|Welcome sign to West Virginia.|
Immersion Experience Spotlight - Cheryl L. Cavallo Memorial Scholarship Funds DPT Student Trip to West Virginia
by Stella Jeong (DPT Class of 2021)
|Side of the road from Kermit.|
The immersion trip was constructed around the theme of “Public Health,” which was the main reason why I chose this program out of many other options. As a future health care provider and an individual who never personally experienced rural poverty, I felt called to visit WV. And here is how the trip unfolded:
|Photo with staff from Mine Wars Museum.|
We first arrived in a small town called Kermit and met a woman named Marlene, who greeted us with the warmest smile. She was the executive director of ABLE families, a non-profit organization that runs the afterschool program, in-home family education program, and summer camps for families who are at risk. Marlene showed us around Mingo county, and I was able to connect with people who have been laid off from coal mining companies with no health care benefit, people who suffer from opioids overdose crisis, and young mothers who were raising children with no proper resources. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking, and honestly hard to believe. I really didn’t think the situation would be this serious and alarming because it’s the United States. I thought I knew what poverty looked like, coming from a family who also struggled a lot from a developing country. This trip broke my prejudice and made me realize that I had many privileges that people from WV might not have. And these “privileges” include a grocery store with fresh produce, a hospital or health clinic that are at least within an hour away, clean water without toxic substances from factories, and environment where children can grow up without having to worry about drug addiction so close to their home. I would want to label them as “basic human needs or rights” instead of “privileges”, but unfortunately, in WV, it simply wasn’t the case.
|Train transporting coal.|
When we visited the Mine Wars Museum, the staff who gave us the tour said, “We would love to see [health care] students like you guys come back to West Virginia. We could really use your help.” What he said that day, made me think a lot about my future path as a Physical Therapist. What can I bring to communities that are underserved when I’m a PT? How can I raise more awareness? How can I make a change when I’m back in St. Louis? So many unanswered questions, but they are driving me to become the PT that I want to be in the future.
|Micro-Farming from PATCH 21 to grow fresh produce for the communities|
I was overwhelmed and confused when we left West Virginia after a week, but the immersion trip has left me with many meaningful lessons and community leaders that I can look up to. I’ve donated part of my scholarship to Marlene’s ABLE families organization as I was so inspired by the work that they do.
|Progression of “Mountain Top Removal” for coal mining companies.|
I encourage everyone to participate in Hustle 4 Your Health event to support the cause and for the future experiences of other PT students who may receive this amazing scholarship.
Thanks for reading my story and feel free to ask more about my trip if you want to!
DPT Class of 2021