Interview with Dr. Justin Dunaway, DPT… Part 2

Last week we learned the backstory of Dr. Justin Dunaway DPT, OCS, Cert. SMT, Cert. DN, as well as the importance of Physical Therapy advocacy and Professional humility. Now let’s do a deep-dive into his latest & greatest venture: STAND – The Haiti Project. I highly encourage you to learn more about & donate to STAND Haiti, click here for more info. When he’s not busy improving the lives of Haitians, he plays his role as a staff Physical Therapist at One Accord Physical Therapy, and an Executive Board Member of the Arizona Physical Therapy Association

Just like Part 1, this final part will make you want to bigger & better! Enjoy!


Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

For me, this question is easy. I’d love nothing more than to travel back in time to dine with Galen of Pargamon, one of our forefathers in medicine. I believe we have grown so far from the original roots of medicine and medical philosophy and I would like to converse with this genius one on one, over a nice plate of chicken parm.

In this day and age, I see gross medical mismanagement, unnecessary surgeries, over medication, and unnecessary labs and imaging. This country boasts the highest healthcare costs, the second highest rate of chronic pain, and the highest rate of depression in the world.

I often find myself conjuring a quote from Galen that I feel everyone in the profession should take the time to consider.

“ Disease is an unnatural state of the body which impairs functions. The nature does its best to restore unnatural states to their healthy condition. The function of the Physician is to cooperate with her. When a patient is suffering from a disease, nature is struggling to overcome the pathogenic agents and if she is plainly succeeding the Physician should do nothing. If however, she is getting the worst of the struggle, he must come to her aid by doing what she would do if she could. The Physician must preserve what is according to nature, eliminating what is not”

While much has changed in the last 1,850 years… there are definitely parts of that quote and his philosophy that remain true, parts that we have forgotten or turned our backs on.

Love it! Now, tell us about Phoenix Rising For Haiti, as well as your role with this organization.

Once I finished PT school and had received my first real paycheck, I began looking for ways to give back. My circumstances have always been lucky and felt it was my turn to return the world its favor. However, as a new grad, no volunteer organization would take me: not enough experience, too little time, etc. But lady luck was apparently looking over my shoulder and swung me into an impromptu group of seven preparing to travel to Haiti to build prosthetics.

I had never worked with an amputee in my life. I had never been anywhere but Ohio and Arizona and I had no details on the trip… but I was in!

The original team entailed seven strangers, from varying professions and skill sets. Our original mission was to build legs for amputees and teach them to walk, but at the end of three treatment days, we had treated 60+ orthopedic injuries and built legs for 14 amputees (all of which walked without assistive devices by the end of the trip).

In those three days, I learned that with a completely different population, just about every rule about PT I  had learned was completely different. What is needed is the ability to think outside of the box, let go of the dogma instilled in you, and give the patient in front of you what THEY need, not what WE BELIEVE they need. I also learned that I’ve never loved anything that I have ever been involved with, the way I loved this work in Haiti.

After the first trip, we realized that there was a huge need and we could do so much more. Phoenix Rising for Haiti was formed. Over the next five years we went from trips that entailed three days, seven volunteers, and sixty patients to forteen days, teams of 15-20 volunteers, and 1000+ patients treated. I functioned as vice president, recruiter, and clinical director for the organization over my five years with PRH and resigned from this organization at the end of 2014 after my 10th trip.

There’s a new project you’re involved with: STAND – The Haiti Project. What is it about? And, how can Physical Therapists participate?

Sustainable Therapy And New Development was founded at the end of 2014 after my resignation from PRH. While PRH has done, and will continue to do amazing work, I really saw a need to move in a different direction. My dream has always been to create an education system in Haiti, train Haitians to be independent orthopedic clinicians, and hire them to staff clinics that we create locally.

With this in mind, STAND was formed by myself, Dr. Morgan Denny DPT, Luke Slipski MPH, and Janet Lamoree PTA. This new team brings in a variety of experiences and talents that will benefit the building and implementation of STAND on many fronts. This dream team can tout experience in building non-profit organizations, sustainable living education throughout the US, and public health projects in India. Additionally, our board holds extensive experience in amputee rehabilitation, experience in lecturing and course development, and knowledge of the previous successes and pitfalls from five years of work in Haiti.

STAND’s mission is to establish permanent access to orthopedic rehabilitative services in the country of Haiti through direct patient care and clinical training of its citizens.

We are incredibly excited about this new project and the new board is working diligently on fund-raising, “friend-raising”, organizational development, educational development, and solidifying our amazing network of volunteers in Haiti and internationally. We have partnered with with several small PT clinics and are working with the Physical Therapy Department at Youngstown State University to build a new curriculum specific to and appropriate for Haiti. We are firing on all fronts and plan to have STAND’s first volunteer treatment trip to Haiti in the fall of 2015.

At this phase of the game, people (not only PTs) can help in many ways. We will be looking to build a team of medical professionals from multiple backgrounds; PTs, prosthetists, orthotists, nurses, ATCs, LAcs, and non medical staff will all be considered for volunteers on our trips to Haiti. If you have the ability to evaluate and treat an orthopedic patient with little to no equipment, we want you! We treat general ortho, neuro, pediatrics, woundcare, fracture, first aid, and many other things you have never seen, and will never see again in your career.

