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New Emory DPT/ Johns Hopkins Internship Creates Invaluable Experience for Students

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(from L to R) Heather Baeta 19DPT and Emily Bushman 19DPT were the first Emory DPT students to be selected for the internship at Johns Hopkins.

When she started her graduate school journey at the Emory Division of Physical Therapy more than three years ago, Heather Baeta could have never imagined that, as part of her Emory course work, she would be participating in executive meetings at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

But thanks to a new internship program that began last summer between Emory DPT and the academic medical center, Baeta and fellow Emory DPT student, Emily Bushman, became the first students to complete the new internship.

While being the partnership’s first-ever interns created unique challenges that go with blazing a new trail, Baeta called it “valuable experience” that enhanced her leadership capabilities as a clinician and helped her in keys areas such as patient rounding, enhancing physician involvement and time management.

According to Emory DPT Interim Director Marie Johanson, PT, PhD, the partnership, which sent another Emory DPT student to Baltimore this summer, combines the clinical strengths of Johns Hopkins with the research expertise of Emory DPT to create an alliance that benefits everyone — especially the students.

“Our students, with some faculty involvement, are doing in-depth work for Johns Hopkins in terms of improving patient care and investigating treatments and services,” Johanson says.“In return, our students get access to excellent clinical training opportunities at a prestigious institution.”

Both students started their internships by performing clinical rotations — Baeta in acute care and Bushman in the outpatient setting. Once the rotations were completed, they were assigned to separate administrative and research tasks. Baeta conducted a research project designed to enhance the mobility of patients in the acute care unit while Bushman examined the correlation between patient-reported outcomes and the long-term mobility of patients with lower back pain in six outpatient clinics within the Johns Hopkins system. Both presented their poster findings at Emory DPT’s Poster Day in the spring.

Emory DPT Assistant Professor Shilpa Krishnan, PT, PhD, who supervised the research component of the project, said that both new graduates, with their recent experience of navigating a research project from start to finish, including the establishment of Institutional

Review Boards (IRBs), are already way more advanced in their research foundation than most physical therapists.

“There are very few clinicians who actually understand the ins and outs of an IRB and as physical therapists, it’s going to be important for us to be involved in certain quality improvement projects,” Krishnan says. “These students have these additional skills, and now being doctors of physical therapy, they are going to be the go-to people in many settings. They can now be involved in a lot of quality improvement projects because they can successfully complete an IRB. All of this was very challenging, but also very beneficial.”

Beth Davis, PT, DPT, MBA, who is associate professor in the Emory DPT program and in charge of the project’s administrative component, says that Baeta and Bushman, as the first-ever interns in the partnership, blazed a trail for future participants and had an opportunity that will pay huge dividends as they start their careers.

“These students worked in an amazing hospital and institution and got valuable lessons in leadership, communication, management and administration,” Davis says.“They were exposed to so much of the back office of health care which will prove to be invaluable to them.”

The internship has already paid off in a big way for Baeta, who, after graduating with her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Emory in May, landed a coveted 13-month orthopedic residency at Johns Hopkins which began in August. As part of the residency, she is helping teach courses at George Washington University twice a week and working in a clinic three times a week.

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