Capstone Journey: The World of Non-Profit Organizations


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Capstone Journey: The World of Non-Profit Organizations

This blog post is an opportunity to highlight a capstone site that two current Midwestern University OT-III students are currently working at. The Mobility Matters Foundation (MMF) is a non-profit 501(c)3 foundation that was founded by Dr. Amy Siegler, BOCO, OTD, OTR/L. Dr. Siegler founded this non-profit based out of Western North Carolina in 2022 partly in response to NC Medicaid cutting reimbursement for telehealth services for many individuals, including Medicaid patients ages 21 and up who were accessing private OT/PT clinics. After completing her own needs assessment in her geographic area, she noted that there were extreme gaps in terms of access to healthcare, geographic, financial, and transportation barriers, insurance limitations, and lack of nearby seating & mobility clinics. As a result, Dr. Siegler founded the first and only seating and mobility clinic in Western NC that operates on a telehealth and pro bono level.

Currently, Aneta Glowacz, MWU OT-III, & Nicole Zhang, MWU OT-III, are completing their capstone projects at MMF related to the theme of “sustainability.” Aneta’s capstone project is more so related to creating sustainability fundraising events within the local community, while Nicole’s capstone project is related to grant writing for the foundation. In addition to helping sustain a new non-profit organization, they also engage in clinical practice performing comprehensive equipment evaluations, participate in advocacy efforts, raise awareness and education through social media and outreach, and network with relevant community partners such as coalition groups, support groups, university professors, durable medical equipment suppliers, and more!

  1. Tell us a little bit of background as to how you both ultimately decided on this placement as well as specific projects.

Aneta: I definitely wanted to take the capstone opportunity to try my lock in an area of practice that is nontraditional. Seeing how innovative this foundation was definitely caught my attention. I have a passion for working in a more biomechanical frame of reference as well as working with primarily adults. With my past fieldwork placements of working on a stroke rehabilitation unit and outpatient hand therapy clinic, I thought that this placement would be an interesting tie into my journey thus far. I think that telehealth is definitely a sector within our practice that showed great potential during the pandemic, and so I wanted to see how occupational therapy could impact patients who have mobility-related diagnosis and are not able to live their lives independently. I also thought that working for a non-profit would be a fantastic talking point for future job interviews and am very pleased with the about of opportunities and knowledge that I have gained thus far. In order for a non-profit to continue to see underserved patients pro-bono, the funds have to come from somewhere. Overall I wanted a placement that would challenge me to work in different angles for the ultimate goal of helping underserved patients and I definitely got what I wished for!

Nicole: Through my fieldwork placements and educational experiences at Midwestern University, I have learned an immense amount about clinical practice, using my therapeutic use of self, and what it means to be a great OT. One part of being a great OT is being able to acknowledge how environmental factors, such as healthcare policy and socioeconomic status, impacts an individual’s ability to participate in their everyday occupations. When I met Dr. Siegler and her MMF team, I saw this as a great opportunity to delve deeper into that sector and learn about different avenues of patient advocacy. We have only been here for six weeks, but we have already had many opportunities to practice advocacy such as meeting with the National MS Society to discuss SC Medicaid changes, creating educational infographics about affordable assistive tech, writing letters of medical necessity for patients, and providing services at a pro bono and telehealth level!

  1. What has been the most interesting aspect that you have come across while working for a non-profit?

Aneta: The most interesting aspect that I have come across while working for a non-profit is how much state and federal legislation as well as insurance groups come into play and really make the rules for how a non-profit is able to stay afloat and continue to practice. Throughout our time at Mobility Matters Foundation we have had to pivot a few times in terms of accepting new patients solely from North Carolina instead of both North and South Carolina, networking with other coalition groups and support societies to refer patients to accessible resources, and justify using varying occupational therapy language within our letters of medical necessity for patients. Every day is a different opportunity to grow and we are constantly changing our priorities in order to stay afloat. We have constant guidance from Dr. Seigler and Kendell Blunden, COTA, although Nicole & I are really our own bosses in terms of taking our visions for MMF and making them a reality!

Nicole: The most interesting experience I have had so far when working for this non-profit is learning about all the nuances and tasks that add up to running a non-profit organization. Especially since MMF is a rather new NPO, Aneta and I got to see the “bare bones” process of all the administrative, organizational, outreach, advocacy, and sustainability aspects. This is a very unique capstone experience and these past 6 weeks have made me really appreciate all the ins and outs of running a small business!

  1. Do you see the benefits of accessible telehealth services?

Aneta: Prior to beginning this capstone experience, my answer was already yes. After spending a little over a month and a half at a non-profit occupational therapy telehealth foundation, my answer remains a yes, but with a lot more “punch” in my tone. In the vast majority of the United States, when covid hit, states allowed for most telehealth services to be covered under medicaid. This opened up so many doors for individuals who were not able to physically go into a doctor’s office or clinic for a vast variety of social determinants of health. When the official pandemic ended back in May 2023, the need for these patients to be seen virtually definitely did not disappear. Telehealth services are vital in maintaining the health of individuals who go below the radar such as individuals who are uninsured, underinsured, live in rural communities, are bed bound or home bound, or who do not have access to transportation readily. I hope that in the near future legislation votes in favor of restoring access to telehealth services for all.

Nicole: Definitely! One of my favorite parts about working at Mobility Matters is being able to see the direct change in people’s lives through telehealth services. Many individuals who need seating and mobility services already face barriers with transportation and going to an in-person clinic due to inaccessibility, financial burdens, safety concerns, diagnoses that cause mobility deficits, and more. In addition to that, individuals living in rural communities do not have any nearby OT/PT clinics. Many patients we interacted with told us that if they didn’t have the telehealth option, they would not have been able to access services at all. I truly see that this is a fantastic avenue of increasing access to care. It is also really cool that I get to interact with patients in a whole other state from my home in Chicago!

Follow us on social media to keep track of our journey and spread the word for this brilliant non-profit! Should a current practitioner or student have any further questions, please feel free to reach out!
Aneta: [email protected]
Nicole: [email protected]

Facebook: @MobilityMattersFoundation
Instagram: @MobilityMatters_Foundation

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