Physical therapist recognized for
service to those with multiple sclerosis
Ken Seaman, academic coordinator of clinical education in the Department of Physical Therapy and director of UD's Multiple Sclerosis Clinic, recently received two honors recognizing his volunteer service.
In February, Seaman was named one of five Delawareans to receive the 2002 Jefferson Award. Each spring, The News Journal and the American Institute for Public Service recognize Delawareans who have made significant contributions to the community through public service and who also serve as role models for others through their community service and volunteerism. At a special luncheon and award ceremony in their honor, scheduled April 17 at the Hotel du Pont, one of the five will be selected to represent the state at a national awards ceremony that will be held in Washington, D.C., in June. At that time, five national winners will be named.
The Jefferson Awards Program was founded in 1972 by the American Institute for Public Service. The awards, named for Thomas Jefferson, are presented on both the local and national level, and the five national award recipients receive a gold medallion.
Seaman also received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the MS Society of Delaware for his longtime volunteer efforts.
Volunteerism and outreach are important parts of Seaman's life. After receiving his bachelor's degree in physical therapy in 1982, he joined UD in 1984 as an instructor and academic coordinator of clinical education in what was the Physical Therapy Program, School of Life and Health Sciences. He earned his master's degree in exercise physiology in 1994 from UD. That year, he became a consultant to the MS Society of Delaware.
Since 1988, Seaman has been on the medical staff of the Jimmie Huega Center Multiple Sclerosis Center based in Edwards, Colo. The nonprofit organization advises and assesses up to 25 MS patients and their significant others approximately six times a year. There, Seaman said, he saw the great advantage of offering a personalized and comprehensive evaluation for MS patients, and he used the Huega Center as a model for the similar facility at UD.
UD's clinic serves two key purposes: to provide educational opportunities for UD's physical therapy students to evaluate and provide management strategies to those with a complex neurological disorder, while also providing a much-needed service to those with MS.
"There was just not a strong body of physical therapists in Delaware well-educated in MS," Seaman said, adding that he knew that UD students could be trained to fill that niche.
Each month, the free clinic gives up to five patients a one-time assessment from professionals and graduate students in eight different fields--physical therapy, speech therapy, pathology, optometry, exercise physiology, adaptive/medical equipment, biomechanics and massage therapy. This spring, an occupational therapist and a nutritionist will be added.
Patients leave the clinic with a regimen specially designed for their needs. Staff members at the clinic not only recommend exercises for patients but also suggest many strategies focusing on balance, memory or general mobility.
Fran VanLeeuwen, the mother of two UD students, was diagnosed with MS more than 15 years ago. She attended the clinic last year and left very satisfied. "The clinic has been very good, very beneficial," VanLeeuwen said. "They gave me life-altering information."
Outside the clinic, Seaman's volunteering spirit is infectious. Each year, he and nearly a dozen students provide muscular skeletal advice and therapeutic massage to golfers at both the MS and Cystic Fibrosis Celebrity golf tournaments.
Helping at the fund raisers is a twofold benefit, Seaman said. He and his group provide a necessary service for charity, and the students also get firsthand experience using their unique skills. "I think it is very important to instill early in their physical therapy education the importance of utilizing their talents to help others," Seaman said.
Seaman also shares his expertise for the annual MS Bike to the Bay, where he, a massage therapist and a physician serve as staff for the medical facility. Students also raise money for the MS Society by providing therapeutic massages to cramped riders for a small fee.
Another of Seaman's volunteering activities is hippotherapy, a form of treatment that gives children with disabilities the opportunity to ride horses as a form of treatment. Each month, he and several of his students assist the young riders at Freedom Hills Riding Academy in Port Deposit, Md. This program helps them achieve increased balance, body awareness and muscle tone by feeding off the horse's movements, as well as enhancing their self esteem.
In addition, this year, Seaman and approximately a dozen graduate student provided the scoliosis screening for more than 200 Newark Charter School students.
While recognition for volunteer service is satisfying, Seaman said it is not something that most people who offer their talents seek or expect.
"While it is certainly an honor to be chosen for such awards," he said, "I don't believe anyone goes into a volunteering experience with an award in mind. I am fortunate to have such a nurturing environment as the University of Delaware, in addition to a very supportive physical therapy department that not only allows us to perform community service but actually encourages it.
"The university setting is the perfect environment to foster a volunteer initiative. You have a body of knowledgeable students and faculty with a variety of expertise that can be utilized in any number of community projects. I see myself, basically, as an initiator, and it is truly fulfilling to see all of our student volunteers working hand in hand with our community members in our many projects throughout the year and picking up the sword for volunteerism."
When asked if he has any unfulfilled goal, Seaman was ready with a response.
"My ultimate goal," he said, "is to make Delaware the most friendly state in the nation for those individuals who have multiple sclerosis."
Photo by KATHY FLICKINGER
The April 17 Jefferson Award luncheon at the Hotel du Pont is open to the public. Cost is $25 per person, and tickets must be purchased in advance. To make a reservation, mail a check to Jefferson Awards Luncheon, Marketing Department, The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850. Credit card reservations are accepted online at [www.delaware online.com/jefferson awards].