Alex Lewis is a physical therapy student set to graduate in December. Originally from Cleveland, Tennessee, Lewis earned her undergraduate degree at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, where she also played collegiate soccer. In March 2018, she joined several classmates in the ETSU College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences for a service trip to Costa Rica.
Why did you decide to do the Costa Rica Trip?
I went on the trip because I always wanted to do a trip like this, but thought it would happen later in my life. Then this opportunity came up and I felt prepared as a student who is almost done with school. Financially, the school was able to help us, which was obviously really nice, too. It was perfect timing.
Tell us about your experience there.
In Costa Rica we got to work with the school – the University of Santa Paolo. We were able to treat patients in the community. We went to Kachi and spent two days there. We treated patients at a nursing home facility. The PT students went to a cerebral palsy foundation and treated patients there. We were also able to explore Costa Rica. Whenever there was a little free time, we got to go and see things. We went to a professional soccer game, which is obviously a lot bigger in a country like Costa Rica than it is here in the U.S. We got to explore downtown San Jose and did classroom stuff, as well.
What did you take away from your experience there?
For me, it’s really just the realization of how blessed we are as Americans. Some of the patients we treated there, that was the first time they’d ever gotten physical therapy. They got it for 30 minutes and we pretty much evaluated them, did a little bit with them, gave them exercises and sent them home. That was all they got and that may be all they ever get. Here, pretty much, you catch babies early and you find if they have some type of delay and you can start then. It’s not always like that there, depending on where you are. I know things with insurance can be hard, but we really are lucky to have the services and availability that we do compared to other people.
Did anything surprise you there?
Really, just how incredible the people were. We had gone there to serve them and it was almost like the entire time they were serving us. They were so happy we were there and they let us know 24/7. If you ate and your plate was empty, you were definitely getting more food. The whole time, they were just really, really thankful to have us there. We were definitely serving, but they were serving us just as much.
How will what you experienced there impact your career?
It will always make me thankful for the skills that I have and it has really driven me to just give my patients all I have. I’ll get to see them for an hour a day, two or three times a week or maybe just once a week. I want to just really spend that hour being intent with using the time that we have. Some of the skills we learned down there during our time in the classroom will also stay with me. We learned some electrical modality skills that I’ve actually already used back in the clinic.
What are your career goals?
I love neuro physical therapy. That’s definitely where my heart is. Teaching people how to walk again is absolutely incredible and seeing their faces when they conquer such a big task.
How has ETSU helped you along your journey to become a physical therapist?
Obviously, the schooling is important, but ETSU is like a family. We’re really close
to all of our teachers and classmates. Physical therapy here is more than just a job
and making As and making the cut and passing the class. It’s actual connections. We’re
in the clinic right now, and if I am confused about something and email someone, they
are always happy to reply, even if they’ve got five different classes their teaching.
Just how willing everyone has been to help has been great.