The Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), a student-led organization that provides health services at no cost to local uninsured and underinsured populations, has selected its incoming cohort of student leaders from the Division of Physical Therapy. SHAC creates a unique interdisciplinary service-learning environment for students across health science programs at UNC-Chapel Hill. To achieve its mission, SHAC partners with communities to develop and implement sustainable programs to improve access to health care for those who need it.

Sam Ward
Sam Ward
Hannah Zimmer
Hannah Zimmer

Second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student Matt Chaus recently transitioned out of his role as physical therapy representative. Chaus said that SHAC taught him about interdisiplinary health care and to manage goals and expectations when working together on patient-centered clinical care. “It has really shaped me from a communication standpoint,” Chaus said. “I believe SHAC does a fantastic job working with patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds and how to best acknowledge these when working toward treatment goals.”

Student work at SHAC is supervised by licensed physical therapists, including faculty from the Division of Physical Therapy, one of seven health science programs in the Department of Allied Health Sciences.

First-year Doctor of Physical Therapy students Hannah Zimmer and Sam Ward are both looking forward to sharing knowledge with fellow classmates and joining a decades-long line of other health care providers who have volunteered at SHAC.

“I believe service to others and the community is an integral part of education and professional work,” Zimmer said. “‘I believe a woman who serves is a woman who leads,’ is a motto I try to abide by in my personal and professional life, and taking an active and consistent role in SHAC is the perfect opportunity to serve and lead within the realm of physical therapy.”

Ward will serve as SHAC’s physical therapy clinic manager. “It will allow me to dive headfirst into working directly with patients who may benefit greatly from physical therapy,” Ward said. “It will also give me the opportunity to collaborate with a number of other health care professionals.”

Ward said he benefits most when finding opportunities to learn from others in an interprofessional environment. “Whether at SHAC or any other clinic or hospital in the world, well-rounded patient care suffers when health care providers do not take an interdisciplinary view. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that benefits everyone equally, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn what others might be able to do for a patient,” Ward said.

Ward said SHAC is a perfect embodiment of the University’s commitment to serve underserved populations across North Carolina.

“Good and affordable health care starts at the local level,” Ward said. “I wholeheartedly look forward to providing high-quality care for as many people as possible.”