New York Medical College

Community Connection Race for rehab

D.P.T. students host most successfual Race for Rehab to date

Around New York City Marathon time in November, their stories are legendary: a 75-year-old nun who competes with the aid of a hand-crank wheelchair, a 55-year-old blind woman who runs tethered to a partner, returning Iraq war veterans with debilitating injuries, a 58-year-old heart transplant recipient—all are people with disabilities who participate in the world’s largest international marathon with support of the Achilles Track Club (ATC). Their efforts might well be described as heroic.

Dick Traum, Ph.D., the first amputee to run the New York City Marathon in 1976, founded the Achilles Track Club in 1983. The ATC offers training, eye surgery for blind runners, below the knee prostheses, and sports wheelchairs for its members and encourages people with disabilities such as visual impairment, effects of stroke, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, arthritis, amputation, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, cancer or traumatic head injury to be able to participate in long-distance running.

Physical therapy students in the School of Public Health believe it is an integral part of their career path to support athletes of all abilities to participate in athletic events—and so they have worked since 1999 to do just that. The Race for Rehab at New York Medical College grew out of the notion that a disability does not have to be a handicap. On October 14, for the ninth consecutive year, physical therapy students coordinated the Race for Rehab on the Valhalla campus. The event serves a dual purpose: to provide disabled and non-disabled athletes an opportunity to compete together and to raise money in support of the ATC’s continued efforts. This year, the Race for Rehab allowed the students to donate $8,000 to the ATC, for a total of $39,000 since 1999.

For this year’s race, the competitors numbered about 145, with 20 traveling from the New York City ATC to race the certified 5K and 10K routes around campus. In comparison, of about 39,000 runners in the November 4 New York City Marathon, about 350 were ATC members.

“It was so great to see our whole class come together for this, and to show what we are all about,” said Meghan Robinson, a second-year physical therapy student and co-coordinator of the event. “When we were at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, as part of our course experience in neurological physical therapy, four different patients with spinal cord injury talked to us about their lives since their injuries and showed us their mobility. We invited them to the race, and one of them did end up coming. It made it so personal for all of us.”

Ms. Robinson, who coordinated the event with Jeffrey Calso, a fellow second-year physical therapy student, said one College student brought her brother, who had undergone a leg amputation, to walk the race at Valhalla. While he was there, he met Dick Traum. “It was so exciting to see those kinds of connections being made,” she said. “As much as possible, we’d like people with disabilities to get their lives back. Because we haven’t been in the P.T. field for long, the race and the meetings with the club members really opened our eyes to the possibilities that exist out there for people with disabilities.”

Anthony M. Sozzo, M.A., M.S.Ed., associate dean for student affairs and director of student activities and student financial planning advises the students in their efforts along with Janet Dolot, P.T., D.P.T., assistant professor of clinical physical therapy and director of clinical education in the Department of Physical Therapy.

“Race for Rehab is just a wonderful project to benefit athletes with disabilities who wouldn’t be able to compete without the support,” said Dr. Dolot. “Our students put out a huge effort to do this, and preparation goes on for months. The race is always scheduled during National Physical Therapy Month, which I think is extremely fitting.”