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Quad Med Physical Therapist Teaches in West Africa

Through the teaching outreach of Medical Education International (MEI) there are opportunities for MDs, and other providers including PTs, OTs, Speech Pathologists and Special Education teachers to serve around the globe.  The clinical importance of PTs & OTs on these teams has long been recognized, but recent requests for medical teaching in developing countries by allied health professionals has increased greatly.  There are many openings for all professionals to come alongside colleagues to teach, encourage and mentor. 

Through MEI, a Quad Med Physical Therapist had the privilege to teach at Mbingo Baptist Hospital near Bamenda, Cameroon.  Rick Schurman, PT, Cert MDT, joined Patsy Lawton, PT and retired Nephrologists, Bill Lawton, MD and Skip Fine, MD, on this journey. The team worked with doctors at the hospital in the use of Peritoneal Dialysis for acute kidney injury and taught the internal medicine residents during patient ward rounds and through lecture.

Mbingo is a teaching hospital that includes the well-respected Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons and the Christian Internal Medicine Specialization programs training African doctors to serve their people.  It is a 300-bed hospital with 600 employees and is one of seven hospitals and clinics in Cameroon run by the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC).   Mbingo first opened its doors in the early 1950’s as hospital for Hanson’s Disease (Leprosy). Some of those original patients currently work in the hospital.

While at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, Rick and Patsy spent time in the classroom and seeing patients on the wards.  A highlight was having a 7-year-old boy named Promise with cerebral palsy return for reassessment.  A year prior, Promise has been evaluated, given a home exercise program and provided a pediatric wheelchair.  It was such a joy to see Promise’s significant progress and to understand how his life blossomed with the freedom and mobility that his new wheelchair provided.  Promise can now wheel himself outside independently and with a wheelchair tray, he has been able to feed himself. This shows the benefit of consistent support of patients and therapists by American trained medical professionals.

Rick presently works in Schofield, WI at a Quad Med clinic serving the employees of Greenheck Fan Corporation. He has had a career primarily in the orthopedic outpatient setting, including owning a private practice for 25 years.  He was credentialed in the McKenzie Method in 1999.  He is the veteran of 15 short term mission trips to the Dominican Republic and presently serves on the advisory council of Global Health Outreach, a short term medical mission trip organization. Global Health Outreach offers clinical opportunities (50 trips a year) for direct patient care and welcomes all medical disciplines as part of a multi-disciplinary team. 

  While at Mbingo, Rick presented an overview on the mechanical approach to back and neck pain to Physical Therapy staff representing Mbingo and seven other CBC hospitals. Most of these hospital-trained therapists started their careers about 15 years ago working under the teaching of two American PTs. One was a career missionary who was at the hospital for 25 years and the other was a recent DPT graduate. The PT’s had traveled seven hours or less to come for the week-long training.  The director of the Mbingo Hospital PT department was educated in a PT program in Nigeria.  Since there are no PT programs in all of Cameroon, the CBC therapists have benefitted from therapists who have come to teach from their experience and expertise.

MEI is primarily a teaching ministry and provides a great opportunity for American trained therapists and other medical professionals to share their knowledge and experience with many who treat patients in developing countries throughout the world. MEI sends out about 40 trips per year all over the world and there are more than 150 medical professionals involved on these trips.  Rick found that in spite of the lack of formal education, the students were very attentive, asked excellent questions in the learning process and benefitted by the new skills they learned.  It was great to realize that the knowledge and skills shared can continue to impact patients and therapy staffs throughout Cameroon for years to come.

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