New Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing Fosters Healthy Living on Campus and in the Community

September 19th, 2010 | News

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Gerardo Garay. Photos by Lee Choo

In 2006, Cal State Northridge student Gerardo Garay suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was ejected from a vehicle in a car crash. Garay, who was in the passenger’s seat, was not wearing a seat belt. The driver fell asleep at the wheel, swerved and crashed into a ditch. Garay was thrown out of the vehicle about 60 to 90 feet, hitting his head on the ground. His injury left him unable to walk and speak clearly.

After spending three months in a coma, three additional months in various hospitals and a year in outpatient care, the kinesiology major returned to CSUN. Thanks to the therapy he has received at the Center of Achievement, Brown Center and the Language, Speech and Hearing Center, Garay is now able to walk with a walker and speak clearer.

“I could barely talk before,” Garay said. “I couldn’t really communicate with people because I would slur the words together. The speech therapy helped me talk slower and clearer. It’s still a lot more work, but it’s better because I can communicate with people.”

Kinesiology students John Bundy and Gioella Chaparro assisting Gerardo Garay with his adapted therapeutic exercise program.

Garay is an example of the type of individual the new Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing is serving, said Dianne Philibosian, director of the institute. The institute with the assistance of a variety of centers on and off campus, offers health and wellbeing services to the community within Cal State Northridge’s service region. They refer students, faculty, staff and community members seeking services to the appropriate centers.

“The institute was founded to provide a means for collaboration and cross referrals for our academic practices,” Philibosian said. ”The focus is all about strengthening community and individuals through endeavors that match campus expertise and resources in response to regional needs.”

Founded in spring 2009 after a two-year planning process, the institute identifies and assists with writing grants, leads efforts to partner under identified faculty affinity groups and assists in the development of efficient business processes. The institute serves as a liaison to faculty, staff, students and community members in need of a multitude of therapeutic and community development activities.

“The institute provides support to centers and is the link between university and community,” Philibosian explained. “We match campus resources with community needs that are established by the community itself. The institute links the community to campus in a coherent way.”

Some of the centers involved are: Music Therapy Clinic, the Language, Speech and Hearing Center; The Child and Family Studies Center, Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, The Center of Achievement for Adapted Physical Activity and Therapeutic Exercise, Community and Leadership Enrichment Center through Recreation, Tourism and Play, the Physical Therapy Center for Advanced Clinical Practice and the Teaching, Learning and Counseling Consortium.

Students play an integral role in the institute by participating in research and providing treatment under the close supervision of faculty.

“Each center benefits the community in their own way,” said Janice Woolsey, clinic coordinator of the Language, Speech and Hearing Center. “We all know each other’s patients and what every center can do. We provide referrals for patients. They get exactly the help they need at the time they need it.”

Garay is still receiving rehabilitation services. His goal now is to be able to walk with a cane.

“Once I do that, I’m going to be happy, but I’m not going to give up on walking” he said.

Each center does its own testing and evaluations to determine which treatment would best benefit the individual patient. Discounted rates are available for students, faculty and staff. Assistance for low-income families is offered on a case-by-case basis.

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—Sasha Pisterman

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