Occupational Therapy Newsletter

Fall 2020

Message from the Chair

Since March of this year, we have been navigating uncharted waters and trying our best to traverse uncertain and ever changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  To prepare for the Fall semester, the required reductions in classroom capacity, modifications in room set-up and utilization of personal protective equipment dominated our planning efforts in August.  In September, we were excited to begin a new year with our second and third year students and to welcome our first year students on the East Falls (EF) and Center City (CC) campuses.  We are very excited to have entered our first cohort of undergraduate freshman into the BS-OTD program on the East Falls campus; more to come about this program in our spring 2021 Newsletter.  As Thanksgiving now approaches, our on-campus activities are winding down…and we are planning for the spring semester…informed by our experiences thus far.

The summer of 2020 brought an awakening to systemic racism in our country that sparked reflection, conversation and action across our department and the College and University.  To capture our ongoing journey, I asked Dr. Lydia Navarro-Walker to share her reflections in a Special Report below.  Personally, I am on a reflective, action-oriented journey…striving to listen and learn from students, colleagues, alumni and others.  We must be committed to listening to all stakeholders, taking measurable action, and acknowledging when we falter and when we succeed. In addition to Dr. Navarro-Walker’s impactful report, I am thrilled to highlight the article by Adair Sanchez (OTD-CC, 2021) and Ayano Endo (BS/MSOT-CC) about Jefferson’s new chapter of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD).  

Our first Quarterly Newsletter of the 2020-2021 Academic year features a story by Dr. LaRonda Lockhart-Keene, OTD, OTR/L, Program Director, about the Jefferson Occupational Therapy Assistant Program within the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. With the OTA program on our Bucks County campus, Jefferson offers educational programs across all entry-level degrees in the field of occupational therapy and a Post-Professional degree, spanning three campuses.

Finally, this newsletter highlights the interests of our students with a compelling Opinion Editorial by Avery Martin & Sarah Zelnik (MSOT-Center City, December 2020) about the Opioid Epidemic within the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Wishing everyone a healthy and safe holiday season and New Year.

Catherine Verrier Piersol, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Chair and Professor
Department of Occupational Therapy
Thomas Jefferson University



SPECIAL REPORT


FEATURE STORY

All About Jefferson's OTA Program

by LaRonda Lockhart-Keene OTD, OTR/L - Program Director, Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies Program

The Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies Program at Thomas Jefferson University received its initial accreditation in the academic year 2011/2012 when the program was part of Philadelphia University.   The program received a 10-year reaccreditation in July of 2019. The program is part of Jefferson’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and is housed at Jefferson’s Bucks County Campus. The School of Continuing and Professional Studies is based on the philosophy that education is a lifelong experience influencing personal growth, career advancement or career change.  To accommodate busy professional and personal schedules, courses in the OTA program are offered in accelerated evening and weekend sessions.

The mission of Jefferson’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies Program supports the mission, values and vision of the University, to improve lives by redefining what is humanly possible and to be bold, think differently, put people first and do the right thing along with developing the total person while preparing them for a career in an evolving global environment. We empower our students to elevate their world and be real world ready occupational therapy practitioners. The program builds on the University’s strengths in health science, design, and business and transdisciplinary experiential education to create a community of adult learners who are competent to pursue a rewarding career in occupational therapy. Students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to practice in diverse cultural environments with clients of all ages and in changing practice and service-delivery contexts. The program prepares graduates to use critical thinking, cultural awareness, collaboration and a personal commitment to lifelong professional development that is essential to the continued growth and development in the profession of occupational therapy. The program especially strives to prepare professionals who are client-centered, grounded in the person-environment-occupation fit, use evidence-based decision-making, and are committed to infusing occupation into practice.

