Chatham University

2007 Benter Initiative for Global Citizenship

The Benter Lymphedema Project

As never before, physical therapists and other health care providers are challenged to provide successful management of chronic, non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Successful management requires effect communication and cultural sensitivity in order to establish patient trust, enhance compliance and aid in motivating patients to make important lifestyle changes. Also, developing cultural competence amongt rehabilitation professionals involves providing students the opportunity to interact with diverse populations both internationally and in the US.

Chatham University’s physical therapy program is unique among US and Canadian programs in developing international service-learning projects funded through the University’s Benter Initiative for Global Citizenship, established in 2006.

The first Benter Initiative for Global Citizenship grant recipient was Mary Jo Geyer, PT, Ph.D., FCCWS, CLT-LANA, assistant professor of physical therapy at Chatham and a wound and lymphedema specialist. Dr. Geyer and five students traveled to Vellore, India from August 26-September 16 to train faculty from Indian physical therapy programs that serve primarily Muslim populations. The Indian physical therapists were trained in multi-modal approaches for treatment of lymphedema, a consequence of the lymphatic filariasis that is endemic to this region. Faculty and students will also treat patients who suffer from lymphatic filariasis (LF), a condition caused by mosquito-borne parasites that commonly results in massively swollen legs.

There are in excess of 120 million people worldwide afflicted with the disease and in 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked LF as the second leading cause of chronic disability worldwide. One third of the people infected with the disease are in India, one third in Africa and the remainder in Southeast Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Dr. Geyer was also successful in linking The Benter Lymphedema Project to the second, morbidity management phase of the World Health Organization’s Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, which has become the largest public health campaign in the history of mankind.

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