By Elizabeth Akincilar, MSPT, Cofounder, PHRC Merrimack, Kim Buonomo, DPT, PHRC
Lexington, Molly Bachmann, DPT, PHRC San Francisco
The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center recently returned from their second trip to Nairobi, Kenya to teach a pelvic health course to a second cohort of physical therapists. We taught the first cohort of physical therapists in February 2020 and unfortunately COVID delayed our return until October 2022. Several members of the PHRC staff have contributed to the development of the comprehensive curriculum in this course, including Jandra Mueller, DPT, Melinda Fontaine, DPT, Jillian Giannini, DPT, Kim Buonomo, DPT, Molly Bachmann, DPT, Shannon Pacella, DPT, Melissa Patrick, DPT, and Elizabeth Akincilar, MSPT. Elizabeth Akincilar, MSPT, Kim Buonomo, DPT, and Molly Bachmann, DPT had the privilege of traveling to Nairobi for the in-person portion of the course through the Jackson Clinics Foundation and the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Nairobi, Kenya. Liz, Molly and Kim spent the first week teaching the second cohort of students in class and the second week in the clinic serving as mentors.
The program at KMTC was started approximately eight years ago by physical therapist Richard Jackson and the Jackson Clinics Foundation. Initially the program’s focus was to teach orthopedic manual therapy but shortly after they also began offering a neuro based program. In the spring of 2019 they offered the first women’s health program. This program consists of three, two week courses. PHRC was fortunate to be part of teaching the first cohort of physical therapists in this program. Pelvic health education for physical therapists in Africa is extremely limited. This program is the first of its kind in East Africa. The goal of all the programs the Jackson Clinics Foundation offers is for the KMTC faculty to eventually teach all of these specialty courses. The orthopedic program has transitioned to being entirely taught by KMTC physical therapists. This transition has begun for the Women’s Health program. We were excited to include students from the first Women’s Health cohort as Teaching Assistants in the second cohort of students.
When Richard Jackson presented this opportunity to PHRC in 2019 we immediately knew we wanted to be a part of this program. Educating the community and our fellow professionals is a primary tenet of PHRC’s Mission Statement. We’re grateful for the many opportunities we’ve been given over the years to participate in educational programs across the western world. To be given the opportunity to share our knowledge and skills with a professional community that has such limited resources to this type of education is especially exciting and meaningful.
This project is a significant undertaking and humanitarian effort. All instructor time, course materials, and supplies are donated. Donations can be made online at the Jackson Clinics Foundation and are tax deductible. Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute has graciously agreed to support the women’s health program with curriculum and instructors.
From PHRC Cofounder Liz Akincilar:
Once again, this experience has affirmed my interest and commitment to this project. Returning for the second time, I had the unique opportunity to reconnect with many of the students in the first cohort as a mentor, seeing patients with them in the clinic. It was particularly enjoyable to see the first students of this program utilize the skills and knowledge they acquired and appropriately evaluate and treat pelvic health patients. I loved seeing their excitement and pride in their ability to educate and treat patients suffering with various pelvic complaints knowing that prior to this program coming to Kenya, this type of physical therapy treatment was not available anywhere in East Africa. Some of the students from the first cohort are even educating their physical therapy colleagues in Kenya and surrounding East African countries about pelvic health! I’m grateful to the Jackson Clinics Foundation for the opportunity to be involved in this project and immensely proud of the students who are now able to offer pelvic floor physical therapy within Kenya.
This project was successful, in large part, due to the time, knowledge, and commitment of our team. Many thanks to the PHRC staff who contributed to the curriculum and educational resources: Jandra Mueller, Melinda Fontaine, Jillian Giannini, Shannon Pacella, and Melissa Patrick. A very special thank you to my co-instructors, Kim Buonomo and Molly Bachmann, who were not only excellent instructors, but exemplary ambassadors for pelvic floor physical therapy, whom I was proud to teach alongside.
From PHRC San Francisco Molly Bachmann:
International travel has always been a part of my personal life. I love adventures, new cultural experiences, and connecting with the community wherever I can find it. I never dreamed that teaching, let alone an international teaching experience, would be a part of my professional journey. When Liz asked me to join her on the next trip to Kenya Medical Training College, it was a very easy “Yes!”
One of the most significant takeaways from this trip has been realizing just how desperate people all over the world are to know about their bodies (Including the United States). Having accurate health information is often lifesaving, and that includes accurate information about pelvic health. The physical therapists we worked with wasted no time sharing their enthusiasm for this information and passion for sharing with their patients and communities. Many had already begun to set up stands at markets, hold meetings with community leaders and arrange to speak at conferences. It was so inspiring to work with them.
Their courage to be the first to start this specialty in Kenya, trailblazing a new generation of PTs, was an incredible thing to bear witness to. It has renewed my spirit in ways I didn’t know needed to be renewed. Our interactions and sessions reminded me of the value of community centered care and culturally sensitive healthcare. These kinds of models are needed to have a complete biopsychosocial approach and this is something that they do well. I have learned so much from them.
Asante sana to Kenya Medical Training College for welcoming us into your home, shepherding new friendships and for your openness in embarrassing this specialty. Your generosity will never be forgotten.
From PHRC Lexington Kim Buonomo:
This has been truly one of the greatest experiences of my life, and is the highlight of my career thus far. Before this, I’d never traveled outside of North America. It was a privilege to know I am playing a role in bringing needed pelvic health information to East Africa and it was transformative from a personal standpoint to participate in the Kenyan cultural experience.
I am honored to have been given this opportunity, and I was thrilled to share this experience with my incredible colleagues Liz and Molly and the amazing Kenyan PTs who we worked with. I was consistently impressed with the students’ commitment, insightfulness, and openness when learning material that was so new to them, especially since this material can often be difficult to discuss. Seeing the students grow and develop as pelvic health providers was truly a privilege.
One special memory from the trip was when one of the students and I treated a patient, who said that her constipation had tremendously improved after her first visit with the student. The patient’s entire family exuberantly expressed their gratitude, going so far as to request a picture with us. When they left, the student smiled so widely, hugged me, and thanked me for teaching her how to help the patient. The student really helped that patient, and she deserves the pride and confidence that comes from knowing she had a role in improving someone’s quality of life. That joy is why I work in this field, and it is infectious! It was empowering to relive how I felt in the moments of helping my first pelvic patients and to see her experience that joy. It is humbling to see so tangibly the impact that this project makes in lives across the world and I’m proud that I was able to take part in it.
I’m grateful to the Jackson Clinics Foundation for spearheading this project and to PHRC for allowing me the opportunity to take part in it. I’m especially grateful to Liz and Molly who are the best co-instructors I could have wished for, and to the students that I got to know, teach, become friends with, and learn from on the trip.
Are you unable to come see us in person in the Bay Area, Southern California or New England? We offer virtual physical therapy appointments too!
Virtual sessions are available with PHRC pelvic floor physical therapists via our video platform, Zoom, or via phone. For more information and to schedule, please visit our digital healthcare page.
In addition to virtual consultation with our physical therapists, we also offer integrative health services with Jandra Mueller, DPT, MS. Jandra is a pelvic floor physical therapist who also has her Master’s degree in Integrative Health and Nutrition. She offers services such as hormone testing via the DUTCH test, comprehensive stool testing for gastrointestinal health concerns, and integrative health coaching and meal planning. For more information about her services and to schedule, please visit our Integrative Health website page.
Melissa Patrick is a certified yoga instructor and meditation teacher and is also available virtually to help, for more information please visit our therapeutic yoga page.
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