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TWU occupational therapy faculty and students provide services in Guatemala

2/29/08


Dr. O Jayne Bowman and Amy DeYoung, occupational therapist for the School of New Life, adjust a standing board in the home of a visually impaired child in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala.


HOUSTON – Texas Woman’s University occupational therapy graduate students Sheryn Fox and Stephanie Bieniarz, along with TWU faculty Dr. O Jayne Bowman, recently traveled to Guatemala to provide occupational therapy services to children in need.

The group evaluated and treated students who attend the School of New Life in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala — a private, non-profit school for children with disabilities. According to Dr. Bowman, the children had a variety of issues requiring treatment, including visual and motor development deficits, failure-to-thrive problems and general developmental delays.

“The experiences of the occupational therapy students in Guatemala allowed students to use techniques they had learned in the classroom and to learn new clinical evaluation and treatment techniques,” said Dr. Bowman, Ph.D., LOT, associate professor of occupational therapy at the TWU Institute of Health Sciences-Houston Center, who led the students on the trip in August. “Most importantly, their experiences made them more sensitive to the therapeutic needs of individuals in developing countries and broadened their perspective of occupational therapy.”

Fox said the trip gave her experience in evaluation and treatment that she would not have had otherwise.

“The people of Santa Maria de Jesus have a difficult life, but the difficulty for the disabled children is impossible to describe,” Fox said. “Wheelchairs are a luxury — most often well worn and afforded only to a lucky few — there are no sidewalks and the streets are cobblestone, making maneuvering around in a wheelchair virtually impossible.”

“The trip offered me the opportunity to see occupational therapy as it was in the beginning and is still today,” she continued. “For example, Dr. Bowman, Stephanie, the school’s occupational therapist and I turned a water barrel into a piece of sensory integration equipment for the clinic. We helped modify a standing table to help a child with severe cerebral palsy stand in preparation for learning to walk. These experiences are invaluable and will help me be a better occupational therapist.”

Bieniarz said, “This trip was a realization of a dream to help developing countries as an occupational therapist and to open doors for the possibility of future trips for students. If a student has the opportunity to view the world and their profession in the light of such need, I believe they will have a greater knowledge of service and humility only found in experience.”

Dr. Bowman said that she, Fox and Bieniarz planned the trip after hearing the School of New Life’s founder Judy Kershner, a former nurse for the Shriner’s Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, speak about the school and its needs.

“After hearing Judy speak and learning that the school had an occupational therapist, which is rare for the area, I knew that my students and I should go to Guatemala and help,” Dr. Bowman said.

During the trip, Dr. Bowman presented a workshop on improving behavior management to the teachers and staff at the school. Dr. Bowman, Fox and Bieniarz also made home visits and helped infants and pre-school students in the village.

“With more hospitals in the medical center and Texas treating an international clientele, it is critical that occupational therapists are sensitive to cultural differences and open to alternative treatment methods in order to provide the best care possible,” Dr. Bowman said. “Experiences like this trip are vital to students so that they are better prepared to practice in today’s complex global world.”

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Media Contact:

Amanda Simpson
Director of News and Information
Tel: (940) 898-3456
e-mail: asimpson1@twu.edu
 

Page last updated January 22, 2009

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