Pacific students are venturing outside the classroom to learn what their textbooks could never teach them.
Community service learning is a core part of the College of Health Professions’ curriculum. Students enrolled in the health professions programs provide health care to citizens of the Portland-Metro area as a part of their senior projects, to fulfill their clinical rotation requirements and to serve as volunteers.
People in need of health care recognize Pacific University as a source, perhaps their only source. “Pacific is a known entity in the community,” said the Physician Assistant program director Randy Randolph.
Senior health professions students design a plan to administer health care services to a specific population as part of their final capstone projects. The students find a group of people who currently lack access to health care and could benefit from their medical services, develop strategies to most effectively treat the patients, and create guidelines for future health care providers to continue to provide medical care.
“DHS students develop, implement and leave behind a public health project that will have a lasting effect on the community,” said the Dental Health Science program’s clinical experience coordinator and professor Gail Aamodt.
According to Aamodt, the DHS program reaches out to the community to provide services in areas of need of dental health care.
DHS students participate in Project Homeless Connect with the Physician Assistant program every January. This annual event provides a full array of health services to Hillsboro’s homeless population.
DHS students also work in nursing and assisted living residential homes providing oral health care to the residents and providing education to the facility’s employees on how to properly care for their elderly patients. They also provide clinical services at the Boys and Girls Club in Salem, Virginia Garcia dental clinics, the Russell Street Clinic in Portland, and the Federal Prison in Sheridan.
In the prison, there is often one dental hygienist for hundreds of people. The students usually treat four to six inmates during their visits to the prisons and provide care they may not otherwise receive.
“It’s a good feeling because I know I’m being a benefit to that community,” said Melanie Jayne, a senior dental health student.
In addition, DHS students work in local schools providing oral health screenings and participate in Give Kids a Smile, a volunteer program dedicated to providing dental care to children, every February.
“You can never get everyone,” said Samantha Colton, a senior dental health student. “There are always people on the waiting list and waiting in line.”
“You always want to do more,” said Christy Barclay.
Not only does Pacific provide care at many off-site locations, but the university is also able to serve patients at the Health Professions Campus in Hillsboro.
The DHS clinic, located in Creighton Hall, charges reduced fees for dental services as compared to a regular private practice in the Portland-metro area. Pacific students receive an additional discount.
“[The patients] often have a fear that dental care is out of their reach.” said the DHS Manager of Clinical Operations Maria Deming. “The clinic is open to the public with or without insurance and with or without adequate income. It’s more affordable for those who have less.”
All patients are welcome at Pacific’s clinic regardless of any language barriers or insurance status.
Deming encourages patients to pay any amount they can at the time of their appointment, but it is not required. Some patients can only afford to pay a few dollars per month.
Deming is reminded of an elderly man who received dental care for the first time in his life from Pacific’s clinic. Occasionally, he will come in with a plastic bag filled with loose dollars and change he collected from returning his pop cans. Deming said she gladly accepts this payment and waits for him to come in whenever he can make it again.
For many of the clinics patients, it is their first experience with dental care. The students provide the services they can, refer the patient to a local dentist office if their condition requires more advanced treatment, and educate the patient on proper dental hygiene.
The students often bond with their patients. “We help them with their English and they help us with our Spanish,” said Barclay.
The dental clinic is not the only Pacific clinic with a long waiting list.
Pacific’s School of Professional Psychology serves as many people as possible, but strives to expand their services in order to adequately serve everyone.
All SPP students complete their first clinical rotation at Pacific’s Portland or Hillsboro clinics.
The clinic offers its lowest rates to veterans, the Spanish-speaking population and students. Pacific Psychology Clinical Director Lisa Christensen helped form a partnership with Washington County Disability Aging and Veteran Services.
According to Christensen, many Vietnam veterans come to Pacific for an initial evaluation in order to get their federal benefits. Pacific is a popular spot for many veterans not only because of the reduced fees, but also because many patients don’t want to travel into Portland or receive treatment from any government related practitioners.
According to Christensen, before the construction of the second Health Professions Campus building, HPC’s neighbors were concerned the new Hillsboro clinic would attract “undesirables,” but the psychology clinic has actually proved to be beneficial to the community.
The clinic is not profitable, but “the benefits outweigh the costs,” said Christensen.
The Psychology program also contracts with many Multnomah County Schools, the Oregon State Hospital, job corps organizations and the Sexual Assault Response Team of Multnomah County.
The Occupational Therapy program does not have an on-campus clinic, but they do participate in many projects in the surrounding areas.
A few years ago, the OT program partnered with Adelente Mujeres, an adult community school designed to help Latina women and their families. The school teaches a variety of life skills classes, including programs in English, interview techniques, and child care basics.
According to White, those who are homeless or have mental disabilities suffer from a 70 percent unemployment rate. “They are systematically deprived of opportunity,” White said.
Students also work with inmates in the Washington County Corrections Center offering OT services the facility does not otherwise provide.
Some of the other OT projects include working with Clackamas County youth in juvenile and mental health facilities, using gardening to teach basic life skills in Portland, and teaching older adults who can no longer drive to use the Tri-met system.
Like OT, the Physical Therapy program provides services off campus. From late May to September, PT student s and faculty provide health care to migrant workers in Washington and Yamhill counties.
Last summer, they participated in 25 clinics and served more than 300 people. In partnership with Salud Community Health Clinics and Tuality Health Care, Pacific takes three to five PT students and a faculty member to the one-day clinics organized at local vineyards.
Workers can rotate through a variety of health care booths set up by different providers. The PT volunteers assess workers and try to address any pain. They suggest exercises to strengthen crucial regions of the body and educate patients on proper posture and lifting techniques, and provide other tips to help reduce the risk of injury.
According to Brumitt, the patients they treat often have trouble taking advantage of the health care system because they only live in the area seasonally and they don’t know where to go, they may feel uncomfortable seeking services if they don’t speak English, or they may be scared of deportation if they don’t have a work visa. Migrant workers commonly work during the normal operating hours of private practice clinics and cannot afford or do not have the option to time off.
The health professions programs constantly work to expand their services in order to provide students with additional hands-on experiences and reach more people in need. As Christensen put it, they are dedicated to helping “people in Washington County who would otherwise fall through the cracks.”