Everywhere you turn there are views of snowcapped mountains!  Want to go for a run?  Good luck finding a stretch without a significant hill! Slightly west of Philadelphia, snuggled in the Northern part of Utah, Salt Lake City is a sight to see!  And this weekend did not disappoint!

This weekend, March 22-23, The Pro Bono Network, a unique organization founded by Widener University to spread ideas and encourage community service throughout the country, held its second conference this year.  This was the Western Regional Conference hosted by the Physical Therapy Department at the University of Utah.  Widener University’s Institute for Physical Therapy Education and, more specifically the student board of the Pro Bono Network led by the uber passionate and dedicated, Dr. Jill Black, is on a mission!  That mission is to both serve their community by providing pro bono services to the under and uninsured and to help guide other institutions and students to do the same.

Why am I writing about this?  I had the opportunity to spend the weekend out in Salt Lake City to present on the faculty role of guiding a student-run operation.  Additionally, Full Range has been involved with this group since 2014, by providing licensed Physical Therapist supervisors at their clinic to guide the students in their clinical decision-making process.

Why is this type of operation important?  First and foremost, it helps the communities that we serve!  At the core of any human service profession, SERVICE should be the focus.  At Widener, this is introduced before the program even starts!  Their student-run clinic is part of the orientation, tour, and discussion with all incoming students.  Second, it helps the students in their learning process to put the lecture information from the classroom to use with hands-on treatment of patients.  And next, it provides students with the opportunity to take on a leadership role and gain managerial experience in the field of physical therapy that can be applied throughout their career.

What happened this weekend?  After spending most of Friday traveling, the weekend got kicked off with a networking event to get a chance to know the students from schools around the country that share similar interests.  Saturday is where the magic happened.  Our Keynote Speaker Dr. Scott Ward had an exceptional talk about the importance of serving, in general and specific to pro bono services.  From there, the students held 2 tracks of presentations, including over 14 different presentations regarding useful information for a student-run pro bono clinic.  The presentations included topics such as start-up, administration, functional outcomes, the inclusion of psychology services, and more.   To top all of that, the students developed the schedule, breakout sessions, poster presentations, a lunch and learn, the submission of presentations, the email communications, an event mobile app, and all of the logistics behind this conference, along with the two other conferences.  What’s even more impressive is the passion that these students have about this mission, organization, and how it is perceived.  This group of students truly care about the legacy that they, their predecessors, and their successors leave on this world.  They strive to be recognized as a leader, not just among students, but among their professional peers.  And, quite honestly, they should be!  They put on an event that rivals some of the most organized events I have attended, personally and professionally.

And guess what, the energy didn’t stop there!  When we were walking back to the hotel, we realized that there were still a few hours of daylight to take advantage of.  So, we went for what we planned to be a run but turned into a steep hike/walk.  At times, we blazed our own trail, which isn’t unique to this group anyhow.  We reached the top, do our selfie thing, get some amazing panoramic pictures then decide to go back down.  As we are going back down the students noticed a woman yelling for her dog.  She didn’t appear to frantic, but with the diminishing sunlight and the expansive amount of land, the students jumped at the task to help find the dog.  Surely enough after a few minutes, they found Charlie (the dog), but now the owner was within earshot.  So, they found the collar and called the number.  But let’s be real, who answers for unknown callers these days?  A few minutes late, the dog and owner were reunited due to this group’s amazing zest for life and helping others!

It truly is a spectacular experience.  If you are a physical therapist in the Greater Philadelphia area and are interested in learning about this organization and clinic, please let me know. If you are a PT student interested in learning more about the network, check them out at www.theprobononetwork.com.

And here are just a few pics of the amazing time!