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TJC Physical Therapist Assistant students, alumni participate in global service project

More than 50 students and alumni of Tyler Junior College’s Physical Therapist Assistant program spent part of their Saturday participating in the annual Global PT Day of Service (PTDOS).

Since 2015, PTDOS has brought together over 18,000 volunteers from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 80 countries around the world a day to unite and galvanize the profession of physical therapy through acts of service.

“One of the main elements of our program is that we try to instill in our students the importance of getting involved and serving the community,” said Dr. Christine Melius, TJC PTA program director and department chair.

The TJC group spent Saturday morning creating 13 activity blankets for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Julio Garcia

Julio Garcia, a second-year student from San Antonio, made a blanket for his grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago.

“For patients with dementia, a lot of times what will happen is, especially in the latter stages, they will become very sedentary and there’s not a lot of intellectual stimulation and that’s not good for maintaining neural function,” Melius said. “These blankets will give the patient a way to sit and have some type of activity in front of them to keep them engaged, focused, doing something and thinking.”

The blankets are made with a variety of textures and include tactile items such as zippers, beads, buttons and small stuffed animals. Ten of the blankets will be donated to the Smith County Alzheimer’s Association, and two will be given to the grandparents of TJC PTA students.

“My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago,” said Julio Garcia, a second-year TJC PTA student from San Antonio. “I made sure to pick out colors and items that I knew she will like. I plan to take it to her when I go home in a couple of weeks.”

Saturday’s event also marked the kickoff of the program’s new mentor program.

Melius said, “We felt that it would be great for our alumni to act as mentors for our current students, so they could talk to them about strategies that helped them get through the program, issues they encountered during clinicals, job placement and just role modeling some professional behavior. We’re very excited to have 10 graduates serve as mentors today.”

Curtis Evans

During Saturday’s service event, TJC program graduates such as Curtis Evans (pictured) mentored current students on a variety of topics ranging from study strategies to job placement.

Curtis Evans, a Marshall native, graduated from the TJC PTA program in 2018. He immediately went to work at Arbor Grace nursing and rehabilitation center in Kilgore and is now director of rehabilitation at Jacksonville Healthcare Center in Jacksonville.

“This program was definitely life changing for me,” Evans said. Where I’m from, people don’t get this kind of opportunity. A lot of people look at school as an obligation, like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to study’ or ‘I’ve got to do homework.’ but it’s important to change your perspective and see that this is an opportunity to better your life.”

He continued, “I had other motivations when I was in the program because I was actually homeless for a bit. I had goals and I had a reason for why I needed to finish. It was tough, but I had a lot of support from Dr. Melius and [PTA Academic Coordinator] Ms. [Amy] Leighman. My biggest advice is to keep your perspective on how you look at it.”

About the program
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist and assist the physical therapist in the treatment of individuals with medical and health related conditions which limit their ability to perform functional activities.

The goal of physical therapy treatment is to restore function, reduce pain and prevent disability. PTAs provide care for people in hospitals, outpatient clinics, patient’s homes, schools, work settings, nursing homes and fitness facilities.

The TJC PTA program is five semesters long and includes three, six-week clinical rotations under the supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. TJC faculty members provide a combination of individual attention, a friendly atmosphere and a small student-to-faculty ratio.

For more on the TJC Physical Therapist Assistant program, go to TJC.edu/PTA.

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