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  • SCU volunteers provide free healthcare services for statewide AIDS/LifeCycle event and 2,400 cyclists
A group photo of the 2022 SCU AIDS LifeCycle Team
The 2022 SCU AIDS/LifeCycle team poses for a group photo on the morning of day two: Orange Safety Day, leaving Santa Cruz for King City, during the seven-day event. Back row: Andres Rosales; Dr. Cliff Lee; Dylan Tarrant; Alvin Alvarez; Devin Pagett; Ashley Park; Nathan Amezcua; Justin English; Amr Metwali; Christian Caragao; Tim Schrijver, Katie Sakamoto; Hailey Danko; Sara Aleksandravicius; Sami Adams; Daniela Velasquez; Jasmine Nguyen; Angela Faissal; Andrew Wu; Megan Serumgard; Jeremy Yang; and Denise Ho. Front row: Dr. Mahea Schreindorfer; Sarah Allen; Nemuel Tan; Jordan Vega; David Dionson; Andy Wu; Dr. Jim Cox; Nguyen Nguyen; Andrew Harrel; Joann Figueroa; Jennifer Noborikawa; Chotika Reepolrujee; Chloe Lee; and Veronica Vallejo. Photo courtesy of Dr. Cox.

SCU volunteers provide free healthcare services for statewide AIDS/LifeCycle event and 2,400 cyclists

AIDS/LifeCycle ride, a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, began in 1994 to raise awareness about the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and funds services such as HIV testing, prevention, care, and more. Since 1994, participants have raised more than $300 million for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV and AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

During the inaugural ride in 1994, SCU’s Dr. Morgenthal, former DC Pre-Clinic Faculty and Chair of Principles and Practice Dept, participated in the event as a cyclist. “She saw a need for chiro services and asked her colleagues to volunteer the following year,” reflected James Cox, DC, Assistant Professor and Clinical Faculty at SCU’s Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. “According to her, the demand about killed them, so before the next ride she commissioned SCU to provide chiropractic services, allowing students to perform the treatment and earn credit.”

AIDS/LifeCycle and its 500+ volunteers make sure that pedaling 545 miles is all that the more than 2,400 participating cyclists have to focus on. The teams take care of the rest of the details, from nutrition, water for water bottles, air for tires, to chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and everything else needed, in between the hundreds of miles.

SCU has been a sponsor of AIDS/Life Cycle every year since 1995, providing healthcare volunteers who serve cyclists with on-location, on-demand free healthcare services, from start, to finish.

How we roll: SCU student healthcare roadie testimonials from the front desk, to the frontlines

SCU is unique in its role as a sponsoring health science educational facility. All other teams are comprised of individuals from throughout the state.

James Cox, DC, during the AIDS LifeCycle event.

“We typically have around 20-25 treating chiropractic clinic students, five lower term students staffing the ‘front desk’, and five treating acupuncture students,” said Dr. Cox. “All treating students receive hours and credits during the event. Those chosen for front desk are automatic picks for the following year, when they will be allowed to treat.”

Andres Rosales during AIDS LifeCycle eventSCU Term 5 DC student and first-time roadie, Andres Rosales was recruited by an upperclassman to volunteer for front desk. “At first I was hesitant, but knew the outcome would be rewarding with opportunity to network and befriend upper term students. As a first year roadie, I truly enjoyed the week-long event. It was filled with wonderful, positive, and humane people. Although I was not allowed to treat riders or roadies, working the front desk helped me grow and gain confidence as a student doctor. I was also able to connect and make friends who I look forward to treating next year when I volunteer again. This experience reassured that I’m in the right field and passionate about chiropractic care to help people live better lives.”

Upperclassman Dylan Tarrant, an SCU Term 12 DC student had an equally rewarding experience. “I highly recommend anyone to volunteer because not only do you get better at your didactic skills, you form friendships and bonds with your fellow classmates, and get to help these riders accomplish the gruesome 545 mile. Words cannot express the gratitude I still feel to have been part of this experience. Nothing feels better than giving back to your community and seeing the smiles, laughter, and relief these riders

felt after seeing our SCU chiropractic/acupuncture team. Also, this event truly integrates chiro and acu and we truly became one team on this ride.”

Sarah Allen during AIDS LifeCycleSCU Term 9 DC student Sarah Allen said her experiences “served for not only a learning opportunity for my career, but also as a tribute to my brother who passed away in 2021, whose favorite motorcycle ride was the coastal journey from SF to LA. Every bit of the trip, from caravanning up to San Francisco to lugging all of our gear to the very last stop, exceeded my expectations of how joyful it was going to be. There was never a moment of dullness, there was never a moment of “work”. The bond between not only our chiro team, but the entire organization itself is so special and unmatched. This trip changed the trajectory of my career, being that it re-kindled a self-purpose. I learned how to build my patients up, and I also learned how impactful it can be to listen intently and to guide by the side. Every moment was filled with a different kind of excitement, and I left this trip with friends, patients, lessons, and memories I will cherish for life.”

The SCU Roadie application process

Applications open up in February and run through mid-March. Every applicant must meet a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5 and be in good academic standing. Application materials include a CV and letter of intent, due in early March, with interviews taking place in late March. Many of the students who apply have a background in sports or training, have a degree in the discipline of athletics, or are enrolled in the sports med tract at SCU; however, such experience is not required to be involved in any of the aforementioned arenas, as the event is an inclusive opportunity for learning.

The SCU team will be announced in April, with training beginning in May. Several team meetings are held prior to leaving to prepare them for the event, such as guidance on what to bring and what not to bring, event protocols and SCU’s treatment processes and procedures.

