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How Phil Sheppard became a lifeline for the epicentre

Every once in a while, we hear of a story concerning one of our alumni that simply blows us away. Such a story came to us in the last week about two-time Queen’s grad, Phil Sheppard.

Following the completion of his Master of Science in Biomechanics, Phil pursued his Master of Science in Physical Therapy, graduating in 2013. While a student in our School of Rehabilitation Therapy (SRT), Phil was President of the Rehabilitation Society, and sat on a number of prominent committees.

After graduation, Phil explored an array of rehabilitation therapy opportunities across Canada and abroad, showcasing the breadth of his abilities and his passion for community-based rehabilitation. This March, Phil reconnected with Queen’s, becoming a clinical instructor for a second-year physiotherapy student.

For the last two months, Phil and the PT student worked on a project organized by “Bringing About Better understanding” which involved two different sites: the International Friendship Children’s Hospital (IFCH), and the Special Education and Rehabilitation Centre (SERC). Both placements were located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

After saying goodbye to his student just over a week ago, Phil decided to continue his Nepalese adventure and headed Northwest of the capital to the remote village of Jhinudanda. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit two days later and Phil watched as the roof he’d been under thirty seconds before caved in; he was merely kilometers from the epicentre.

Shortly after the earthquake, Phil learned that injured villagers from remote areas nearby would be sent to Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara, and he happened to be within reach. When he arrived, Phil realized that the international relief community was largely unaware of the situation in Pokhara and it would be days, if not weeks, before major organizations would appear. He also realized that only two of Pokhara’s three hospitals were set up to provide rehabilitation services, so at the third hospital, he set about assembling a team of medical students and residents and taught them how to provide basic rehabilitation therapy to help move people through the system and free up beds.

Dean On Campus Blog

How Phil Sheppard became a lifeline for the epicentre

Every once in a while, we hear of a story concerning one of our alumni that simply blows us away. Such a story came to us in the last week about two-time Queen’s grad, Phil Sheppard.

Following the completion of his Master of Science in Biomechanics, Phil pursued his Master of Science in Physical Therapy, graduating in 2013. While a student in our School of Rehabilitation Therapy (SRT), Phil was President of the Rehabilitation Society, and sat on a number of prominent committees.

After graduation, Phil explored an array of rehabilitation therapy opportunities across Canada and abroad, showcasing the breadth of his abilities and his passion for community-based rehabilitation. This March, Phil reconnected with Queen’s, becoming a clinical instructor for a second-year physiotherapy student.

For the last two months, Phil and the PT student worked on a project organized by “Bringing About Better understanding” which involved two different sites: the International Friendship Children’s Hospital (IFCH), and the Special Education and Rehabilitation Centre (SERC). Both placements were located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

After saying goodbye to his student just over a week ago, Phil decided to continue his Nepalese adventure and headed Northwest of the capital to the remote village of Jhinudanda. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit two days later and Phil watched as the roof he’d been under thirty seconds before caved in; he was merely kilometers from the epicentre.

Shortly after the earthquake, Phil learned that injured villagers from remote areas nearby would be sent to Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara, and he happened to be within reach. When he arrived, Phil realized that the international relief community was largely unaware of the situation in Pokhara and it would be days, if not weeks, before major organizations would appear. He also realized that only two of Pokhara’s three hospitals were set up to provide rehabilitation services, so at the third hospital, he set about assembling a team of medical students and residents and taught them how to provide basic rehabilitation therapy to help move people through the system and free up beds.

When we caught up with Phil on Friday, he explained that he had been working to complete assessments at each of the hospitals in Pokhara to determine the need and capacity of each. “I’ve relayed the information to the NGOs in Kathmandu and they are arranging to have patients transferred from here to help decrease the burden on the medical system in the capital.” He explained that he has also started to work on “securing long-term rehabilitation that is sustainable in order to decrease disability long-term.” This is the true meaning of community-based rehabilitation.

