Springfield College Professor of Physical Therapy Earns Fulbright Scholarship to Serve in RwandaJune 23, 2010
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., June 23, 2010 – There’s an acute shortage of physical therapists in Africa, particularly those trained in treating people with orthopedic conditions. That is a problem that Springfield College Professor of Physical Therapy Julia Chevan will work to help solve through a Fulbright Scholar grant during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Chevan will teach in the physiotherapy program at the Kigali Health Institute (KHI) in Rwanda, Africa. She will also consult with the faculty and work on curriculum development for the new physiotherapy baccalaureate program at KHI.
Chevan learned of her selection for the Fulbright award in a letter from Anita B. McBride, chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, who wrote, “Your selection for a Fulbright award is, in itself, an achievement for which you can be justly proud…Fulbrighters enrich the educational, political, economic, social and cultural lives of countries around the world.
“As a representative of your country in Rwanda, you will help fulfill the principal purpose of the Fulbright Program, which is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of more than 150 countries that currently participate in the Fulbright Program.”
During her six months at KHI, Chevan will teach students and faculty members about orthopedic physical therapy examination, research principles and evidence-based practice. Most physical therapy training in Africa is through diploma programs, and KHI has recently transitioned to a baccalaureate degree program. KHI is also teaching an upgrade program for its diploma graduates.
Chevan is enthusiastic that her work will provide a higher level of training in orthopedic physical therapy for the students and faculty at KHI, and will also have long-term effects. As the faculty trains more students through the new curriculum that she will help develop, the potential to treat more persons with pain and disability increases.
“It was the potential for an exponential impact that drew me to academic physical therapy,” Chevan said. “The opportunity to have this impact while enriching myself with a new cultural opportunity pulls me to international physical therapy work.”
Chevan has been a physical therapist for 30 years and a physical therapy academician for 18 years. “Over the span of my professional life, orthopedic conditions and, more specifically, back pain has remained a focus for me -- understanding, teaching, and conducting research on this one condition.
“I now have a clearer vision of how to care for patients with back pain, and also how to teach about this care to students entering the profession and to clinicians already practicing,” she said. “To bring this knowledge to my peers in the budding profession of physical therapy in Rwanda will add to my knowledge of care as I work with professionals in a vastly different healthcare system and with patients with different life stories from those typically seen in the U.S.”
This will be Chevan’s third international experience in mentoring and teaching. She performed rehabilitation services in Armenia following the Spitak earthquake, and was part of a training team in Liberia. “It has been professionally and personally fulfilling to experience both the difficulties and rewards of working in the global health arena,” she said.
At Springfield College, Chevan teaches in and chairs the combined bachelor of science and doctoral degree program in physical therapy (DPT). The program includes three years of science and general education coursework, and three and a half years of the professional curriculum. In the final two years, students gain clinical experience through three 10-week full-time placements in such settings as hospitals, private practices, and workplaces. DPT students experience traditional undergraduate life in the first four years, participating fully in athletics, activities and campus life.