Roadie volunteerism: intensity, in tents

Roadies are the hardworking individuals who volunteer their time for the full week of AIDS/LifeCycle. The entire Roadie community includes about 650 volunteers, divided into 32 specialty-focused working groups, or Roadie Teams, for the duration of the week.

“There aren’t shifts and Roadie Captains, or supervisors, rarely take breaks,” said Dr. Cox. SCU’s supervisors include Dr. Cox, Nathan Sermeno, DC, Assistant Professor, LACC, a long-time veteran on the ride, Mahealani Schreindorfer, DC, DACBSP, Senior Sports Medicine Resident, SCU Health, as well as Cliff Lee, MSAOM, Assistant Professor and Clinician with the Eastern Medicine Department out of SCU Health, who leads Acupuncture Roadies.

The students’ working hours are typically between the hours of 6 a.m. – 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. “Because of demand, patients may be waiting an hour or more for a treatment, so we need as many treating students on hand as possible,” said Dr. Cox. “SCU team members are given a 45-minute dinner break.  Coordinating the breaks is challenging but everyone is extremely patient and toughs it out, even when their break happens to fall later in the evening. There’s teamwork throughout the entire ALC community, such as John, the ALC Captain of Meal Service, who helps by escorting our treating Roadies to the front of the mess tent line, to help maximize their break time. For seven days, all of us roadies dedicate our time, energy, and hearts to waking up very early and going to sleep late to move this event and its 2,500 cyclists down the coast.”

AIDS LifeCycle becomes a mobile village of over 3,000 people between cyclists and roadies. The organization provides tents to accommodate volunteers. Usually, people are required to pair up, two per tent, as the event is limited on the space available to set up, but recently, individual tents have been provided due to ongoing efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19. “As you can imagine, it can be a challenge to squeeze a mobile village of over 3,000 people into any city park area,” said Dr. Cox.

Aside from the tent provided, each roadie volunteer must bring everything else they need.

SCU Roadies don’t necessarily have specific assignments. “It’s a clinical setting like any base or satellite clinic, where the students are required to check in with a DC to review their cases,” said Dr. Cox. “The only difference is that it’s in a more triage-like setting. Our goal is to not to rehab them or exercise long-term care goals, but to get the cyclists feeling better and back out on the road.”

“I absolutely enjoyed every moment of this experience,” said Dylan. “The event helped me grow a deeper human connection with people and see patients as people, first and foremost. I had one patient I’ll never forget, for whom I found multiple diagnoses. His eyes began to water when I came back to report what we found with the different exams. It was crucial to ensure I was communicating effectively and with empathy, because these patients, like this one, may come to us afraid.

SCU student roadie takeaways

All treating students receive community service and/or clinic hours. Individual accruals of each dictate how the 48 hours issued to them will be divided. DC students are issued adjusting credits, based on logs kept during the event, just as they do for other clinic shifts. Acupuncture students are granted similar benefits, but specific to their clinic student criteria. Front Desk students do not treat, but they have the enormously important and often very challenging task of managing patient intake. They also take vitals on every patient as part of the patient’s check-in. Front desk students are not eligible for hours or credits. Rather, their benefit comes from taking opportunities to learn from other students and supervising clinicians, as well as being automatically selected as treating students the following year. “It’s important to have the carryover, so at least some of the team members have experienced the ride process,” said Dr. Cox.

Dylan Tarrant during AIDS LifeCycle“My biggest take away from the experience is the heart I have for people,” said Dylan. “My most memorable moment was helping the traffic crew direct the riders and wish them luck as they set out for the day from Paso to Santa Maria. The simplest act of cheering someone on or saying “slay the day” had such a positive impact on a cyclist’s ride. I treated a rider later that day as a patient and they asked ‘were you the guy cheering us on saying slay the day? That really started my day off on the right foot. Thank you’.”

The event was especially meaningful for Dylan as it involved a full circle moment, he said. “The half-way mark is my hometown of Santa Maria, California. I remember seeing these bike riders in red dresses. The park we camped in was the park I played in, growing up. My parents still live in community right next to the park, so my dad was able to pick me up and grab lunch. It was a full circle moment to be a part of this event as an adult, that was a core memory I had as a child.”

SCU’s commitment to the cause, to the healthcare profession and to the community

“SCU’s long history with the ride and my 11 years representing SCU has developed a well-oiled machine when it comes to our operation,” said Dr. Cox. “One that can adapt to any changes that may occur over the years. This year posed some unique challenges relative to COVID, but by embracing collaboration as we do at SCU, we made it work. Together, I feel we create an environment of support, learning and enjoyment. Ask any team member and I’m confident they’d agree.”

“This experience really did fuel my passion for this industry,” said Dylan. “This industry has endless possibilities. Before DC school, I was a professional dancer and I thought I wanted to work with dancers only. But after working with many athletes and these riders in particular, I realized I can connect with and help all different kinds of people from different walks of life. There are many different routes to take in this industry, and I’m excited to continue to explore how I can help as many people and athletes from all walks of life.”

Take on a new challenge!

Despite remarkable progress that has been made since the disease was first discovered in 1981, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over. In the seven days it takes to reach Los Angeles, more than 650 people in the United States will become infected with HIV, according to the AIDS/LifeCycle website.

The 2023 AIDS/LifeCycle event will take place June 4-10. Registration opens for cyclists on Aug. 17, 2022. Registration for SCU Roadie Volunteers will open in Feb. – March 2023. The team will be announced in April 2023 and will begin training in May 2023. For questions and further information, contact Dr. Cox, at jamescox@scuhs.edu.

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