Physical Therapy International Service Foundation (PTIS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free physical therapy (PT) services to underserved populations while coaching student physical therapists on clinical skills. Cofounders Dr. Sneha Gazi, PT, DPT and Dr. Maria Muto, PT, DPT are both licensed physical therapists in New York who graduated from Columbia University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.
PTIS’ goal is to improve people’s quality of life by decreasing pain, improving function, and providing self-care strategies for long lasting effects. PTIS also strives to help students in PT programs around the world learn screening, examination & evaluation, plan of care, treatment techniques, cultural awareness, and more from licensed physical therapists. PTIS’ service work is based on the latest research on effective treatments of pain management, musculoskeletal disorders, and functional optimization.
In 2018, PTIS successfully completed its first service learning trip to Cervera Del Maestre, Spain where 5 students and 2 PTs brought free PT to a rural town and held educational workshops for children and adults. The group worked closely and met over several online video chatting sessions prior to departure to ensure successful and meaningful patient-centered care. PTIS volunteers treated 85 patients including pediatric patients from nearby schools, local villagers and manual laborers, geriatric patients from the town’s old age facility, and new mothers. On the final day, the group presented educational workshops on ergonomics, health and wellness, back pain, and upper extremity pain to over 20 townspeople including school children and patients from previous treatment sessions. In the future, when it is safe to do so, PTIS plans to replicate an international trip in a similar format: a combination of one-on-one treatment sessions, group treatment sessions, and educational workshops.
As movement experts, physical therapists can optimize biomechanics, improve function, and significantly augment quality of life for specific populations, such as those who are classified as the underserved. This can be done both by preventing injury through educational programs as well as rehabilitating people who have existing movement deficits from past injuries. Often, the “underserved” or the “disadvantaged” are those who lack financial resources. They are often also seen as the elderly, women, children, minorities, and people with disabilities. Without proper education or financial resources to seek medical attention or information, underserved populations can experience more injury and illness. There is a disparity between the advantaged and disadvantaged communities in receiving PT. PTs have the ability to address many of these barriers and are essential to augmenting quality of life to anyone with movement dysfunction.
PTIS is currently implementing programs that involve PT services to low-income and high-need communities on the local, national, and international levels, particularly those most impacted by COVID-19. In the coming months, we hope to implement our virtual and in-person programs, consisting of PT services and health education workshops, to several New York City communities and to an international community in need.
Volunteer as a student or licensed physical therapist or donate to the cause as PTIS implements programs for underserved communities globally.