OTA Program lab space on Bucks County Campus

During this time of the pandemic, the OTA program has faced its challenges with converting to an online format and re-thinking how students complete their level I and II fieldwork experiences.  What remains evident during this time is the OTA program’s commitment to bring the distinct value of the profession to our community partners.  Students are currently completing their Level II fieldwork at an outreach center that services low-income older adults living in northwest Philadelphia.  The students are combating social isolation by running occupational therapy groups focused on maintaining health and wellness in the time of the pandemic via virtual means.    In the time of pandemic, it is important to address the health and wellness needs of the elderly as they may need assistance with activities related to developing, managing, and maintaining health and wellness routines, including self-management, with the goal of improving or maintaining health to support participation in other occupations (AOTA, 2020).  Additionally, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the COVID-19 outbreak requires us to change our daily habits, stay indoors unless necessary, and—if we have to go outside—maintain significant physical distance from other people. These restrictions may exacerbate an already growing problem for older adults: social isolation. Social isolation can (but does not have to) lead to loneliness. Studies have shown that isolation and loneliness can put older adults at higher risk of heart disease, dementia, mental health issues, and stroke. (NCOA, 2020).  OTA students are running groups related directly to areas impacted by the pandemic including, rest and sleep, social isolation, mental health and physical health and fitness.  They have also assisted clients with navigating the virtual world and reconnecting with old friends via new technology.

Turning challenges into opportunities is something that occupational therapy practitioners understand and value. Jefferson’s OTA program is not only meeting the challenges of making sure our students can successfully complete the program during the pandemic, but also using this as an opportunity to provide supportive and affordable services to a population in need of healthy occupational engagement.

References

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (4th ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(Suppl. 2), 7412410010. https://doi. org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S200

Stiles, S. (2020, March 18).  Staying connected while staying home.  Retrieved Aug. 20, 2020 from https://www.ncoa.org/blog/staying-connected-while-staying-home/


OPINION EDITORIAL

Opioid Epidemic Collides with COVID-19

by Avery Martin & Sarah L. Zelnik, MSOT-CC - Class of 2020

"Overdose Deaths During COVID-19 is a Disaster Within a Disaster” (2020) read a headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer this past August. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia was already leading in overdose death rates among large cities in the United States (“Drug Overdose Deaths,” 2020). Organizations such as Prevention Point sought to alleviate this trend, but with the city on “shut down” due to the pandemic, many of these services became limited or halted altogether (Prevention Point, 2020).

Just last year, we were volunteering in the offices of Prevention Point to address the needs of community members receiving Buprenorphine (Suboxone), a medication used in the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. Suboxone allows users of opioids to withdraw without experiencing significant physical effects (“STEP Program,” n.d.). Many of our clients experienced chronic pain, mental health challenges, and homelessness. As volunteers, we checked in with these individuals about their experiences, including providing education on medication use, discussing their pain management, and determining needs related to housing, mental health, and other vital social services.

With these services now limited, barriers faced by marginalized community members seeking care intensified. Black residents, for the first time experienced greater deaths from overdose, as well as increases in non-fatal overdoses, despite similar substance use rates compared to white and Hispanic residents (Whelan, 2020). This trend, alongside pandemic fatalities and police-based violence in the Black community, highlighted the drastic racial and ethnic health disparities in our country. We wondered: what could occupational therapists (OTs) do to better address these inequalities?

OTs address both health-promoting and health-compromising occupations (Twinley, 2017, p. 29). Investigating OTs’ role in substance use disorders is particularly timely due to the link between mental health and addiction. September is National Recovery Month as well as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018 (National Institute on Mental Health, n.d.). Social isolation experienced in response to COVID-19 stay-at-home-orders heightened the confluence of substance use and mental illness. It is crucial not to ignore mental health needs, especially within the Black community, where fatalities from COVID-19 and drug overdose are prevalent.

As students at Jefferson, we have sought out opportunities to build on our knowledge of health disparities related to mental health and substance use. We independently pursued off-campus training in Naloxone (Narcan), a life-saving substance used to reverse an opioid overdose, for our Student Occupational Therapy Association during our first year. Harm reduction strategies, such as Narcan training and distribution, significantly lower overdose deaths. Yet, our curriculum did not include this training alongside mandatory Mental Health First Aid instruction. Sarah later organized an on-campus training in partnership with students from Drexel, with over forty occupational therapy students in attendance. Between this training, volunteering at Prevention Point, and guest lectures sponsored by Jefferson’s Student Opioid Response Team, we committed ourselves to this underserved community.

