This January Professor of Physical Therapy Elaine Becker took a group of NYU Doctorate of Physical Therapy students abroad for the program Israel: Physical Therapy in a Global Context, which is an optional extension of the required Clinical Observation II and IV course. The purpose of the trip was to analyze the clinical performance of experienced practitioners in a non-U.S. setting to help students gain an understanding of different physical therapy service delivery models and different health delivery systems.
We spoke with DPT student Erinn Kary about her experience on the trip, what brought her to the program here at NYU Steinhardt, and her reflections on the experience.
Where are you from, and what brought you to the DPT program here at NYU Steinhardt?
I come from an Air Force family, so when I am asked this question, the answer is somewhat complicated. I was born in Scotland, moved to Texas, then South Korea, and then to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I spent the majority of my time growing up.
I chose the DPT program at NYU Steinhardt because their breadth of clinical experiences and stair-stepping curriculum work very well with my learning style. The emphasis on leadership in the field of physical therapy also made this program an excellent fit for me. It also helps that my husband is a student in the College of Dentistry, so we get to work within the same educational system.
Why did you want to participate in the global aspect of this class, and what was unique about it?
As a future health service provider and a person with a moderate degree of wanderlust, this program is exactly what I wanted. Our health system’s weaknesses in costs, access, and the lack of transparency are difficult and convoluted. In my mind, the best way to begin problem solving is to see other models of health service and how they circumvent these challenges. We are placed with excellent clinicians in these global environments, and we see how they are able to provide high quality care within these alternative health delivery systems.
What was your favorite part of the Steinhardt global experience?
This was my first experience in the middle east, so everything was new and exciting. I think that in the short-term, my favorite part was learning about Israel, its culture, and its rich history. We went on a hike in the Negev desert, shared Shabbat dinner with an orthodox couple in Jerusalem, and indulged in the street cuisine of the Carmel Market.
The quality of care provided to the Israeli people was excellent, and the clinicians we worked with were eager and highly skilled educators. As I progress through my clinical rotations in the DPT program, I see the value of my global experience and I believe that in the long-term, my favorite part of this experience is the time I spent in clinic.
How do you think seeing how clinicians from other cultures interact with their patients will help you in your future practice?
As future physical therapists, we are told that we are the ones who spend the most time with our patients in many settings. Connecting with our patients allows them to be more active participants in their health service delivery, and in turn, enables them to experience the best possible outcomes. Israeli clinicians are masters at engaging their patients to be invested in their care. Although most of the interactions were in Hebrew, the body language and inflection of the conversation were key in communication, and I feel confident that I could implement some nonverbal strategies in communicating with my future patients.
What made you want to be a physical therapist, and how has Steinhardt helped you achieve those goals?
During my undergrad at the University of Colorado Boulder, I fractured my fibula biking on an icy day. I underwent months of physical therapy with excellent clinicians, and found that the clinical autonomy and decision-making combined with the opportunities for diverse practices in the field made physical therapy an excellent career choice for me.