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Like Riding a Bicycle

SCU Students Keep Cyclists Racing in Annual AIDS/LifeCycle

Each June, bicyclists ride 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money to support the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in reducing HIV infections and improve quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The grueling ride—which takes place over seven days—is strenuous for the mind and body not just for the riders but also for the volunteer (roadie) teams that back them up at every stop along the way.

For more than 20 years, Southern California University of Health Sciences has provided in kind chiropractic (and starting two years ago, acupuncture) services to the riders and roadies. The 2018, forty five-member team is comprised of lower term students performing vitals and front desk duties, senior clinic students performing full chiropractic and acupuncture therapy, and licensed faculty supervisors.

“Students have a job to do and have to be confident in their abilities to treat the patients that come into our tent,” says Jim Cox, DC, assistant professor of chiropractic and SCU LifeCycle team captain.

“They support people who are breaking down and get them back on the road—more than 1,700 appointments over seven days for blown-out knees, numbness in the hands and quad and knee problems.”

SCU participants leave on Friday morning and head to San Francisco for orientation and registration. They’re at the opening ceremonies by 6 a.m. Sunday and ride start. Then, by bus, they head to the first campsite and set up a 40×50-foot tent—ready to treat patients starting at 1 p.m. the same day.

“People lined up outside the tent before we opened in the morning, and there was a line from the time we opened to the time we closed,” says Hilarie Reinders, a physician assistant student who served in a support role in the chiropractic tent. “I saw patients crawl into the tent and then leaving dancing. I saw people leave in tears because they hadn’t felt this good in years.”

Students and faculty camp overnight in tents, get up to treat patients from 6 to 8 the in the morning before moving onto the next camp a little further down the coast and treat again from 1pm to 9pm—six camps over seven days.

“We’re up with the sun—and sometimes before,” says chiropractic student Pamela Sommers. “In treatment times, it’s busy and fast-paced, one patient after another. But there are moments when you take a step back and see students and faculty working together, and that brings the focus back to the big picture, which is helping others.”

Chiropractic interns work alongside supervising faculty members to apply the knowledge they had gained in the classrooms and clinics of SCU. Students like Sommers saw many of the same patients day after day—including Gabriel who came limping into the tent a couple of days into the ride because his knee hurt so bad he didn’t think he could ride anymore. Luckily Sommers was able to help get the pain under control with adjustments and then worked on the other knee, too.

“It was amazing to stand at the finish line to see him cross,” says Sommers. “There was relief on his face as he hugged his family members. Then he came to me and said, ‘I couldn’t have done this without you.’”

SCU began treating patients during the AIDS/LifeCycle in 1995, following SCU Professor Dr. Paige Morgenthal’s turn as a rider a year earlier. She asked chiropractors to treat riders the very next year. The school has been helping out ever since with a contingent of chiropractic interns. Acupuncture was added two years ago and has become extremely popular among riders and roadies.


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