In November, the Department of Physical Therapy hosted a Parkinson’s Wellness Clinic, organized by Preeti Deshpande Oza, PT, PhD, NCS, assistant professor of physical therapy. Community members were invited to come receive an assessment and then be taught exercises to help improve their mobility and balance. At the clinic, doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students assessed the strength, posture and balance of the participants.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, which puts patients at an increasingly greater risk for falls. In addition to the risk of breaking bones, a fall can trigger a cascade of complications, including a more sedentary lifestyle, which is particularly problematic for this patient population. “Patients with Parkinson’s have a condition that will worsen if they do not remain active,” said DPT student Lesa Colon ’18. “Therefore, as future physical therapists, we have the unique opportunity to not only stress the importance of exercise and stretching to these patients and their families, but we can also show them fun, engaging ways to do so.”

For DPT student Vanessa Medina ’18 this was her first experience working with a patient with Parkinson’s disease. She explained that while one can learn about Parkinson’s through textbooks and lectures, interacting with patients “gives you a better understanding and a chance to see what they go through every day.” Colon agreed, “As a DPT student I cannot stress how important it is to get the opportunity to work with this patient population. As physical therapists, we will work with a variety of patients and these clinics help us gain firsthand knowledge and experience.”

Dr. Oza collaborated with Deepti Vyas, PharmD, BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice, to involve doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students in the clinic.


“It is very different seeing the symptoms manifest in real people and hearing the patients talk about their experiences, as compared to reading about it,” said PharmD student Emily Folk ’19. “This experience really did solidify what I already knew about Parkinson’s and deepened my understanding of ways that people cope with their Parkinson’s. After this clinic, I feel so much more ready to identify possible issues in a Parkinson patient’s therapy and to educate them about their symptoms.” She added, “Thanks to the physical therapy students I worked with, I now understand the non-pharmacological ways that patients might use to support their everyday movement.”

Fellow PharmD student Shivani Patel ’19 shared, “This experience allowed me to practice educating patients and practice providing valuable information about medication safety.” She added, “Working with physical therapy students and learning about their role in treating this disease was a helpful experience.”

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The students shared how they were intentional about gaining the trust of the participants. “I’m a big believer in interpersonal relationships,” said DPT student Cody Suder ’18. “Getting on a personal level, in my opinion, is key to getting the trust of the patient.” Suder and Medina emphasized the importance of taking the time to ask the participants about their hobbies. “The people that came into the clinic were excited just to have us students hear them; hear their stories, their interests,” Medina said.

For Suder the Parkinson’s Wellness Clinic exemplifies the Pacific experience. Reflecting on the DPT program he said, “It’s fast, it’s hard, but I can’t image being anywhere else.” He has also been impressed by the support of the Stockton community, including those that participated in the clinic. “[There are] so many volunteers coming to help us in our academic goals. These clinics are the highlight of our time here.”

By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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