Mike Landry, who heads the Physical Therapy Division at Duke University, is a long-time friend of Phil’s, as the two both originate from Pembroke and have strong ties to Queen’s. He recently arrived in Kathmandu, and has been mentoring Phil throughout the whole ordeal. He and Phil have been communicating regularly via social media and while Landry had initially planned on making the trip to Pokhara to help him, he soon realized that Phil had a handle on issues from hospital triage to dissemination of crucial data to relief organizations in Kathmandu. “We’re not out of the woods entirely, but Phil has taken Pokhara into phase two, which simply wouldn’t have happened without him,” says Landry. “Nepal is a long way from Pembroke, but Phil is showing us what people are capable of if we just trust in them when they build up the courage to run into the fire.”

The next challenge for Phil will be to attach himself to a major organization in Pokhara, whenever they arrive. “Phil’s doing this on a volunteer basis, we need health system support and he’s challenged up there alone. We are anticipating there will soon be food and water insecurity, so he can’t be in Pokhara by himself much longer. This is not a secure environment at the best of times.”

Yet Landry explains there are many major relief organizations in Kathmandu that are relying on daily information updates from Phil. “Part of me wants to bring him down here to Kathmandu, but we know that we’d lose that connection to Pokhara.” It’s a tough call for the two of them to make, knowing that he is a crucial lifeline between the two cities.

Despite his incredible humanitarian efforts, our faculty members here at Queen’s don’t seem to be all that shocked by the news. “Phil Sheppard was a strong student leader during his time in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.  During his tenure as the President of the Rehabilitation Therapy Society, he worked to engage students, collaborate with faculty, and build a strong student council, “ says Marcia Finlayson, Director of the SRT,  “I am not at all surprised at his active engagement in the relief efforts in Nepal.  His actions are consistent with everything we know about him and his passion for international work.”

Alice Aiken, head of Physical Therapy here at Queen’s adds, “Phil was one of our amazing, committed, forward-thinking graduates, who always had international work on his mind. He has been a huge contributor to the profession and an amazing ambassador for Queen’s. He will absolutely make his mark in international health. We loved him when he was here and we still do.”

You can follow Phil’s incredible story via Twitter, and his blog, GlobalPT.net, and if you would like to send Phil a message of support, please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll ensure they get to him in Nepal.

Richard

I would like to thank Emma Woodman for her assistance in the preparation of this blog.

 

David Walker

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:17

I do hope this story gets wider media and public attention – it is a great testament to the values of this place and its graduates

David Walker

Margo Rivera

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:18

It sounds as if Phil is bringing the gifts of competence, confidence, and compassion to many vulnerable people in great need. Our thoughts are with you, Phil!

Margo Rivera

Bev Zadow

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:19

Phil, you are a true testament to the type of people who live in Renfrew County! Thank you! Stay safe and we look forward to your ongoing inspiration!

Bev Zadow

Dawn Siegel

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:20

Hi Phil, As a fellow Queen’s Physio grad who also hails from Pembroke, I enjoyed reading about your work in Nepal. So proud of your efforts and ingenuity. Keep up the good work!

Dawn Siegel

Lynne Sinclair, PT Queen's Grad 91

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:20

Dear Richard and Phil,
Thanks for your sharing this story and focus on the rehab needs in Nepal. Over the next few months, the rehab needs will skyrocket and it has been heartening to see Phil’s response and positioning to make a difference. With gratitude.

Lynne Sinclair, PT Queen's Grad 91

Thanks Lynn,

Your kind words are much appreciated. We all agree that we should recognize and trumpet Phil’s accomplishments.

Richard

reznickr

rhona burslem

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:21

wonderful work…Nepal and it’s people have a place in my heart…..sending thoughts and prayers for all of you who can help.

rhona burslem

Paula Troutman

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:22

Phil the Valley is so proud of you!…. It is in giving that we receive and your heart must feel great in sharing all your gifts. You are making your mark in the world and making it a better place to live. You had great examples set before you. Your parents must be delighted with your kindness. Keep up the great work. If we do the little things well, the BIG things will follow. Sending lots of luv from the Troutmans.

Paula Troutman

ThePurdy Fam

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:23

More Ottawa Valley love coming your way! You are an inspiration to all of us! So glad you are safe! Keep up the good work! The Purdy Fam

ThePurdy Fam

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