associate of Applied Science degree, and most students find employment and begin working as soon as they graduate.