Class of 2023 Students Launch Foot Screening Program

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Students from DPT Class of 2023 pose after their first successful foot screening clinic

Everyone has felt the pain and annoyance of a blister from ill-fitting or improper footwear. However, for individuals experiencing homelessness, this innocuous injury can turn into a significant medical issue. Three students from The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program (DPT) hope to change that. 

During their Interprofessional Community Practicum (ICP) course, taught by Erin Wentzell, DPT, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Function, and Rehabilitation Sciences (HHFRS), DPT Class of 2023 students Abby Mutch, Talya Krumholz, and Emily Yong participated in a semester-long community project with Washington, D.C., community partner, Access Housing Inc. The hands-on, service learning helped kick-start an ongoing foot screening clinic project for the three students. 

During their summer 2022 ICP course the trio trained under Washington, D.C., physical therapists Alexa Stevens, MSPT ’03, and Jennifer Ibe Aiken, DPT, who encouraged the students to start a free foot screening program for individuals in the community experiencing homelessness. 

“Communities are only as strong as the most vulnerable populations in them,” said Mutch. “People experiencing houselessness generally walk an average of 15–20 miles per day, often with ill-fitting or worn through shoes and socks that are not always dry.” 

In June, the team offered its first foot screening clinic at Access Housing Inc., a transitional housing center that provides food, housing, counseling, medical, and recreational services to veterans experiencing homelessness. The goal was to help educate individuals about foot care, screen for podiatry referrals, and provide foot care supplies and resources. 

“Our research has consistently shown that foot care is often an overlooked aspect of function and health, especially in individuals experiencing houselessness, and has highlighted the lack of a standardized foot health screening measure for this population as well as the barriers they face in receiving appropriate health care services,” explained Krumholz. The clinic will be offered again at the same location this fall, and the team hopes to continue at other local clinics in the future.

The students credit GW’s DPT program for helping prepare them for this experience through its service-learning experience led by Wentzell and Valerie Rucker-Bussie, DPT, adjunct professor in HHFRS, access to community partners such as Ibe Aiken and Stevens, as well as its examination, integumentary, and anatomy coursework. 

“This clinic taught me how best to bring a clinic directly to those who need it most,” said Krumholz, whose future goals include providing PT services to those who have limited access to rehab.

“I plan on using the lessons I learned to continue engaging with community members and to develop programs based on their needs for community health and wellness,” added Yong, who said she hopes to use the experience to help reach her goals as physical therapist.