male patient raises arms overhead assisted by physical therapist
At Crean College's Stroke Boot Camp, patients undergo assessment and receive treatment from physical therapy students in a supervised clinical setting.

Crean College Hands-On Learning Helps Heal the Community From stroke patients to Long COVID sufferers, the faculty and students at Crean College provide essential health care to the community while furthering medical research and training

At Chapman University’s Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, health care is not just something learned in classrooms. The college provides hands-on graduate-level training for health care professionals in a variety of disciplines. And it turns out these programs aren’t just good for students — they’re also good for the community.

“Crean is very much focused on serving and serving well,” says Dr. Naveen Jonathan about the college’s multi-pronged approach to education. Jonathan is the chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), which operates the Frances Smith Center for Individual & Family Therapy, Chapman University’s oldest public-facing clinic. The center provides low-cost counseling to more than 200 clients every term, providing both valuable training to students and a much-needed service to the community. 

“Many of the clients would not be able to access therapy services without a clinic like ours,” says Jonathan.

Graduate students, working under the close supervision of licensed marriage and family therapists, work with clients who have been referred by local hospitals, clinics, schools, churches and other local organizations, offering both in-person and telehealth services to Orange County and neighboring Southern California communities. 

For students, the lessons in community impact is just as important as what’s learned during their training, says Jonathan. “How do you use yourself as a vehicle so that you can transform the lives of others?” he says, echoing the mission statement of the university. “And how can you be a global citizen in that way?”

Understanding and Treating the Symptoms of Long COVID 

Crean’s newest clinic available to the local community is the Neuro-Deficit Clinic for COVID-19 Survivors. Here, individuals dealing with lingering issues after recovering from COVID-19 can receive no-cost evaluation and treatment services. 

The clinic provides assessment and treatment for people who are functional, going to work and school, but struggling with cognitive and communication issues. Symptoms such as one’s thinking and remembering being affected by fatigue, trouble speaking, trouble reading, listening and communicating at work, school or home can be indicators of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, what is colloquially known as “long COVID.” 

“Lots of people have lingering effects from COVID-19 and many of them were not severe enough to be hospitalized. Because of this, they may not have been referred for help or assistance,” says Dr. Mary Kennedy, who oversees the clinic. 

“If they were on a ventilator and hospitalized, they could have problems with long-lasting memory, attention and disorganized thinking. But what we’re also seeing is that even folks who are never hospitalized, folks who have what’s called mild COVID, who were tested but were told to stay home…some of those folks who were never in the hospital, many of them have post-acute sequelae of COVID-19,” she says.

The clinic, which opened last fall, can meet with patients in person or via telehealth. Individuals in the community who are dealing with cognitive or communication difficulties following COVID are encouraged to contact the clinic for assessment

A Helping Hand for Stroke Sufferers

MFT students also participate in another of Crean’s pioneering clinical services, Stroke Boot Camp, operated by Crean’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Stroke Bootcamp is a two-week intensive, interdisciplinary treatment program that provides multi-dimensional, patient-centered care for stroke survivors.

“Typically, people with chronic stroke have very limited access to any therapies or rehabilitation. They get discharged pretty early on in the process,” says Dr. Alison McKenzie, director of anatomy laboratory operations for the Department of Physical Therapy. “They don’t usually get to maximize their stroke recovery potential because of the limitations in our health care system. Our goal is to help folks with stroke to be as healthy and as active and as mobile as they possibly can.”

The Neuro-Deficit Clinic for COVID-19 Survivors, the Frances Smith Center and Stroke Boot Camp are only three of the many outreach efforts that give students the opportunity to engage with the community. Crean’s Community Exercise Program (CEP) aids patients who are dealing with balance, coordination, neurological and mobility-related impairments, while the Balanced Families program is designed for families with children suffering from Cerebral Palsy and related neuromuscular movement limitations. In addition, graduate students work with local organizations such as the Down Syndrome Association of O.C., the Ritecare Childhood Language Center, and the Clinic in the Park, among many others.  

Staci Dumoski

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