Occupational Therapy Community Clinic holds grand reopening

Occupational Therapy students are once again giving the Lewiston-Auburn community free therapy, helping folks perform the physical activities that get them through their day — from climbing into their car, doing their laundry or walking through the grocery store.

On Nov. 17, the USM-LAC Community Clinic hosted a grand re-opening ceremony, ending a pandemic-related closure that happened in March 2020.

Once again, local people including preschoolers and the elderly are receiving care from students, who are not only learning the demanding profession as caregivers but also learning the practical side of running a clinic.

To student Grace Sanborn, who is enrolled in the Master of Occupational Therapy Program, the clinic gives her a broader education than she could learn solely in the classroom.

“It really is just giving us the experience of what it would be like to start our own practice and the background knowledge that goes into being a clinician: such as instituting infection control and measuring the outcomes of their client care,” she said.  “We have to know a bit of everything.”

With oversight from Clinic Coordinator Robina O’Rourke and Assistant Professor Mary Anderson, who helped found the clinic, the students run the clinic through the Occupational Therapy Community Clinic Board. It consists of about a dozen students. Sanborn serves as co-chair.

She credits Anderson and O’Rourke with giving the students direction while allowing them to learn by doing.

“They are helping us along and guiding the way, but it is giving us the time to learn, implement changes and seeing them work in real time,” Sanborn said.

About 50 people attended the reopening celebration held on the Lewiston Campus, which hosts the signature program. The clinic operates free of charge to the community. Clients, who either have no insurance or exhausted their benefits, come to the clinic strictly through referrals from local agencies. 

“We’re working to be a resource to the Lewiston-Auburn community,” said O’Rourke, the clinic coordinator. “Meanwhile, our students are gaining practical real-world experience in both helping people and running a clinic.”