By Kate Hunger
Two UT Health San Antonio physical therapy professors and two alumnae of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program have published an article in a national journal on the attitudes of students toward the homeless.
The article, “Attitudes of Physical Therapy Students Toward the
Population Currently Experiencing Homelessness,” appeared in the fall issue of the Journal of Allied Health.
Associate Professor Mike Geelhoed, DPT, director of clinical education, Assistant Professor Sandeep Subramanian, BPTh, Ph.D., and Class of 2018 graduates Suzanne Callaway, DPT, and Jessica Cruz, DPT, studied the effect of a single volunteer experience on students participating in the Department of Physical Therapy’s pro bono, student-run clinic at Haven for Hope, the city of San Antonio’s center for shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness.
The study administered the Health Professionals’ Attitude Toward the Homeless Inventory (HPATHI), a validated inventory, to 40 students. Of that group, an experimental group of 19 students volunteered at the clinic. The study found a slight improvement in student attitudes after one volunteer session, Geelhoed said.
Chronic pain is one of the most common medical issues in the homeless population, which encounters barriers to accessing health care, Geelhoed said.
He estimates more than 100 students have volunteered since the monthly clinic began operating in 2015. During clinic, a pair of students spends 45 minutes with each person receiving physical therapy services. The students treat patients under the supervision of licensed physical therapy faculty and alumni from UT Health San Antonio. The clinic sees between five and 15 people per month.
“The interpersonal interaction for these people – it’s powerful,” Geelhoed said.
The Department of Physical Therapy also runs a free student-run clinic at Alpha Home, a nonprofit long-term substance abuse recovery center.
Geelhoed noted that the clinics bring services to the populations they serve, which removes transportation as another barrier to treatment.
“Being able to take (the clinic) to them made it that much more impactful,” he said.