Physical Therapy Students Host Clinic on Appalachian Trail
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Physical Therapy Students Host Clinic

April 19, 2022

DPT students and faculty pose at an Appalachian Trail Injury and Prevention ClinicAs temperatures begin to climb, springtime in North Georgia traditionally features the colorful blooms of wildflowers, in addition to northbound thru-hikers. These hardy adventurers begin their journey through the state’s deciduous forests at Springer Mountain, the beginning of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail (AT).

This year, on April 9 about 40 miles up the trail at Mountains Crossing in Blairsville, PCOM Georgia’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students provided a little trail magic by hosting an Appalachian Trail Injury and Prevention Clinic.

Under the supervision of PCOM Georgia DPT faculty members, students evaluated hikers’ injuries, providing musculoskeletal soft-tissue work and education as needed to the determined trekkers.

Brenau University faculty member Greg Patterson, PT, DPT, spearheaded the collaborative effort in which Doctor of Physical Therapy students from the University of North Georgia and Brenau University served as hosts on earlier dates. In addition, East Tennessee State University’s DPT program further up the trail will offer similar clinics to hikers as they pass through this area on the AT.

PCOM Georgia Doctor of Physical Therapy faculty members Jeanne Welch, PT, DPT, Teresa Pierce, PT, DPT, and Elizabeth Chaffin, PT, DPT, ATC, supervised the students, along with Dr. Patterson.

Student volunteer Jennifer Huh (DPT ’23) described the experience. She said, “We saw many hikers for massage, foot care, ankle sprains and low back pain. Students had a chance to briefly assess the hikers, provide massages, make recommendations for blister/wound care, educate the hikers on proper shoe wear and teach stretching techniques.” In addition, she said, “We assessed and provided general wellness and prevention tips.”

Austin Pack (DPT ’23) said, “I think that it was a great experience. It gave us an opportunity to evaluate and treat hikers/patients who came through. With us all being together, it allowed for the students to work alongside one another to use critical thinking and application skills that we have learned thus far.”

Pack said he enjoyed “giving back” with his fellow students. He added, “Working in an atypical environment gave the experience even more meaning and diversity, especially for those of us who love to be in nature. Opportunities outside of the classroom to be hands on with real people who have movement dysfunctions is one of the best ways to learn in this profession. I'm certain each of my classmates would agree.”

According to Huh, some students decided to “feel more of the hiker experience” by spending the night at camping locations close to the AT. They had a variety of options for camping including tent and camper sites at Vogel State Park, backpack camping and even glamping in cabins. Since parking was limited and gas was expensive, students and faculty members joined forces and carpooled to the northern border of the state, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science, and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. For more information, visit or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit

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    Office: 678-225-7532 | Cell: 770-309-0613

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