Disabilities Awareness Month includes volunteer service

For DMU podiatric student Billy Rutter, D.P.M.’16, the path to becoming a compassionate health professional means volunteering his time toward organizing “Disabilities Awareness Month,” a collective effort that brought speakers, nonprofit community partners and people with disabilities to campus to share knowledge and resources this April.


“I believe that it is important as students to take every opportunity we can to improve our clinical skills and to use our education and talents to improve the lives of others,” Rutter says. “Medicine is a team sport so it was only natural to want to involve my classmates in this month of awareness and service to the community.”

Rutter was instrumental in bringing the Easter Seals Health & Wellness Fair to campus as part of the Disabilities Awareness Month. More than 100 children and adults with disabilities attended and took advantage of the opportunity to seek health screenings from DMU student volunteers under faculty supervision.

“The disabilities health fair was an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to recognize and adapt to some unique challenges that physicians and patients with disabilities face in practice,” Rutter says. “It was also interesting to see some pathology that I won’t likely see again until residency. Most importantly, the relationships that I’ve developed with some of these individuals are really rewarding and it makes all of the hard work and time out from studying worth it. A young lady recognized me from a Special Olympics event where I volunteered to do foot screenings for the Summer Games a year ago. She insisted on having me do her foot exam and waited patiently for nearly half an hour just to see me. It made my day.”

EasterSealsFair1Foot screenings, made possible with the help of an American Podiatric Medical Student Association Corporate Advisory Board (APMSA CAB) Service Grant, were one of the most popular activities.

“On their way out after the fair, several individuals told me about the shoe inserts they were given; they were very, very excited about them and about the screenings in general,” says Meghan Klier, Easter Seals Iowa Assistant Director Case Management & Service Coordination.

According to Easter Seals of Iowa, individuals with disabilities and mental health needs tend, on average, to report lower levels of life satisfaction, experience higher levels of health complications, and experience earlier mortality than those without disabilities or mental health needs. The screenings DMU offered as part of the Health & Wellness Fair helped provide a needy population with accessible and compassionate services. Easter Seals hopes this collaboration helped expand the notion of what “health and wellness” looks like to clients and providers alike.

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