Service/Experiential Learning

Columbia Physical Therapy Service Learning: Columbia Cares

Service Learning in Guatemala

Volunteers pose during their work in Guatemala.

Under the auspices of faculty members Drs. Martha Sliwinski and Lisa Yoon,  and in coordination with the nonprofit organization  Sharing the Dream, students gain international experience in a country with underserved communities in need of a broad range of health-care services and education. Students have the opportunity to apply previously learned knowledge and skills as they apply to the needs assessed in the community for pro bono services. Health risks related to prevention will be assessed and physical therapy services applicable to the needs will be designed and implemented. There are opportunities for collaboration with other nonprofit organizations that work closely with Sharing the Dream. Students are responsible for the cost of the trip and run various fund-raising activities throughout the year to help subsidize the expense. For more information, see the  DPT Program Bulletin.


Columbia University Doctor of Physical Therapy Community Action Network (PT-CAN)

PT-CAN is a student-run organization for service within the PT program. Through PT-CAN, students can volunteer, join committees, advocate for the profession, and create new outreach opportunities. Through PT-CAN, students can participate in the following service opportunities:

Lang Youth Medical Program

Lang Youth Medical Program volunteers in white coats.

The Lang Youth Medical Program recruits, interviews, and accepts 12-15 local sixth graders each year. During the 6-year stretch from 7th through 12th grade, these students study anatomy, disease pathology, prevention, and community and public health. They also participate in field trip activities and complete annual year-end projects. DPT students participate in the Lang Mentoring program by working one-one with the 12th-grade students on the cumulative Lang Student Expo project. This project includes an oral presentation and poster reflecting on their 6 years in Lang and their future career interests. As mentors, the DPT students help their mentees formulate their projects, practice public speaking and make plans for college. Duration: Four to five one-hour Saturday sessions in the spring semester.


Columbia Student Medical Outreach (CoSMO)

Students pose outside the COSMO clinic.

CoSMO is a pro bono, interdisciplinary clinic run by CUIMC students from nursing, medicine, physical therapy, social work, and public health who provide healthcare services to the local underserved community in Washington Heights, NYC. Students at CoSMO work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist providing physical therapy services to uninsured individuals who may not have regular access to health care. Columbia DPT students learn to evaluate and treat patients at CoSMO through mentorship from peers and licensed physical therapists. Visits occur 2 times per month on Thursdays or Saturdays during the school year.



Lion KEEN is a partnership between Columbia PT and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) New York. It is a student-led wellness and empowerment organization for children and teens with disabilities. Its purpose is to provide a judgment-free haven for youths aged 5-21 to socialize, engage in physical activity, and develop self-confidence while interacting with peers. It also unites the NYC community by gathering volunteers from New York Cares and provides year-round service to the families that enroll through KEEN New York. Various seasonal programs—such as sports, arts and crafts, teen basketball, and youth baseball are held once a week. The program is free for all attendees and they welcome donations of games and equipment.

Anatomy Academy

Anatomy Academy is a CUDPT student-run outreach program aimed at combating childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifestyle choices while inspiring children to pursue higher education. Fifth graders in the Washington Heights community learn principles of anatomy, physiology, and nutrition through small group mentoring and hands-on learning activities. The curriculum is taught through one-hour sessions once a week for 6 weeks at a local public school typically during the fall semester. for more information, please contact Kynaston Schultz.

Spinal Cord Injury: Spinal Mobility

A physical therapy student works with a client.

The Spinal Mobility program, located in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, is designed as a means of exercise for people with spinal cord injuries. Physical therapy students who volunteer with the AXIS Project have the opportunity to:

Receive training specific to a population with spinal cord injury

Provide exercise training to people with spinal cord injury in an accessible setting

Work with other volunteers and medical professionals outside the Columbia University  community

Practice skills learned in the classroom in a real-world setting under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist