They were traveling to New Orleans to attend world-class continuing education sessions, and network with more than 2,800 student colleagues and 6,000 physical therapists from around the nation. What the St. Ambrose Doctor of Physical Therapy students didn't realize, is that they would become part of a new family.
The annual Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association is an impressive affair. Four days of exceptional programming included sessions on such topics as acute care, aquatic physical therapy, sports physical therapy, geriatrics, neurology and pediatrics-just about anything a PT student might want to explore. A large exhibit hall was filled with vendors showcasing new commercial products and services. And of course the city of New Orleans offered some rather enticing tourist attractions.
But it was a day-long community service project in the lower ninth ward that captured the hearts of the 20 DPT students. Working in four St. Bernard Parish project worksites, the students cleaned, laid insulation and drywalled. They were surprised that five and one-half years after Hurricane Katrina, there remained so much destruction. "We were glad we could help," said DPT student Ryan Williams. "I consider this part of our professional education at St. Ambrose."
What stayed with the DPT students was the experience of meeting New Orleans resident Gerry Bierria, onsite during their work on his home. Bierria expressed his sincere gratitude for the help and told the students he was looking forward to sitting on his porch again and having a good time with neighbors. And he counts the St. Ambrose PT students as members of his inner circle. "Anyone who rebuilds my home is now part of my family."