Bastyr University students volunteered their medical skills at the Seattle Marathon recently, setting up treatment tables near the finish line beneath the Space Needle.
It was a chance for students interested in sports medicine to see dozens of patients in the course of a day. And it was a chance for weary runners to feel the healing touch of Bastyr students of naturopathic medicine and acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM). Nearly 500 runners received treatment from student clinicians under supervision by clinical faculty.
Volunteering at the marathon has become a popular Bastyr tradition, with some 80 students helping at the November 25 event. About half of them are naturopathic medicine students, who offered physical medicine therapies such as soft-tissue massage, muscle-energy stretching and kinesiology taping. The other half are AOM students offering acupuncture and bodywork therapy.
"Physical medicine really helps people get out of pain," says Erica Joseph, a fourth-year naturopathic medicine student. "It changes people immediately, whereas some of our medicines take time to have an effect."
Joseph, who is also pursuing a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSAOM) degree, helped organize the marathon with the Bastyr Sports Medicine Club. She says helping athletes through physical medicine is particularly satisfying.
"It goes back to what Dr. John Bastyr said about the importance of touching your patients," she says. "It's a very natural way to interact with your patients. And it's fun."
Joseph and student Andrew Simon are co-captains of the sports medicine club under the supervision of clinical faculty member Masa Takakura, ND, LAc, and clinical resident Calvin Kwan, ND.
Across the marathon treatment area, the AOM Sports Medicine Club treated patients with Bastyr core faculty member Kyo Mitchell, DAOM, LAc. After a shortened intake session, students saw patients with twisted ankles, injured knees, sore muscles and other musculoskeletal issues. Many received tui na, a bodywork technique that AOM students learn.
"To the uneducated, tui na looks like a massage style," says William Leigh, a third-year MSAOM student. "But it's a very specific approach. It's very brisk and rhythmic."
"It's a medical bodywork style," adds Carol Micek, a second-year student in the program. "It's not necessarily a relaxing massage."
Leigh and Micek started the AOM Sports Medicine Club last spring to give students more opportunities to develop skills for sports-related health. They hope to partner with martial arts groups to provide treatments at schools and competitions. At the marathon, they also gave out coupons for complimentary visits to Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the University's teaching clinic in Seattle.
Leigh said one marathoner stood out to him — a man who skipped breakfast because he was running late and came seeking help with extreme muscle cramps after the race. "It was really nice to work with him and hear his story," Leigh says. "He was really healthy and just pushed himself too far. I could see the effect of our medicine in bringing him from extreme pain to feeling much better."
In the naturopathic section, Joseph saw lots of runners with tight calves and hamstrings. The race day was warmer than the previous year, when she saw more hypothermia and scrapes from falls on slippery roads. As a senior student, she helped other fourth- and fifth-year students in supervising newer students.
"That was really nice because it gave us an opportunity to work on supervising skills," she says.
It was also a chance to practice with a steady flow of patients. "The Sports Medicine Club wants to give students a chance to see patients in a fast-paced environment," Joseph says. "It's really hands-on."