Skip to main content.

JaySTART Clinic expands to better serve community members and provide more hands-on learning opportunities for students

Students in KU School of Health Professions practice what they are learning in the classroom by providing Kansas City-area patients with free physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Two physical therapy students observe a patient with a walker
Mailee Payne, occupational therapy education student (left), and Tarah Phongsavath, physical therapy student (center), help patient Marilyn Dugan (right) with mobility.

The JaySTART Clinic at the University of Kansas Medical Center is expanding to provide more learning opportunities for students and to serve more community members who need physical therapy and occupational therapy.

To students in KU School of Health Professions, the JaySTART (an acronym for Student Teaching And Rehabilitation Training) Clinic provides an opportunity to practice what they’re learning in the classroom. For community members, the JaySTART Clinic is a source for the therapy they need but may be unable to receive anywhere else.

“Everything that we’ve been learning in class we can put into practice for a patient,” said Christine Cunningham, a Doctor of Physical Therapy student and student administrator for the JaySTART Clinic. “It’s a really well-run pro bono clinic where students have autonomy but still have professors there to help if needed.”

Aidan Lewis, also a Doctor of Physical Therapy student, said he appreciated the immediacy with which he could apply his knowledge. “You learn about something in class, and you put that to use on real people in a real clinic that same week, or the next week,” he said.

Expanding with telehealth

From 2018 to 2020, the JaySTART Clinic met once a week in the Kirmayer Fitness Center on the Kansas City, Kansas, campus. In 2020, faculty interested in continuing JaySTART appointments through the pandemic worked with the medical center’s information technology department to quickly switch JaySTART to telehealth visits.

When the JaySTART Clinic began taking in-person appointments again in 2022, the telehealth visits remained an option not just because of their convenience for community members but also because of the expanded role of telehealth now plays in health care.

“We recognized the value of continuing to provide our students with the skill set of working in a telehealth environment as well as in person,” said Stacia Troshynski Brown, DPT, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science and Athletic Training.

Because of telehealth, JaySTART can accommodate therapy appointments for another six people a week and add a 10% increase to their 50-60 unique patients each month.

“The telehealth visits that are now part of JaySTART provide a valuable training opportunity for our students,” said Patricia Kluding, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science and Athletic Training. “After they graduate, they are entering a world where telehealth therapy services are more common, especially to reach people in rural regions.  This experience prepares them to be future leaders.”

Rob Cook has been participating in therapy with the students of JaySTART through telehealth appointments. His wife Diane appreciates the expanded access. “The program is well-designed and dependable,” she said. “These services fulfill a need for housebound people who want to keep up on their rehab or who need an extra push to exercise at home. (At another clinic) we would need to use energy and time to get in the car and travel, but with JaySTART, he can remain at home and focus on therapy.”

Creating opportunities for collaboration

Only a decade ago, all pro bono therapy services at KU Medical Center were part of the JayDoc Free Clinic, which is staffed by students and physicians in KU School of Medicine two evenings a week. Before JaySTART, students studying occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy and rehabilitation science volunteered once a month alongside medical students at the JayDoc Clinic to provide health services to the underserved population of the metro area.

Student talks to patient in the JaySTART clinic
Phongsavath counsels Dugan on how to best deal with
grasping issues in Dugan’s right hand. Photos by
Selena Jabara, KU Medical Center Photo Services

When a learning lab officially became part of the curriculum for therapy programs, the pro bono services offered by students in the KU School of Health Professions were moved to one afternoon a week under the new name of the JaySTART Clinic. With the move came more autonomy but fewer opportunities for collaboration with KU School of Medicine.

The expanded version of the JaySTART Clinic may include partnerships with medicine and KU School of Nursing as well as other university and community partners

“We want students to be able to reflect on what it’s like to work in an interprofessional team,” Troshynski Brown said.

Seeking more input from alumni and the community

An alumni advisory board and a community advisory board were recently created to help with expansion efforts and provide direction for the future of the JaySTART Clinic. “We don’t want to have the sole vision of what moving forward looks like. We want a partnership with these boards to provide additional areas of expansion and where we should commit further resources,” Troshynski Brown said.

She said the faculty team that oversees the JaySTART Clinic has been meeting with a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing care for homeless, uninsured and underinsured people in the Kansas City region. “We’ve been talking to them about how we could better expand our reach in providing therapy services for people experiencing homelessness,” she said.

“We feel confident that we have a curriculum set up that really supports students in their learning,” she continued. “Now we’d like to have a larger impact on the community we serve.”

Media Inquiries


News and Media Relations