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Community Engagement and Clinical Services

Engagement and Outreach in the Western North Carolina Community


Western Carolina University is designated as a Carnegie Foundation Community-Engaged Institution for its many service-learning opportunities available to students. WCU DPT students are involved in this mission through service oriented doctoral projects, our student-run pro bono clinic, and even international service opportunities. These initiatives allow students to:

  • Engage in meaningful community-based service
  • Apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom
  • Glean experience needed to use our skill set as physical therapists to practice altruism long after graduation

Discover more about service learning at WCU 

Community & Regional Clinics

Mountain Area Pro Bono Health Services: Our mission is to provide effective, pro bono physical therapy and social work services to the under-served and under-insured population of western North Carolina regardless of socioeconomics or health status. We strive to improve quality of life, health, and function of our clients while serving the community and fostering student education. This clinic provides students an opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge and serves the community. 


Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic: Western Carolina University provides inter-professional team-based evaluation, treatment, and consultation services for individuals who have fallen or are at risk for falling. Our team, consisting of a physical therapist, an audiologist, and a nurse practitioner, provides integrated care at one location to help identify risk factors and other contributing factors associated with balance disorders. 


Current Student Service Learning and Research Projects

WCU Dance Team


Core Stability: 
Students study the effectiveness of a core strengthening program for members of Western Carolina University's Dance Team on specific performance parameters. Students learn exercise regimes to fatigue core musculature and study gait stability when wearing a loaded backpack.

PT/PTA Education: 
Students lead anatomy and clinical skills sessions for physical therapist assistant (PTA) students at neighboring Southwestern Community College.

Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Health:
Students work to better address musculoskeletal health issues and community health promotion practices in migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in collaboration with Vecinos Farmworker Health Program and other state and national farmworker health agencies. WCU EARNS NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR ENGAGEMENT EFFORTS IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES.

Balance Exercise Program for Older Adults:
Students partner with aging and public health staff to deliver and assess a community balance exercise program.

Training Sitting in Balance in Individuals with Stroke:
Students partner with area clinicians to study the effects of different instructions on sitting balance performance and learning.

Student Health Promotion Projects

Adaptive climbing


Adaptive climbing:
Providing greater access to recreational and therapeutic adaptive rock climbing and yoga in populations with physical disabilities in western North Carolina.

Parkinson’s Disease Exercise Program:
Empowering individuals with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers by providing safe environments for exercise.

Health and Wellness at WCU:
Promoting health and wellness at WCU in partnership with W.H.E.E. for Life to enhance musculoskeletal health in WCU employees and with club and recreational student athletes to reduce sport-related injury risks.

Exercise after Cancer:
Delivering evidence-based education on the benefits of exercise for cancer survivors in partnership with regional healthcare organizations.

International outreach



Each year our faculty take a group of students to Honduras to provide pro bono physical therapy services.  The citizens of Honduras rarely have access to any type of health care outside of our services.

"Honduras was so much more than my expectations could have fathomed.  It was an experience of sharing between individuals, stepping outside comfort zones, and building relationships that will last for years to come. The appreciation and gratitude that followed our days in the clinic were more rewarding that any physical possession we could have received.  Even in my broken Spanish, my mind could not conceive the stories I was hearing.  I will take this experience with me always." - Joey Marion

"…because of this trip, I am more mindful, more appreciative of what I have, and I have a whole new perspective. I can honestly say that this trip will stick with me for the rest of my life, as well as memories of the people I met, the strengthened friendships, and the beauty of the mountains of Taulabe." - Catlin Lemmle

"Did I like this trip? Was I impacted? Would I ever do it again? The answer to all of these is most definitely yes! … it was an incredible, moving, and humbling experience." - April Tatum

Learn more. Visit the course page.

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