Interdisciplinary Global Class in Shanghai Highlights Disability

This summer students and faculty from NYU Steinhardt’s Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs traveled to Shanghai for the course China: Disability in a Global Context. The class was led by Wen K. Ling, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Sally Poole, Clinical Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy. This interdisciplinary course brought students together from Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Teaching and Learning, and other programs at NYU Steinhardt. The students explored and identified factors, including cultural factors and health beliefs, which may influence a community’s view of disability.

The students spent two weeks in Shanghai, touring around the city with their home base as NYU Shanghai’s campus. During their free time they took part in traditional exercise classes, toured local homes, ate traditional meals together, and took in the culture of the region. They also learned about education, traditional Chinese health beliefs and practices, current health care, access and public transportation, and social welfare for individuals with disabilities in China.

We spoke with Josh Williams, a 3rd year physical therapy student who went on the trip, about his experiences.

Where are you from, what program are you in, and what brought you to NYU Steinhardt?

I am from California and a 3rd year physical therapy student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. I chose to attend NYU Steinhardt because of the diversity of the graduate programs available within the school, which gave me the opportunity to experience other fields of study that add to my graduate learning experience.

Why did you want to participate in this global class, and what was your favorite part about the global experience?

The chance to be see how physical therapy played a role in China intrigued me, and to see how other therapeutic services plays a role in providing care to a people who are disabled or with special needs is important to me personally so I can aim to become the best clinician possible.

The opportunity to interact with other students and professionals from another country who are in the same field of work that I am in was my favorite part of the experience. I found it very meaningful to be able to share in another culture and gain insight into their beliefs and values that influence their society and the way they practice medicine and therapies.

Do you thinking have students from other disciplines in the class made the experiencer richer or more well-rounded?

I found the participation of other disciplines value added to the academic learning experience and allowed us to see issues from a different perspective.

How do you think seeing how clinicians from other cultures interact with their patients will help you in your future practice?

Yes, I strongly believe that the multicultural aspect of the course is the keystone that made it a successful program. We were able to learn about how we can refine our skills to be a more holistic one, by adopting aspects that worked for them and also teach them what works for us in the US.

Steinhardt has given me the opportunity to see disability in a global context but also to see how my profession transcends global boundaries to provide care to people who are in need of it. Now, when I go out into the field, I would be able to become a more effective clinician.

Posted: August 23rd, 2017