Palestinian students plan to use their PT degrees to serve their homeland
Adel Hamdan (left) and Adnan Nasr, two Palestinian physical therapy students, hope to make an impact on their field in their homeland, thanks to the advanced degrees they are receiving at Loma Linda University.
Adel Hamdan and Adnan Nasr carry big hopes for the profession of physical therapy in their homeland of Palestine. To further these dreams, both men have come to the LLU School of Allied Health Professions to earn advanced degrees.
The profession of physical therapy is only about 15 years old in Palestine, notes Everett Lohman III, DPTSc, OCS, associate professor of physical therapy.
“These gentlemen will be instrumental in shaping the profession of physical therapy in Palestine. In addition to their advanced degrees and skills, they will be returning to Palestine with sizeable collections of academic information,” says Dr. Lohman.
Both men are physical therapy teachers back home in Gaza. They are able to study at Loma Linda through a scholarship from the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which are working together to improve Palestinian access to higher education and training.
In order to realize their goals, both men must sacrifice the familiarity of home, each enduring long separation from wife and children in Palestine. Mr. Hamdan has been studying here for more than a year, while Mr. Nasr has been here for about three months.
“These two visiting scholars have made enormous personal sacrifices to study at LLU,” says Dr. Lohman.
Mr. Nasr is a lecturer at Al-Azhar University/Gaza, the only school in the Gaza Strip to offer a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. At LLU, he will complete a master of physical therapy degree, in particular orthopaedic PT and kinesiology, and begin working on a doctoral degree, which he hopes to come back and finish at a future date.
Mr. Nasr says he anticipates that his LLU studies will improve how he teaches. Additionally, he wants to expand the PT program at Al-Azhar/Gaza.
“We hope that in a few years we can establish a master of physical therapy program at our university,” he says.
Mr. Hamdan teaches physical therapy assistant courses at Gaza Training College, a community college sponsored by the United Nations. Like Mr. Nasr, he believes his graduate work will help him improve PT education back home It will also qualify him to teach at the university level, he says, and to contribute to research activities in Palestine.
“The way the teachers at Loma Linda University deal and communicate with their students, the way they prepare their lessons and their laboratories, will help me to be an effective teacher when I do something similar,” he says.
After returning home later this year, Mr. Hamdan plans to work for about two years before coming back to LLU to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy.
Mr. Hamdan chose LLU because of its international reputation for excellence in teaching the health professions.
“Also, I knew that this University aims to build the man as a whole in the social, spiritual, and physical aspects,” he says. “I found that the atmosphere here is a little bit conservative, and this meets with my faith, with Islam.”
Both Mr. Hamdan and Mr. Nasr would like to establish a cooperative relationship between LLU and their respective schools, drawing on the strength of LLU’s excellent education and reputation. Dr. Lohman has a similar hope.
“All three physical therapy program directors at LLU have willingly agreed to share curricular information that may aid these scholars when they return to educational leadership roles in their country,” Dr. Lohman says. “It is my personal desire to continue to further develop this two-way conduit of shared ideas and information between the universities long after these change agents have returned to Palestine.”
In addition to hoping for a cooperative relationship with LLU, Mr. Nasr has other big plans. He is working with a group of Palestinians to establish the Palestinian Physical Therapy Association, an organization to be modeled on the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Both he and Mr. Hamdan will attend the annual conference in Orlando, Florida, this June of the APTA and hope to establish connections with APTA members.
Additionally, Mr. Nasr is working on a proposal requesting USAID cooperation for the Palestinian Physical Therapy Association.
Mr. Nasr is a trustee of the fledgling Palestinian organization, which is currently struggling to overcome difficulties such as earning recognition from the Palestinian ministry of health, obtaining funding, and equipping itself to begin activities.
Dr. Lohman points out that these gentlemen are not the first scholars from Palestine sponsored by AED and USAID to complete an advanced clinical degree at LLU.
In August 2005, Suad Ghaben completed her master’s of physical therapy degree at Loma Linda University and is now teaching at Al-Azhar University/Gaza. During her studies at LLU she discovered that she had a passion and aptitude for research and statistics and hopes to further develop the research track in Gaza now that she has returned.
“I look forward to continuing to develop strong ties between LLU, AED, and USAID in the future,” says Dr. Lohman.
By Heather Reifsnyder