Teaching Live from Iraq: Chris Remillard '03, M.S. '04
‘‘Back stateside, we were just worker bees,” Chris Remillard told IC students in April. “Anything involved with running a clinic here, I’m in charge of. I’m it. I am the PT, OT, dietician, chiropractor, and ortho. Makes life a little interesting.”
Remillard was speaking from Iraq; the students were in Ithaca. A captain in the U.S. Army, Remillard has been working as a physical therapist in the battered country since last October. He sees 10 or more patients--primarily soldiers and Department of Defense contractors, as well as some civilians—a day. IC professor Michael Pagliarulo thought it would be interesting for students in his Current Issues in Physical Therapy class to talk with Remillard about his professional experiences. So Pagliarulo arranged for a live video feed into an evening class on South Hill.
Technical and bureaucratic obstacles forced the professor and the captain to postpone the event twice, but the connection finally happened on April 2. “We are truly indebted to the technical personnel on both sides of the globe who made this happen,” says Pagliarulo.
Remillard was an IC senior when he entered the army ROTC program at Cornell University; he continued through the PT graduate program. In 2005 he was sent to Ireland Army Community Hospital in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and last year he was deployed to Iraq.
“Remillard had made several offers to share information with our students regarding the practice of physical therapy in the military,” says Pagliarulo, “so when students in a current issues course identified the topic of the rights of physical therapists in the military (which are greater than in civilian practice), Chris was contacted to share his information.”
In response to students’ questions, Remillard indicated that he has the right to prescribe a limited scope of medications (pain relievers and muscle relaxants), order imaging studies, and authorize limited duty for his patients. “Through photos he forwarded, he walked us through his clinic, which exists in a tent,” says Pagliarulo. “It is not luxurious, but it gets the job done.”
Besides the six students in the seminar course, another 30 or so PT students and faculty attended the event to learn from Remillard. “It was intended as an educational experience,” points out Pagliarulo, “not a media event.” The audio was in real time, but the video had a 15-second delay. “This was inconsequential, relative to the opportunity to conduct a live discussion with an active duty PT in Iraq,” says Pagliarulo. “Unfortunately for Chris, this was at 2:00 a.m. Iraq time!”
Remillard wasn’t daunted by the hour or by the technical difficulties involved in transcontinental satellite transmission; he’s got other things to worry about. “I have been told that a few students are interested in donning a green suit in the future,” he wrote in his blog soon after. “I welcome them to the dark side, and hope that everything works out.”
Chris Remillard invites the IC community to visit his blog at http://chrisremillardmpt.blogspot.com.