It is more pressing than ever for students and practitioners to take on this population’s needs not as a special interest, but as a significant piece in education and practice. In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General's office launched its Turn the Tide campaign. This campaign began with a letter appealing to healthcare professionals to acknowledge opioid use as a chronic illness of the brain, which requires the same compassion, skill, and urgency in treatment that diabetes, heart disease, or cancer require (ASAM Staff, 2016; Costa, 2017). We hope that occupational therapy students and practitioners can pledge their commitment to supporting those with substance use disorders.

As members of the Jefferson community, we can begin to do this by:

  1. Examining the intersection of substance use and mental health in the curriculum, including best practice on communicating with individuals and families about substance use and harm reduction
  2. Advocating for education on and distribution of Naloxone, such as through mandatory training
  3. Promoting interdisciplinary collaboration for ease of Naloxone access and distribution within the community
  4. Expanding community-based programming to organizations such as Prevention Point for students to directly support the needs of community members with substance use disorder

References

The US Surgeon General Sends Historic Letter to 2.3 Million Health Care Providers. American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM). https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/publications/magazine/read/article/2016/08/26/asam-applauds-appointment-of-dr.-everett-to-serve-as-samhsa-s-new-chief-medical-officer

Costa, D. (2017). Occupational therapy’s role in countering opioid addiction. OT Practice, 22(1), 13-16.

Drug Overdose Deaths. (2020, March 19). Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

The Inquirer Editorial Board (2020, August 21). Overdose deaths during COVID-19 is a disaster within a disaster. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/editorials/philadelphia-overdose-death-opioid-coronavirus-covid-20200821.html

Prevention Point (2020, April 25). COVID-19 Service Changes. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://ppponline.org/covid-19-service-changes

Prevention Point (n.d.). STEP Program. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://ppponline.org/medical-services/step

National Institute on Mental Illness (n.d.). Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Substance-Use-Disorders

Twinley, R. (2017). The Dark Side of Occupation. Jacobs, K. & MacRae, N. (Eds.),

Occupational therapy essentials for clinical competence (3rd ed., pp. 29-36). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated. Retrieved from http://m2.wyanokecdn.com/58a49a787a6fbe16076fb57a3bcdca6d.pdf

Whelan, A. (2020, August 26). Philadelphia’s drug pandemic, like COVID-19, now puts the heaviest burden on Black residents, data show. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from https://www.inquirer.com/health/opioid-addiction/overdose-deaths-philadelphia-black-residents-20200826.html


DEPARTMENT HIGHLIGHTS

Reflections on ¾ of a Year Like No Other

Stephen B. Kern, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA; Tina DeAngelis, EdD, OTR/L; E. Adel Herge, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, and; Audrey Zapletal, OTD, OTR/L, CLA

In January, we here at the Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences welcomed the New Year, celebrating in routine and ritualistic ways that all of us have done many times before. Graduation ceremonies were less than six months away. Who knew then what was about to erupt in a few weeks. On March 19th, the Occupational Therapy faculty received notice from the University Provost that on-campus classes and clinical rotations were immediately suspended due to COVID -19. Suddenly, all of us were thrown off our typical daily routines and immersed into the virtual world of ZOOM. We were probably not alone thinking, “this will only last for a month at best”. Well, here we are 6 months later and Higher Education is in a new reality. Despite being thrown off center, there is still much to celebrate!

Faculty and students alike scrambled to create their work environments at home. This was challenging for some. For example: one student’s parents downsized by selling their home and moving to a smaller town house only to wake up one morning with all of their college age children moving in with them. Basements, bathrooms, space under tables all morphed into unique work environments where students and faculty alike created their new space. We all got used to children and pets appearing and participating in classes, half-naked intruders walking behind learners and faculty, and new interior design ideas for our own spaces.  We all anxiously and trepidatiously shifted our centers, grounded ourselves in this new cyber-world and got on with the work of the semester.

