Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Students working on mobility with an adult participant

SMU DPT students are busy, but motivated students are still able to find time for outside activities such as volunteering in the community and assisting with faculty research projects. Some types of hands-on learning work, such as simulation experiences in the Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) or the Motion Analysis Research Center (MARC), are integrated into the curriculum.  Similarly, our Community Participant Labs are part of the curriculum, guaranteeing that all students will have opportunities to contribute to the community while also meeting their own learning needs.

Click on the links below to see some examples of recent student work including:

DPT Students Assisting Faculty with Research
Students have opportunities to choose to spend time working with SMU faculty on various research projects.  These opportunities are voluntary (not required in the curriculum), and may be unpaid or paid by grants/stipends. The number and type of opportunities each year varies, and participation by students is determined on a case-by-case basis.


Student & Graduate Publications
Every year, approximately two to three student capstone projects are presented as posters or platform presentations at state, national, and international conferences. Additionally, students' projects have been published in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks. 

Health Science Simulation Center (HSSC)
The DPT program frequently uses the HSSC for a variety of teaching and learning activities. Students have lab sessions in the HSSC training rooms to gain familiarity with hospital-based equipment, such as hospital beds, gurneys, and IVs, common in hospital, emergency department, and ICU settings. Students have standardized patient interactions, where actors realistically portray patients, in every trimester of the program. This prepares students for upcoming real-world experiences by allowing them to simulate work with patients in settings that mimic those they will experience in their upcoming clinical placements. Additionally, we use the HSSC for high fidelity simulation experiences with simulation mannequins, where students can simulate work with critically ill patients.  In small groups, students can practice patient encounters in a realistic manner, review their interactions via video/audio, and debrief on the experience with faculty and student observers to learn from their successes and mistakes.

Community & Global Outreach
SMU DPT students perform many hours of volunteer outreach, in addition to their challenging course load. At SMU, outreach is both community-based and local, as well as global. Examples of recent SMU DPT student community and global outreach work include:

  • Organizing a backpack fundraiser for local youth to ensure they have safe backpacks and school supplies before the start of school. This yearly fundraiser is run by the first-year DPT students during each summer. Read more here about this community service.
  • Participating in interprofessional health fairs at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland with a variety of faculty and students from SMU's programs.
  • Assisting Dr. Sue Grieve in presenting educational sessions on exercise for persons with cancer at the Markstein Cancer Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
  • Leading tours of SMU's Anatomy Lab and other facilities and speaking with local high school students about health sciences careers and college as part of the FACES for the Future program.
  • See photos of DPT students volunteering in the community in the SMU DPT Flickr photostream.
  • Volunteering as part of an SMU interprofessional team providing global medical outreach via medical clinics in rural Panama with Hands for Americas. 34 students and alumni have participated in 9 trips over the last 5 years.

Physical Therapy Community Participant Labs
In PT 713 PCM Neuro I and PT 718 PCM Neuro II, DPT students work with community participants with neurologic dysfunction with a faculty supervisor.

Motion Analysis Research Center (MARC)

DPT students use the MARC in their biomechanics courses and Patient/Client Management courses to observe, test, and measure different aspects of human gait, functional movement, and balance. Students see and use the equipment in the MARC to expand their learning and understanding of human motion and how these high-tech tools can be used for research and patient care. There may be additional opportunities to volunteer to help faculty with research occurring at the MARC as well.


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