A Concordia OT student helps Jack Muryn at the university's new community clinic.A Concordia OT student helps Jack Muryn at one of the university's new community clinics.

It’s been more than eight years since Jack Muryn suffered a stroke that left him vision impaired and partially paralyzed on one side, but therapists say the Hartford resident can still regain some of the fine motor skills he lost during the medical emergency.

Initially after the stroke occurred Muryn’s insurance kicked in to help offset his costs, but his coverage quickly ran out, leaving him in need of another option for rehabilitation.

That’s where Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Health Professions stepped in. For the past several years, various students in CUW’s second-year blended bachelor’s and master’s occupational therapy programs have worked with Muryn about once a week to help him reach his goal of remaining mobile, independent, and in his home.

CUW’s physical therapy and occupational therapy programs have extended the offer to others as well. For more than a decade, upper-level students have provided free services to a limited number of qualifying community members from all over Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

This academic year, Concordia partnered with two community organizations—the Grafton nonprofit Portal, Inc. and the LUMIN Milwaukee school Granville Lutheran—to utilize spaces within their facilities for CUW’s free community clinics.

Students continue to see anywhere from six to 10 patients in a semester, as they did when the clinics were held on campus. This year, however, they’ve also expanded their services to offer screenings for Portal participants and LUMIN school children.

“It’s a win-win for everyone involved,” said OT Department Chair Carrie Jo Scheel, EdD, OT-L, CPE. “Our students learn how to interact with patients and clients, and professors can give ready feedback because it’s in a more controlled environment. Our students are then more prepared for the next step in their educational journey.”

Scheel says Concordia is unique in that community outreach is built into the curriculum. Students who work in the community-based clinics enroll in a requisite program course while completing their practicum hours. For the first portion of the semester, half of the OT students will work once a week at Portal, while the other half will work at LUMIN. Partway through the groups will then switch so that all OT students will have had an experience at both sites by the end of the semester. PT students, meanwhile, split their time between both sites. Concordia’s speech-language pathology students will also begin to participate in the community clinics this summer.

“We see a need in the community for patients who still can benefit from help but can no longer receive services because they ran out of insurance or they didn’t specifically meet the necessary requirements,” said PT Department Chair Robert Barnhart, PT, MS, ScDPT. “With our focus on service at Concordia, it’s been a natural fit for us to bridge the gap in services for community members.”

Learn more about Concordia’s community-based clinics by contacting CUW Clinic Coordinator Lois Harrison at Lois.Harrison@cuw.edu or 262-243-4468.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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