Amputee Gait Clinic helps community find balance

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Amputee Gait Clinic helps community find balance

It is a mid-fall morning and things are bustling inside Fresno State’s Gait Analysis Movement Evaluation (GAME) Research Lab.

The first Amputee Gait Clinic of the semester is taking place. Hosted by the Department of Physical Therapy at Fresno State, the biannual clinic brings together community members and health care professionals from various disciplines to provide pro bono services to individuals with limb loss, as well as their caregivers.

Third-year doctor of physical therapy student Karissa DeRousseau stands at the front of the room, observing the scene. In her third year working at the clinic, DeRousseau says the ability to work with clinicians from different disciplines to assist local amputees provides immeasurable learning outcomes and experiences.

The Amputee Gait Clinic kicked off in March 2015 — a joint collaboration between the Department of Physical Therapy and the Central California Amputee Education and Resource Center. The goal of the cost-free clinic is to serve the amputee population in the Central Valley, which is often an overlooked and underserved group.

“Most of the amputees are not able to afford quality health care here in the Central Valley,” said Dr. Bhupinder Singh, director of the GAME Lab and co-facilitator of the Amputee Gait Clinic. “Through the clinic, we aspire to make their lives comfortable. With the multidisciplinary health care approach we use, we are able to provide a wide range of services to the amputee population who may otherwise not have access to services elsewhere.”

Some of the health care professionals that regularly volunteer their time to the interdisciplinary clinic include local physical therapists, orthotists, prosthetists, podiatrists, nurses and vascular specialists. Together, along with the faculty and students from the Department of Physical Therapy, they provide consultations, preventative care and help manage any current conditions afflicting individuals.

Client Gary Samelson, of Fresno, has been coming to the clinic since its inception, to receive treatment for his unilateral transtibial amputation — more commonly known as a below the knee amputation. He says too many years of smoking and poor circulation led to his limb loss.

He did not allow his amputation to serve as a setback in his life. Instead, Samelson made it his goal to get help — and more importantly, get active. He found the Amputee Gait Clinic through the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Center and realized it was the right fit for him.

“I come back year after year because I want to help the [doctor of physical therapy] students learn,” Samelson said. “After all, they are going to be working on me someday. They show me how to improve my balance and movement. They are great. Absolutely great.”

DeRousseau has worked closely with Samelson over the years and notes his incredible progression and willingness not only to improve his movement but to support students in the program.

DeRousseau said her work in the clinic has inspired her to work professionally with combat veterans with limb loss in the future. It has also played an integral role in her research project, which examines unilateral lower limb amputees and their ambulation abilities.

Giving students opportunities to apply clinical concepts learned in class to real-life scenarios is an integral component for the doctoral program.

“Opportunities outside of the classroom involving community members and health care providers enriches and supports the classroom experience,” said Dr. Jennifer Roos, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and co-facilitator of the Amputee Gait Clinic. “This helps the students develop an understanding of their role and how they can provide support once they enter the workforce.”

The next free, community-wide Amputee Gait Clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 9 on the Fresno State campus (McLane Hall, Room 103). Free parking is available in lots P17, P22, and P31.

To learn more, contact the Department of Physical Therapy at 559.278.2625.