Caring For Our Community

The Chester Community Clinic gives graduate students like Haily Vaka the opportunity to gain hands-on learning while caring for the community.

A graduate physical therapy student works with a client
Graduate physical therapy student Haily Vaka gains hands-on experience working with clients in the Chester Community Clinic.
Haily Vaka
Class of 2021
Institute for Physical Therapy Education
  • College of Health & Human Services
By Haily Vaka '21

I’ve always been a visual learner. Watching a demonstration solidifies the concept for me before I put a new lesson or technique into practice. As a student in the doctor of physical therapy program at Widener University, I’ve had the opportunity to advance my practice through visual, hands-on learning at the university’s Chester Community Clinic.

For more than 10 years, the student-run clinic has led a dual mission to provide graduate students with these hands-on learning opportunities as it offers free or low-cost health services to Chester and the surrounding community. Now located in a redesigned and innovative facility in Melrose Hall on Widener’s campus, the clinic offers a supportive learning environment through which students can apply classroom lessons to real-life clinical situations. Clients benefit from the services we provide as we become trusted health care partners in their treatment plans.

Widener’s inter-disciplinary approach benefits our clients, as students like me are able to partner with students from other disciplines, such as occupational therapy, social work, and clinical psychology. We collaborate to assess and treat clients with a comprehensive care approach. These interdisciplinary partnerships give me the career preparation and experience I need to enter the evolving healthcare industry that relies on multi-disciplinary team work, and they allow our clients from the community to access a wider array of services – all at low or no cost.

The program’s focus on local and cultural involvement teaches me the value of developing relationships with my community and the importance of seeing the patient as a whole person, not just a single diagnosis. Our patients’ willingness to be part of the learning process provides my classmates and me with clinical experience ahead of entering the field. We are grateful for the trust they place in us as we work together to provide them excellent care. Without the community’s involvement, the Chester Community Clinic wouldn’t exist.

My time in the clinic has put me on the inside track to succeed as a socially and clinically competent physical therapist. Perhaps more important, the clinic has not only shown me how to be a leader in the field, but opened my eyes to the impact I can make on my community. The best part, though, is the way it has made my clients’ lives happier and healthier. In our partnership, everyone wins.

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