All lecture-based and lab courses continued online (with few exception). Courses were redesigned, restructured, & or reimagined for students to complete course requirements without major interruption and still achieve course learning objectives.  Even our East Falls Saturday Speaker Series shifted to 100% online. We crossed the finish line for the semester with minor scrapes and bruises.  For example, our East Falls 2nd year Level I students had only a few hours left to complete at their fieldwork sites, made their best efforts to close out their responsibilities. Our 3rd year OTD students who were in the final weeks of completing their capstone projects suddenly found themselves unable to return to their sites. The quick thoughtful responses from both faculty and students resulted in them completing their projects with the data they had available to them. This group pivoted and successfully presented their final work via zoom to celebratory cheers from family, friends, peers, site staff, and the department faculty!  Hardy & heartfelt congratulations are in order for this cohort who received their doctoral degrees, at a Commencement Ceremony unlike any before, at Jefferson’s first virtual graduation.

Right next to them were the 2020 BSMS-Center City and MSOT-East Falls cohorts who had been counting down days to their graduation. These cohorts also demonstrated flexibility above and beyond expectation and pivoted quickly.  MSOT-East Falls completed their Level II fieldworks through creative means under the guidance of Dr. Mary Beth Thomas and the skillful team of clinical educators.  Many with less than 2 weeks of fieldwork remaining, developed new programs to be implemented in the uncharted realm of telehealth.  The Center City BSMS cohort, with aplomb, presented their final capstone projects to a virtual Create Day audience. Congratulations are also in order for our MSOT cohorts on their completion of their programs and their “walk” across [the stage] to accept their diplomas, dressed in their academic regalia. Granted, the stage may have been a hallway in their home, the backyard or front steps. However these groups received their diplomas, their families, friends, and faculty collectively celebrated their achievements!! We are looking forward to a time in the future where we can all recognize both groups’ accomplishments with the requisite high fives, hugs, and other forms of celebration!

Other students were faced with a major disruption to achieving their professional goals within the expected timeline.  Third year East Falls MSOT students had to accept the challenges of the new clinical environment.  During the summer, they shifted their focus on their academics and prepared for an unclear start date for fieldwork placements in the Fall.   The second year Center City MSOT and OTD students were 2 or 3 weeks away from completing their first placement when clinical suspensions occurred. One by one, and then several clinical sites informed students and academic OT programs across the country that fieldwork experiences were suspended in order to maintain safety for staff and patients and of course students, too.  During this period of anxiety and not knowing when things fieldwork would resume, another graceful pivot was required! How can the department keep the students engaged while we all waited for the suspension to be lifted and clinical sites to once again accept students for their level II fieldwork placements?  Quickly, faculty responded by modifying the sequence of classes as much as possible while maintaining the integrity of the curriculum design and learning objectives. Two courses, usually taught to the MSOT students in Summer II after they completed their Fieldwork Level II were shifted to Summer I – online, of course. Their final seminar and projects occurred during online Summer II. The 2ndyear OTD students were less impacted; however this group also demonstrated grace and patience. Their summer courses were rearranged, occurring earlier, so that they were ready to begin fieldwork once the clinical sites reopened. Fortunately, their capstone projects and experiences were reconfigured to occur over one spring semester beginning in January of 2021 while adhering to quality and rigor so their graduation would not be delayed!

Faculty made contingency plan after contingency plan. Modifying one previous plan with a new one as new information emerged. Zoom meetings were scheduled at 7am, or 7pm, it didn’t matter. Faculty who never followed state and federal Departments of Education, and Health and State Department’s websites were now consulting those sites daily! Collectively our desire was for all cohorts to experience only minimal disruption in their curriculum sequence while offering the same quality education in a revised format. News from the US State Department announced all international air travel was grounded, it was clear that the yearly fieldwork experience in Morocco was also suspended.

One bright light during this time, or rather a super-nova of sorts goes to our amazing academic fieldwork coordinators. They managed everything thrown at them, never losing determination to make this work for everyone! Dr. Lyons and Instructor Leonard in Center City and Dr. Thomas and Adjunct Faculty Ashley Seiver designed an innovative, simulated, online fieldwork experience for all first-year students.  These designs represent the first fully simulated fieldwork experiences in the Department of Occupational Therapy! (and as part of our national reputation for innovative educational design,  the department became one of the first to implement simulation for a fieldwork experience in the nation).

