In the spring, physical therapy and podiatric medicine students from Des Moines University in Iowa partner with patients who have been diagnosed with Parkinson disease (PD) for weekly evenings of dancing, singing, and other forms of mild exercise. PD affects the part of the brain that controls selection of movement patterns, such as walking and other motor activities. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that dancing and moving may improve patient quality of life. Music provides its own benefits, engaging the brain through pathways not affected by the disease.
The program also allows the students, who may not be seeing much clinical practice in their first years at school, an opportunity to interact with patients in a real-world setting.
The dance program is organized and funded by the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA)-Iowa Chapter, which provides patient services and educational programs and helps to elevate public awareness. APDA’s Becky Robel created the program, and Kristin Lowry, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy at DMU, is a member of the chapter’s board.