Gannon University Partners with CHOSEN to Help Address Global Health Care Equipment Needs
Gannon University students partners with CHOSEN Inc. to deliver on the need for medical equipment across the globe.
Gannon University is leveraging its partnership with CHOSEN International Medical Assistance Inc. to bring interprofessional educational experiences to occupational and physical therapy students while delivering on the need for health care equipment and enhancing the lives of those in Erie and across the globe.
CHOSEN is an Erie-based organization with offices, distribution center and warehouse on West 26th St. where it refurbishes and distributes top-quality medical equipment to local homes as well as clinics and hospitals across the world to improve quality of life.
Under the leadership of Gannon’s Constance Lewis, PT, DPT, assistant teaching professor of physical therapy, students are participating in making medical equipment and educational resources widely available to those in need while completing program coursework requirements.
“Students learn that we have a social responsibility to the larger public to respond to societal needs in the realm of health and wellness,” Lewis said of these experiences. “Students are reminded that we have a duty to positively influence the health of society and that placing the needs of others, including the devotion of time, is an important aspect of what we believe as physical therapists.”
Gannon’s physical therapy doctoral students have collaborated with CHOSEN in addition to other local organizations for several years to complete program requirements.
In their first year in the physical therapy doctoral program, students visit CHOSEN’s warehouse on Friday afternoons to clean, sort, organize and refurbish donated durable medical equipment for re-donation back into the greater Erie area to serve the uninsured and underinsured population. They also package crutches, canes and walkers to be donated overseas to a partnership that CHOSEN has in Africa. A total of 49 students participated in these efforts in Fall 2020, completing four to six hours each to fulfill requirements.
After relocating from Pittsburgh in 2020 to focus on these efforts, Lewis has collaborated with CHOSEN Director Rick King and his staff to identify and establish further opportunities for student participation and learning.
As a result, second-year DPT students who were unable to complete service-learning hours at other locations due to COVID-19 have since joined in efforts with CHOSEN, as well. These students participate by creating pamphlets to be handed out with each piece of equipment to educate the public on how to properly operate the equipment. Further projects include a collaboration with occupational therapy students on creating brochures around equipment that aid in daily life activities. Both departments will also help create video depictions of proper fitting and use of certain devices.
Currently, 11 second-year DPT students are working toward a total of 60 hours of volunteer time through this effort.
Two of the second-year DPT students have also joined efforts to assist with bridging the inventory of donated medical equipment at CHOSEN to the needs of Gannon’s Knight Ability Pro Bono Clinic. As part of this, students work with patients at the clinic to obtain any equipment or educational resources from CHOSEN to support patients’ individual needs.
Lewis said this experience is teaching students the importance of participating in community outreach, which is a core value designated by the American Physical Therapy Association.
“One of the principles in our code of ethics is that ‘physical therapists shall participate in efforts to meet the health needs of people locally, nationally or globally.’ We are instilling in these students that support of local organizations and pro bono work to assist in meeting the health needs of local community members is an important part of our profession,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that the onset of COVID-19 had brought challenges to completing these service-learning experiences with community partners.
“Some facilities are not allowing community volunteers, and other programs have shut down temporarily or permanently. Thus, the students needed to work elsewhere,” Lewis said. As a result, she was able to leverage Gannon’s partnership with CHOSEN, which remained open to student volunteer opportunities.
Since then, her efforts have also garnered support from Karen Probst, OTD, assistant professor of occupational therapy, who recruited students to participate in CHOSEN initiatives while providing clinical educational experiences that otherwise might not have been possible due to COVID-19.
Jill Caster, PT, DPT, assistant teaching professor of physical therapy, also joined the team and meets monthly with the group to address current student and community needs and progression toward future initiatives.
For many students, these efforts have proven to be impactful.
“Actually categorizing, fixing and examining assistive devices provided me a perspective that course content and clinical experience could not. I believe CHOSEN should be implemented into incoming classes for not only community hours, but to allow students to be exposed to organizations that are so often utilized in clinic and community settings,” said student Bojay Buriak.
“As a future PT, I would like all my patients to be able to have access to the equipment that they need and this experience made me realize that it is possible to help all people all over the world,” student Alix Schoenfeld added.
Looking ahead, Lewis and her colleagues are focusing on developing the partnership to potentially expand the Knight Ability Pro Bono Clinic in an off-site location, create a collaborative overseas service trip for occupational and physical therapy students, and encourage faculty research around preventative care, advancing population health and wellness in Erie.
“Our physical therapy faculty, led by Dr. Lewis, were creative and demonstrated adaptability and resiliency to ensure Gannon DPT students could engage in meaningful service-learning in-person throughout the academic year,” said Sarah Ewing, Ph.D., dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences. “Gannon University and CHOSEN are collaborating and defining new ways of supporting one another to achieve a shared mission – transform the lives of others through education and service.”
CHOSEN International Medical Assistance Inc. is a nonprofit Christian ministry with offices, distribution center and warehouse on West 26th Street in Erie, Pa. Although its hub has a zip code of 16506, for the past 52 years, CHOSEN has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals worldwide. What started as the donation of one sterilizer to a hospital in South Korea in 1969, CHOSEN has grown to fulfill the needs of Christian hospitals in economically deprived situations or underdeveloped countries by providing refurbished or medical equipment to more than 111 different countries (signifying nearly 60% of the globe's UN recognized population).
Under the leadership of CHOSEN’s current director, Richard King, CHOSEN has developed relationships with the hospitals who receive the equipment to offer short-term medical and non-medical mission trip opportunities across international borders. Numerous local physicians, therapy specialists and students have taken part in this mission.
Additionally, CHOSEN coordinates acts of service in the tri-state area through ramp builds, shoe drives and the distribution (by and for donation) of durable home health care items such as wheelchairs and walkers. CHOSEN recognizes the inherent dignity and craftmanship of every individual, created in God's image, and seeks to restore and support their mobility and worth.