Using Zoom platforms, the fieldwork teams zipped and zapped learners from experience to experience.  In Center City, the unique delivery allowed for second year MSOT and OTD students to expand their leadership experiences and immerse themselves into the fieldwork educator role.  In East Falls, recent graduates from the OTD program joined from across the country to facilitate the small group learning and debriefing sessions. This experience was presented to our accreditors (ACOTE) who gave the stamp of approval for us to implement the plan. Holding our collective breath, students cautiously entered into this new fieldwork experience. In the end, it received good reviews from students and faculty alike.

And, while there were major disruptions resulting in the Center City MSOT students’ graduation being delayed from August to December 2020, all MSOT students are now all placed in their 2nd level II fieldwork experience. For all of this to happen it required our department leader, Dr. Catherine Piersol, to work tirelessly with every University office (tuition, housing, financial aid, Complio, the Registrar, and probably housekeeping, too) to make this all happen smoothly for every student! Sure, there were hiccups (maybe some tears of frustration), “but still we persisted”.

Now we are fully implementing the redesigned hybrid version of the three OT curricula in Center City and “ultra-hybrid” in the East Falls weekend hybrid weekend program! Face masks and shields, cleaning supplies, and other PPE as needed are in full use and can be seen in all our classrooms and laboratories. Fieldwork level I and traditional (level II) are in progress. It’s beginning to feel more like a routine; altered habits have been developed; occupational balance is close to being restored (depending on your roles!) and new ways of teaching and learning are being discovered, measured, and shared.

We are looking forward to returning to campus, taking off our masks, and connecting with each other (maskless and standing less than 6 feet apart). But until then, we will continue to see you on zoom, and on campus in labs! Lastly, we look forward to celebrating at the 2021 Commencement Ceremony in May. Additionally, we are hoping that as many of the 2020 graduates return to campus to participate in the ceremony, too.


Ram Relax Cart Bolsters Mindfulness

Occupational Therapy Faculty, Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, SCEM, CLIPP, CAPS, CLA, Assistant Professor; Mary Beth Thomas, OTD, OTR/L, Assistant Professor & Academic Fieldwork Coordinator; and Colleen Zane, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor recently unveiled an innovative “Ram Relax Cart” to bolster mindfulness among students.

The instant reaction surpassed their wildest dreams. Within hours, most visual and sensory spinners, essential oils, putties, snacks and rocks emblazoned with words like clarity, hope, kindness and passion disappeared. (They had reinforcements, of course.)


Addressing the Complex Care Challenge

Tracey Earland, PhD, OTR/L, Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and colleague Brooke Salzman, MD, are co-principle investigators through the Jefferson Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (JCIPE) were awarded a three-year grant from the Josiah Macey Jr. Foundation on Learning to Practice Collaboratively for the Benefit of Patients with Complex Needs.


Jefferson OTD faculty, alumni and students sweep the summer 2020 edition of The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy

Jennifer Merz, OTD, OTR/L (OTD-CC, Class on 2020); Bonnie Nakasuji, OTD, OTR/L, C/NDT, FAOTA; Kimberly Mollo, OTD, OTR/L (faculty) Occupational Therapy Group Programming for Adolescents with Developmental and Learning Disabilities: A Retrospective Documentation Review

Rebecca L. Sinko, OTD, OTR/L (faculty); Tina DeAngelis, EdD, OTR/L (program director & faculty); Bernadette Alpajora, (OTD-CC, Class of 2020); Josephine Beker, OTD, OTR/L (OTD-CC, 2019); Ilyse B. Kramer, MLIS, MPA (OTD-CC, Class of 2021) Experience of Stigma Post Incarceration: A Qualitative Study


Congratulations to Department of Occupational Therapy Faculty

Namrata Grampurohit PhD, OTR/L has been awarded an American Occupational Therapy Foundation Grant titled, Post-Discharge Support for Caregivers of Adults with Stroke Through Telehealth Coaching-in-Context.

Jenny Martinez, OTD, OTR/L BCG has been awarded the 2020 Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Allied Health Professional Research Award of ASIA title Evaluation of the SCIM-III Self Report Youth using Item Response Theory Approaches.

Stephen B. Kern, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA has been awarded the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association Dr. Stephen L. Heater Award of Outstanding Achievement.  The award was presented on October 10, 2020 during the POTA Virtual 2020 Conference.


