Bringing Rehabilitation Medicine to Moldova

Cyndi Robinson, Ph.D. ’10 (Rehabilitation Science)


In 2003, when the opportunity arose to travel to Moldova with Medical Teams International, the World Bank ranked Moldova as the poorest country in the developing world. I knew nothing about the country before arriving. We provided direct patient care while sharing a space with local healthcare providers, but, unfortunately, there was no planned interaction. For my second trip, we worked with in-country coordinators to plan teaching and training time with their practitioners. This concept grew each year until we were providing daily lectures and labs and working side-by-side with local clinicians and patients. Between 2003 and 2011, I traveled to Moldova 11 times, and in 2004, I began taking PT and OT students with me. One of the incredible things about physical therapy is the impact we can have, using our hands as our primary tools, on patient function. While Moldova and other countries may not have the same education and standard of rehabilitation practice that the U.S. has, they have the capacity to implement low-cost, low-tech interventions, and I have appreciated the opportunity to work with bright, energetic, creative and compassionate colleagues in other parts of the world. I’m now volunteering in Russia, where I lecture to medical students and have presented on recovery of walking after stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and asthma. This year, I’m focusing on rehabilitation strategies, especially early mobilization in the ICU.