We also need financial supporters. STAND currently needs donations in order to lease our new clinical/educational space, build the equipment needed in the clinic, and to create and outfit our new prosthetics lab. Much of this equipment (tables, tools, generators) can be found, purchased, and built in Haiti, allowing donations to feed directly back into the Haitian economy and its skilled workers. Donations of any size can be made on our website (STANDHaitiProject.org), with the option for a one time donation or reccuring monthly donation. If your business or the company you work for is interested in supporting STAND, we offer multiple packages and donation levels that can benefit both STAND and your business’ marketing goals!

To volunteer for future trips, recieve our newsletter, find out more about the organization, or to donate your much needed financial support, please check out our new website www.StandHaitiProject.org or email me at JDunaway@stand4haiti.org.

Life is an adventure. Tell us about one of your most memorable adventures.

Aside from Haiti, my life hasn’t been very adventurous. But work and travel in through any developing country, such as Haiti, will yield many an interesting story. So I will tell you about one of my most memorable experiences in Haiti. The things that happen in this country…

I was on a two week trip to Haiti with PRH. Typically, we had teams that would come in for one week and cycle out as the second came in, with a handful of volunteers that would stay for the entire two weeks. On the transition Saturday, one of our directors took the two week volunteers to the beach to decompress and see some of the beauty that is Haiti. The second week volunteers hadn’t arrived yet. A few of us, including our amazing Aussie prosthetist, Monique, stayed back to work on fabricating legs for the next week and greet the new team.

The new volunteers showed up as expected, two PTs, a nurse, and a PT tech. We gave them the tour and had them unpack and settle in. Monique and I were working in the prosthetics lab when we heard a very loud crashing sound. We looked at each other, brushed it off, and went back to work (many many loud sounds erupt from the busy market road of Port-de-Paix). Just as we had mentally moved on, another one of PRH’s directors (Billy) ran into the lab frantic, saying there had just been an accident in front of the clinic.

At this point in time, our translators had gone home for the weekend and half of the team was off at the beach. Billy and I both had previous EMS experience, but knew very little Creole. We grabbed a box of gloves, a few plastic bags, and ran out into the now very loud, crowded, and chaotic street. People were yelling, screaming, and crying; we were quickly able to recognize three specific and separate masses of people. As we approached the first, we found two gentlemen with minor scrapes and bruises. Using our limited communication skills, we instructed them to head to the clinic where the volunteers cleaned and dressed their wounds.

As we worked our way through the second crowd, we found a woman in shock, lying in the ditch with a complete amputation of her left ankle. I grabbed the amputated foot and Billy and I carried the woman back to the clinic where I used a strip torn off a bed sheet to create a tourniquet while the nurse dressed the residual limb. We headed back out into the street a third time where we discovered a woman who had been completely run over by the runaway vehicle and was wedged underneath the vehicle. We sent someone back to the clinic for a mattress and bed sheet, rolled the truck off the woman, and proceeded to log roll her, place her on the mattress, and tie her down with strips from the sheet. We then loaded her into the back of a truck with Billy stabilizing her C-spine. The truck drove to a hospital across town, along completely unmaintained or paved roads while Billy stabilized her head. At this point in time, there were several hundred people in the street, yelling and screaming, crying, and the crowd was growing in front of the clinic gates.

I headed back to the clinic, desperately trying to find some form of transportation to get the newly amputated woman to the hospital. After what seemed likes hours, we were finally able to locate a truck and communicate enough to get a ride to the hospital. Monique, the patient, and I drove in the back of a van, stabilizing and elevating her leg. As we arrived at the hospital, we realized it was highly understaffed and again we didn’t speak the language. Eventually, we were able to get the patient admitted and into surgery. The next day, we visited the patient and she had received a transtibial amputation; the surgery had gone very well. We met her family and promised them a new leg.

Six months later we returned to Haiti for our next trip and the woman showed up to the clinic, healthy and excited for her new limb. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we had been unable to recruit a prosthetist for that trip. We had to tell her that she would not be getting a leg this week, but hoped that she would return again for our next trip, at which time we would be able to build her a prosthetic. The patient returned during our next trip and our prosthetist was able to construct her a new leg. We built her a new limb, trained her, and she left our clinic… happy, healthy, and walking without an assistive device on her new limb.

This is one of my favorite memories from Haiti because this patient needed every skill set we had to offer. If the accident had happened five days earlier, five days later, or half a mile further down the road in either direction, this woman’s life would probably have ended. Instead she lived, had a complete recovery, and a new lease on life. This case is a constant reminder to me of the need in Haiti; and of the huge impact a few volunteers with the right skill set, in the right place, at the right time, can have. Below is a picture outside our clinic with the woman from the story.

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Keep up with the latest STAND news via Twitter. And visit STAND website to donate to this fantastic cause and/or participate in a life-changing experience.

Connect with Dr. Justin Dunaway via Twitter: @DrDunawayDPT

And find me: @Cinema_Air

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