Rick King had been looking for a way to “go the extra mile” with his medical equipment distribution services at CHOSEN Inc. when a stranger called him.
It was Connie Lewis, PT, DPT, assistant teaching professor of physical therapy at Gannon University, and she wanted to introduce herself and her dream of meeting community needs for home health care equipment through outreach.
“Connie came here and saw what we’re doing,” said King, who is CHOSEN’s director. CHOSEN is an Erie-based organization with offices, distribution center and warehouse where medical equipment is refurbished and distributed to local homes as well as clinics and hospitals around the world. “She immediately fell in love with it and started to talk about how this could become a partnership between local ministry and a university,” King said.
That was August of 2020. Fast forward to now, and that partnership has since expanded to launch the Gannon Wellness Clinic at CHOSEN Mission Project Outreach Pavilion, a collaborative effort between CHOSEN and Gannon University’s physical therapy and occupational therapy faculty and students to provide medical equipment and education to community members.
Gannon University faculty and students at the newly opened Gannon Wellness Clinic at C.M.P. Outreach.
“It’s part of a social responsibility to the larger public to respond to societal needs in the realm of health and wellness,” Lewis said.
The clinic welcomes underserved community members who may not have the insurance to purchase needed medical equipment or whose names remain for too long on waiting lists.
Lewis is joined by Karen Probst, OTD, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Gannon, as well as Gannon occupational and physical therapy students. Together, they meet with community members who come to the clinic, carefully assessing their individual needs before recommending the proper equipment.
“It’s part of a social responsibility to the larger public to respond to societal needs in the realm of health and wellness.” - Connie Lewis, PT, DPT
A power wheelchair will help a woman with a progressive neurological disorder move about the community independently again. The man with a balance deficit needs a simple wooden cane to stabilize himself as he walks. Another client needs basic wound care supplies, which seem to be in short supply.
Students like Greta Wertz, a second-year physical therapy student, work to pair clients with the right equipment while also educating them on proper usage.
“One of the people I met last Saturday … she had just gotten a prosthetic leg and told us that she really wasn’t able to find any PT clinics in the area that worked for her,” Wertz said. “She didn’t know what equipment she needed or how to go about using them. Just by talking with her for 30 minutes, it completely changed her outlook on the situation.”
Gannon faculty and students also assist in cleaning, sorting, organizing and refurbishing donated durable medical equipment for re-donation back into the greater Erie area. They also package crutches, canes and walkers to be donated overseas to several countries.
Karen Probst, OTD, assistant professor of occupational therapy, works with students to to assess a client’s medical equipment needs.
“Students are reminded that we have a duty to positively influence the health of society and that placing the needs of others, including the devotion of time, is an important aspect of what we believe. Students working at CHOSEN collaborate and communicate outside of the classroom, which are lifelong skills they will use in their future career,” Lewis said.
Lewis pointed to storage rooms brimming with equipment. In January alone, the partnership helped distribute nearly 900 medical items to nearly 250 people at a total value of $57,592, Lewis reported. Nearly three-quarters of clients were in the Erie City area and had an annual income of less than $25,000.
Gannon University faculty and students and CHOSEN Inc. staff celebrate the opening of the Gannon Wellness Clinic @ C.M.P. Outreach.
The group’s efforts are also garnering support from programs like respiratory care, which recently helped package more than 46,000 medical items for Ukraine.
Gannon University opened its Knight Ability Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic and the Little Knights Pro Bono Occupational Therapy Clinic on campus to provide therapy services to underserved and underinsured community members. The new Gannon Wellness Clinic at C.M.P. Outreach Pavilion will build on these efforts to serve patients in need of medical equipment, as well as provide opportunities for Gannon health professional students to collaborate and learn from one another.
King said he is excited about the growing potential in CHOSEN’s partnership with Gannon.
“It takes many people in this community to reach the needs of the people,” he said. “Together, we can move a mountain. We just want to help people and to create in them a sense of honor in their ability to be mobile. With Gannon walking alongside us, we can do that.”
By Brianna Mariotti, content marketing strategist