Five years ago, the University of Guyana (UG) Faculty of Health Sciences introduced the Medical Rehabilitation Sciences Degree Programme.
At the time of its introduction, the programme had only mustered four students and was under serious threat of being dissolved. However, the programme is now 55 students strong. These students have decided to take things beyond their studies by creating a non-profit organisation known as the University of Guyana Medical Rehabilitation Students’ Association (UGMRSA).
The new organisation was recently launched and aims at providing philanthropic and specialised services within the field of Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy. These fields are also currently offered as degrees at the University of Guyana with Audiology recently being added under the Speech and Language Therapy degree, which is an internationally accredited degree programme.
“In Guyana, we are subjected to ill-advised approaches to injury and disability, where loss of minimal function can render a person marginalised and socially weak. Despite the efforts of our rehab professionals, many persons do not reach their optimal functioning potential,” the new body said.
UGMRSA further noted that each time an athlete engages in sport, he or she is at risk.
“When we look around at our promising athletes, at our national teams, we often find that there is no one there to safeguard them or to render assistance if any injury occurs.”
The body further said that its goal is not simply to provide rehabilitation services to Guyanese athletes but to also educate the entire nation – but particularly those with disabilities – about proper rehabilitation, injury prevention, and the effect of exercise among other activities within the scope of rehabilitation to maintain a healthy society.
Vice-President of UGMRSA, Neil Barry, further expanded that there is a need for greater emphasis on these fields in Guyana. Barry is a final year UG student studying in the area of Physiotherapy. He added that despite the need for rehabilitation experts in Guyana, the country only has one certified speech therapist in Guyana. That individual received training in Cuba.
“We are hoping to take these fields into our communities so that we can better serve our people,” Barry said.
He added that the UGMRSA is made up of all 55 students under the UG Rehabilitation Sciences Degree Programme. They all aspire to make meaningful contributions to Guyana. He said that currently the body is aiming towards launching community programmes out of each degree programme each semester.
Barry said that the biggest challenge will come in the areas of Speech Therapy – which is training to help persons with speech and language problems to speak more clearly – and Occupational Therapy – training aimed at engagement in every living as an aid to recovery from physical injuries or other barriers.
“These aren’t only medical procedures but living ones as well. Not many people are aware of Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy so sensitisation in these areas is high on our agenda,” Barry said.
He continued, “We were dreaming about this [the organisation] for quite some time now. We spent time in the clinic and community-based rehabilitation and we realised that there is a need for our services and standards in Guyana to be taken to a global level.”
He added that with a growing number of persons indicating their interest in becoming educated in the fields, it was a unique opportunity to take the services to the public. He said too that UGMRSA is interested in taking the services outside of the centrally located Georgetown and into other areas of the country where they can reach a wide cross-section of people, particularly parents of children with disabilities.
“There are probably a lot of parents out there who don’t realise that their children have speech impediments and need therapy. We want people to know that these services are out there and are easily accessible,” he said.
Barry said that UGMRSA is looking towards fostering a relationship with the media, particularly the print media. He stressed that the media presented the perfect forum to provide pertinent information on rehabilitation.
UGMRSA’s aim is to educate the public about topics pertinent to Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy; educate members of the population on home care remedies; and educate coaches and athletes on modern athletic care.
“By assisting us in helping to share our message, readers, both locally and internationally, can benefit from easy access to current evidence-based knowledge that can be useful in everyday life,” UGMRSA said. “The opportunity also exists to help desensitise readers to many aspects of disability, and to discuss useful, practical solutions to making society more inclusive of such persons.”
UGMRSA also believes that its presence in the media would also impact more youths to pursue careers in rehabilitation, “which can then be taken back into their own communities.”
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