VCU student-run physical therapy clinic opens Sept. 21

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Virginia Commonwealth University physical therapy students will celebrate the grand opening of their free, student-run clinic Sept. 21. The Community Accessible Rehabilitative Exercises Services (C.A.R.E.S) Clinic at VCU will provide free physical therapy care to uninsured and underinsured individuals who live in Richmond.

“The clinic is an opportunity to serve Richmond,” said second-year physical therapy student Elizabeth Goodwin-Horn. The 23-year-old has been working with her peers from the School of Allied Health Professions’ Department of Physical Therapy since last year to start the clinic, a student-run organization with faculty advisors. Goodwin-Horn volunteers as the clinic board coordinator on the 18-student board.

The clinic is located on the second floor of the Center for Healthy Hearts at 1200 W. Cary St. Services are focused on optimizing patients’ movement and improving quality of life, while using evidence-based care specific to each patient’s functional limitations.

“Almost 30 percent of Richmond is at or below the poverty line,” Goodwin-Horn said. “If their insurance runs out and stops covering physical therapy while they still need treatment, then their only option is to pay out-of-pocket and physical therapy costs without insurance are extraordinarily expensive.”

Patients who are referred to the clinic from Crossover Free Clinic and Health Brigade are 200 percent below the poverty line. 

“That is a population that will never get physical therapy care unless it is offered for free,” Goodwin-Horn said.

In addition to seeing patients who are referred from local free clinics, the C.A.R.E.S clinic at VCU provides physical therapy services to patients who are being treated at the Center for Healthy Hearts, a local free clinic that provides chronic disease management services to uninsured Richmond individuals. The Center for Healthy Hearts partners with VCU School of Pharmacy students to provide medication management services to the community.

“It is nice that we are making connections with other VCU students while we serve the community,” Goodwin-Horn said.

Getting people pain-free in their daily life is our goal.

Students will mostly treat orthopedic conditions at the clinic, but they also expect to see patients with issues related to past injuries and neurological conditions.

“We expect to see a lot of back pain,” Goodwin-Horn said. “Getting people pain-free in their daily life is our goal.”

Patients at the clinic will be seen by teams of two students, with oversight from a licensed physical therapist from the community. About 15 local physical therapists volunteer at the clinic.

“It is exciting to have physical therapists teaching us while we are treating patients,” Goodwin-Horn said. “They come from a variety of backgrounds, so it is a fantastic learning experience.” 

While the clinic is intended to help members of the Richmond community, Goodwin-Horn says it will be an asset to VCU physical therapy students as well.

“This is a fantastic clinical experience for students,” she said. “We will get the benefit of hands-on evaluation and treatment experience along with mentorship from excellent physical therapists in the community.”