When training to become a medical professional, it isn’t always about test-taking and memorizing body parts.
Pacific’s College of Health Professions not only focuses on providing its students with the skills necessary to deliver exemplary medical care to patients, but also instills an important sense of community service.
The health professions programs participate in community projects both locally and abroad that provide medical care to underserved populations and create a venue to educate students.
According to Physician Assistant program director and professor Randy Randolph the CHP’s commitment to the community started with the university. The university emphasizes community involvement, which provides valuable educational experiences for students while giving them a strong foundation that allows them to continue to serve others after graduation.
Students must work in their field for a certain number of hours and meet specific requirements unique to each program. These clinical rotations are completed locally, nationally and internationally. Options and flexibility differ between programs, but clinical experience coordinators try to place students in areas where need is great.
“It’s a core value of our curriculum,” said Pacific’s Occupational Therapy program director and professor John White. Ethical practice and serving the underserved is a “natural feeling for the faculty,” he said.
The CHP is committed to providing for “a population that wouldn’t otherwise receive medical care,” said Randolph.
White said the occupational faculty and students realize they are privileged and have had opportunities that many others have not and along with that knowledge comes a responsibility for them to give back. “We’re in a position to help people,” said White.
According to the School of Professional Psychology Clinical Director, Lisa Christensen, Pacific’s psychology clinic is a venue that provides both care to patients in need and the necessary training and education for students.
The clinic focuses on treating veterans, the local Spanish-speaking population and college students, but hopes to be able to expand its services to adequately serve the general public. All SPP students complete their first clinical rotation at Pacific’s Portland or Hillsboro clinics.
Most months, the clinics barely break even, but “the benefits outweigh the costs,” said Christensen. “We are grateful to the university for allowing us to serve populations that would otherwise probably have to be turned away.”
Occupational Therapy students create innovative service projects as a part of their curriculum. Students often work with an agency, group or community center located in Hillsboro or surrounding cities that serve people who may have a need for occupational therapy, but no access to it.
Students try to provide care for to those who are currently being held back by their circumstances. Even if the students help one person do what they want to do in life, then it’s worth all their efforts, said White.
Randolph said the Physician Assistant program’s participation in projects is not only a way to engage in the community but also to “get Pacific’s name out there. Pacific is a known entity in the community.”
The CHP’s focus on service has become a draw for potential students.
Most students who choose to enroll in Pacific’s Dental Health Sciences program do so because of its involvement with the community, according to the Dental Health Sciences Program Director Lisa Rowley.
Rowley said the two most impressive qualifications to employers are the ability to speak Spanish and the ability to work in any location, not just traditional private practices.
“The quality of graduates is exemplary,” said the DHS Clinical Experience Coordinator and professor Gail Aamodt. “Our students can work anywhere.”
According to Aamodt, when students are not working in Pacific’s dental clinic, they are working out in the community at a wide variety of locations, serving a population that cannot afford health care services.
“The focus of the program is public health. So, we want our students to have as many public health experiences as possible so they feel comfortable stepping into a public health position [after graduation],” said Aamodt.
Pacific students’ clinical education is much stronger because of the diverse locations they work in, said Aamodt.
“It prepares us very well,” said Melanie Jayne, a Pacific DHS student. “We have to learn to be very adaptable.”
Pacific’s dental clinic is open to all. Because the students are learning, services often take longer than usual. Clinic fees are at reduced rates and payment options are provided when necessary.
One of the DHS program’s goals is to expand care to all those in need. In addition, they focus on educating patients about proper oral health care and their treatment options.
This service in the community not only provides educational experience, but life experience as well, said Randolph.
Along with many other programs, the Physician Assistant program has received a lot of positive feedback from the community and plans to continue its current projects as well as create new ones and collaborate with other disciplines.