Service Learning

Elective: One Week in Guatemala

Under the auspices of faculty member Dr. Martha Sliwinski, and in coordination with the agency Sharing the Dream, students gain international experience in a country with underserved communities in need of a broad range of health care services and education. Students have the opportunity to apply previously learned knowledge and skills as they apply to the needs assessed in the community for pro bono services. Health risks related to prevention will be assessed and physical therapy services applicable to the needs will be designed and implemented. There are opportunities for collaboration with other non-profit organizations that work closely with Sharing the Dream; for example, Transitions helps provide wheelchairs, prosthetics and orthotics to adult and pediatric clients. Students are responsible for the cost of the trip and run various fund-raising activities throughout the year to help subsidize the expense. A complete description of the elective is found under Course Descriptions in the Program Bulletin.

Guatemala 2015

 Guatemala 2015

Guatemala 2015

 Guatemala 2016

PT-CAN (Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy Community Action Network
PT-CAN is a student-run organization for service within the PT program. Through PT-Can, students can volunteer, join committees, advocate for the profession and create new outreach opportunities. Through PT-CAN, students have the following service opportunities:

Lang Youth Medical Program
The Lang Youth Medical Program is a community outreach program that offers local youth a pathway to college through healthcare career exploration and medical science education. Each year, the Lang program accepts 12-15 local sixth graders who will participate in extracurricular study and activities during the 6-year stretch from 7th grade through 12th grade. Students study anatomy, disease pathology, prevention, and community and public health, as well as participate in field trip activities and complete annual year-end projects. These extracurricular courses are taught to the Lang students by undergraduate and graduate students representing various fields within the CUMC community, including volunteers from the CUMC DPT Program. DPT students also participate as mentors, serving as both a friend and a role model to the Lang students, encouraging them in their academic and personal growth.  

Lang Scholars


Columbia Student Medical Outreach (CoSMO)
CoSMO is a free, student-run primary clinic offering free, high quality primary heathcare to the unisured population ofWashington Heights.  Under the auspices of faculty member Dr. Martha Sliwinski and NYPH physical therapy clinicians, physical therapy students have the opportunity to work with their mentors alongside medical, nursing and social work students at this primary care clinic. First, second and third year students participate in this student-run program one Saturday a month in the Washington Heights neighborhood, which encompasses the CUMC campus. Each class elects a student-run CoSMO Board. Second and third year students mentor interested first year students in screening clinic patients.

The AXIS Project: Spinal Mobility
The Spinal Mobility program, located Harlem in New York City, is designed as a means of exercise for people with spinal cord injuries. Physical Therapy students who volunteer with the AXIS Project have the opportunity to:
• Receive training specific to a population with spinal cord injury
• Provide exercise training to people with spinal cord injury in an accessible setting
• Work with other volunteers and medical professionals outside the Columbia University community
• Practice skills learned in the classroom in a real-world setting


 Axis Mobility: volunteers and clients

Fairytale Physical Therapy
Fairytale PT (FTPT)is a project of students of the the Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy. The group presents abbreviated versions of popular shows, such as Disney's "Frozen" and "The Little Mermaid."
These events, performed in children's hospitals, give kids a chance to get moving and offer parents and children alike a break from being in the hospital. The show is broadcast to all rooms, giving everyone a chance to see the shows if they are not able to make it to where the shows take place.

Song, dance and arts and crafts (for fine motor skills) are part of the event.

Choreography with a therapeutic exercise slant is taught to kids for popular songs such as "Let it Go" and "In Summer." Kids are invited to dance along from standing or seated positions. If anyone forgets the song lyrics, FTPT provides them.   For more information, contact:, or visit

"Frozen" cast and crew





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