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Emory's clinical footprint

DPT alumni span the nation, and the globe

By Martha Nolan McKenzie

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You can go to nearly any state in the nation – and to many foreign countries – and run into an Emory educated physical therapist. The program attracts 70 percent to 80 percent of its applicants from outside Georgia. When they graduate, about half elect to remain in the Atlanta area. The other half, however, scatter far and wide. Emory alumni practice in every state but two. And Emory’s influence extends beyond the U.S. borders, with alumni practicing from Hong Kong to Belize, and from Australia to Rwanda.

"Clearly, in keeping with Emory’s vision, the DPT program is a destination for our applicants from all over the U.S. and abroad, and our graduates and faculty are working collaboratively for a positive transformation in the U.S. and throughout the world," says Zoher Kapasi, PT, PhD, MBA, associate professor and director of the DPT program.

Hong Kong, China

Melissa Valentine, 97MPT, 01MPH, moved to Hong Kong with her husband and two young children in 2011. Prior to the move, she had been operating a private clinic in Redmond, Washington, that married her passions of physical therapy and yoga. Valentine, a certified professional yoga therapist, planned to continue the practice in Hong Kong, but she ran into a roadblock when trying to get her PT license. "I was in their office every month for 18 months trying to get registered as a physical therapist," she says. "The four-page application became six inches tall. I finally gave up."

She still practiced yoga therapy, just without the PT designation. Her clients were half Cantonese and half expatriates like herself. "The Chinese patients would come in and do absolutely anything you told them to do. They’d just sign on and never want to leave," says Valentine. "The U.S. patients would come in with 15-pages of information on their problem from the Internet and want to do everything in one session and then leave."

Although they enjoyed their time in Hong Kong, Valentine and her family are in the process of moving back to the states. "We thought if we stayed much longer it would become too hard to leave," she says.

They plan to settle in North Carolina, and Valentine hopes to open a combined yoga/ physical therapy practice.

Kigali, Rwanda

Ben Braxley 06DPT has moved to Kigali – the capital of Rwanda – with his wife and young daughter. He is working with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) on a continuing education course for Rwandan physical therapists. "HVO is focused on capacity building across multiple specialties and disciplines," says Braxley. "My course will be on neurological diagnoses, and I will be in charge of the spinal cord injury portion and assisting with the brain injury and stroke portions. Besides teaching, I will do site visits throughout the country to provide clinical mentoring."

Braxley’s course runs through December. When it is completed, he plans to either assist in the next course, depending on the content, or find other volunteer opportunities. Either way, he’ll be staying in Rwanda at least until next fall since his wife, an emergency room physician who completed her residency at Emory, took a one-year appointment through Columbia University to teach emergency medicine residents.

And when the year is up? "I’ll have great stories to tell my daughter about her adventures during her first year and a half of life," says Braxley. "And I hope to find a clinical or academic home that allows me to take my early leadership experience and global perspective and do something unique and progressive within the local and regional community."

Southern Belize

Until recently, Lori (Northcraft) Baxter 10DPT/MPH served as the rehabilitation director for a faith-based non-profit in Southern Belize that provides medical care, disease prevention and health education free of charge to a vastly underserved community (See "Two is better than one"). She traveled to Belize last August with her husband, who studied international development. "We are on this adventure together," says Baxter. "He helped with the non-medical administration of Hillside International, the same organization I worked for."

Baxter ran a community-based rehab program, treating patients, supervising students and organizing community outreach events. She worked in a clinic as well as visited patients in their homes and traveled to remote villages to host three-week classes at a local church or community center.

When she finished her one-year term as rehabilitation director, Baxter and her husband embarked on a four-month backpack trip in Africa. She’s not sure what she’ll do next. "I’ve applied for PT opportunities overseas, or we may come back stateside," she says. "I worked at Hillside as a long-term volunteer and received a living stipend. My goal is to get the necessary skills so I can get a similar salaried position as a rehab director of an international nonprofit."

St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

For each of the past three years, Assistant Professor Tami Phillips, DPT, MBA, NCS, has led a group of Emory DPT faculty, alumni and students on a service learning trip to Jamaica (see "Serving in Jamaica"). This past summer, she went back to the same rural Jamaican community with her family in tow.

Phillips, her husband and her two children, ages 13 and 9, spent two weeks serving the community Phillips has grown to love. Phillips’ husband, a middle school science teacher, worked with local children on their reading. Her children volunteered in the classroom wherever needed. Phillips herself treated patients and visited a local nursing home.

"I saw several patients we had treated in March, and it was nice to see their progress," she says. "It’s interesting and rewarding to practice in a different health care system. In Jamaica, if someone needs to be treated for an hour and a half, they are treated for an hour and a half. They mostly pay a flat fee, so you can spend whatever time is needed without worrying about insurance regulations."

Phillips enjoyed watching her children become integrated into the community she has served for several years. "It’s so good for them to learn a lifestyle that is different from ours in the states," she says.

Phillips plans to return with her family every other summer.

Related Resources

Emory Physical Therapy Alumni Association

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