Dr. Brooke Riley, PT, DPT, first visited Jamaica in 2004, during a six-week internship with Dr. Karen Sawyer, PT, DPT, an assistant PT professor at Arcadia University. For several years Dr. Sawyer had been doing pro-bono physical therapy in rural Jamaica and giving physical therapy students the invaluable experience of being immersed in a culture entirely different from their own. During her internship, Dr. Riley met Dr. Michelle Brown, MPT, DPT, a physical therapist from Iowa, who was making plans to move to Jamaica to help Dr. Sawyer with her work.
After seeing the vast need for physical therapy services and falling in love with the warm people of Jamaica, Dr. Riley decided to join their efforts and moved to St. Elizabeth Parish in October of 2004. St. Elizabeth is one of fourteen Parishes located on the southwest coast of the island, with a population of 150,000. At the time, there was only one other physical therapist practicing in St. Elizabeth; however, the average Jamaican was unable to afford these services.
For the next three years Dr. Brown and Dr. Riley worked side by side treating patients at a nominal fee or free of cost at a local health center run by the Catholic Diocese. Having worked in the states for five years before coming to Jamaica, Dr. Brown was able to serve as a mentor for Dr. Riley, helping to develop her skills and confidence as a therapist. Dr. Riley and Dr. Brown also got involved in their community helping with an after-school homework program and leading a Bible study for teenage girls. Dr. Brown returned to the states in 2007 and is currently working in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dr. Riley continues to live and serve in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. As she carries on the legacy of her mentors, she is constatly amazed by the faith and strength of the Jamaican people.