Monday Memo 10/28/2019

The Monday Memo

October 28, 2019                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS


The OCA Clinic

As PT students, it is imperative to volunteer at as many opportunities as possible. These volunteer opportunities should spark an interest in you that goes beyond the scope of physical therapy, and should resonate with you as a person as well as a clinician. The OCA clinic served this purpose for me. For those of you who are unfamiliar (as I was), OCA stands for Organization of Chinese Americans which represents the local Asian American population within the Pittsburgh area. For a few decades now, the organization and the 2nd year medical students at the University of Pittsburgh host a pop up clinic every October where uninsured Asian Americans can obtain essentially “free” healthcare from medical students, dental students, and licensed physicians within the organization. These can serve as general checkups, blood tests, dental cleanings, or alleviating general musculoskeletal pain that so many individuals in this population are affected by.


By doing this, it serves as a learning experience for student clinicians as well as help an underserved population. This year’s OCA clinic was held on October 14th in UPMC Montefiore. This was the first year that the physical therapy department was able to offer our services, and a few of 2nd years, including myself, were able to help out.

I wanted to use this opportunity to accomplish a few things

  • Help uninsured individuals get better in a fun and interactive way
  • Advocate for the PT profession and our capabilities to other healthcare disciplines and to the Asian American population
  • Problem solve in a chaotic environment with little equipment and little room for exercise.
  • Practice my Mandarin
  • Eat some authentic Chinese food for free (I miss my mom’s cooking)


When we first arrived, I was initially intimidated by the number of white coats and unfamiliar faces. We had two students from China assigned to us as translators for communication purposes and they explained to us how PT was a new concept to them because it does not exist in China. The event initially started slow, but many individuals were eventually triaged to us to help with musculoskeletal pain. I do not recall any specific orthopedic doctors or students on staff, so we essentially served as the primary clinician for the patients with musculoskeletal concerns. Sessions were around 20 minutes in length and included a brief subjective history, a few manual techniques and demonstrating a few exercises to do at home. Our patients were genuinely thankful for our input, time, and expertise regarding their treatment and treated us with the same respect that they treated the medical students with. The medical students were thankful for our services and gained a firmer grasp for what it is that our profession does. After all, pain free movement is a language that everyBODY speaks.


In the end, our little PT gym saw 19 patients, with the OCA clinic as a whole gaining the attraction of 69 people within a span of 3 hours. 69 people who would not have received care if not for this clinic. In the future, we hope to maintain our connection with Pitt’s medical students in order for us to come back next year with a new slew of volunteers. Since this was the first year that the PT department was involved, it was primarily reserved for PT students with Asian backgrounds. But moving forward, we encourage other SPT’s who are interested to reach out in hopes to have a diverse PT student representation at future events.


-Sam Yip, SPT

**Pictured (L to R): 2nd year SPT’s Erin Dong, Jason Yang, Sam Yip, and Deborah Lee