STUDENT HIGHLIGHTS

Occupational Therapy Grad Student Earns a Spot on the EAGLES Cheer Team

In addition to pursuing her doctorate in occupational therapy at Jefferson, Allison Tuso (OTD-CC, Class of 2021) will help fire up crowds at the Linc. Allison Tuso still remembers donning a yellow-and-black uniform as a 6-year-old cheerleader for the local Pop Warner football team in Moorestown, N.J. Though her family moved from South Jersey to California when she was in high school, they remain diehard fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. Now that she’s back in Philadelphia, in her third year of pursuing a doctorate in occupational therapy at Jefferson, those memories—and that fandom—have come full circle.


When an Emoji is Worth a Thousand Words

IPhone update ushers in a more inclusive world, writes Rebecca Langbein (OTD-CC, Class of 2020). I’m not one to peruse BuzzFeed during the workday, but when I saw the headline indicating that a new round of emojis had been released, I couldn’t control myself. I’d been looking forward to this day for many months, and I knew what this meant. This was a big day! I immediately ran to my phone and downloaded the update that would open up a whole new, more inclusive world for iPhone users everywhere.


Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association Award

Congratulations to Sarah Zagorac (OTD-CC, Class of 2021) for receiving the OT Student Award of Recognition, awarded by Chrissie Daeschner, POTA President Elect for Sarah’s advocacy for occupational therapy services in mental health and efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion within the profession. Fittingly, the award was presented on World Mental Health Day, October 10, 2020 during the POTA Virtual 2020 Conference.

Meet Our Students

Erin Bray, BS/MSOT-East Falls Class of 2021

I looked at many different universities and programs as most do when they are searching for the right school to attend. I was feeling very overwhelmed about making my decision because nothing felt right. Then my mom suggested that we take a tour of her Alma Mater. She attended the same campus when it was Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences. When I arrived at East Falls campus for my first visit, I knew I was home. I felt welcome and the BS/MS Occupational Therapy program felt like the perfect fit.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

I knew from a young age that I wanted a career that would allow me to work with and help people. When I was in high school I shadowed an occupational therapist (OT). I loved OT because each of the interventions was designed to fit the specific needs of the client. The occupational therapist was able to get creative when designing treatment plans and spend a lot of time building a relationship with the client which was so important to me. I have seen occupational therapy change the lives of many of my loved ones and I want to be a part of that change for other people.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

There were many courses that I loved throughout my time at Jefferson including Innovative Practice which involved diving into program development. My group developed a SMART technology program to promote independent living for aging in place. I loved creating something that others could build upon in the future and use for many years. My favorite part about the journey to becoming an occupational therapist has been when each topic or idea ‘clicked’, or made sense to me. When everything starts coming together it’s exciting and rewarding.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson East Falls?

During my time as an undergraduate student at the university I participated in Global Medical Brigades and was able to travel to Honduras with the group in 2017. I was also an orientation leader, peer mentor for freshmen seminar, and a Kanbar building manager through my time as a graduate student. I was president of Theta Phi Alpha sorority and this past year I was Vice President of the Student Occupational Therapy Association. All of these experiences have made my time at Jefferson unforgettable.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?

I left the country for the first time when I was twenty and have since traveled to four different countries through programs at Jefferson! (Honduras, India, Morocco, Spain)

Rachel Larson, MSOT-East Falls (Class of 2022)

The most significant reason that Jefferson East Falls was my preferred choice for an occupational therapy education was the hybrid program design. As an adult learner returning to school after a few years post-undergrad, I appreciated the opportunity to go back to school while continuing to work at a job I valued. Learning on-campus every other weekend and studying independently during the weeks works well for me. The program design allows me to be a full-time student and still participate in other aspects of my life that I value, like work and family.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

I want to be an occupational therapist because I believe in the philosophy of OT, which views people as holistic beings who are embedded in their communities, and who have values and beliefs that shape their motivation to participate in life’s activities. I want to be in a health profession that is relational and creative. As I progress through the East Falls OT program, I continue to appreciate how healing occurs best in the context of meaningful activities, which is something OTs have known since the founding of the profession over 100 years ago. It is such an inspiring field!

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of the Jefferson OT education at East Falls is that the faculty are so engaged and responsive to feedback. Because they are practicing OTs in addition to professors, they have rich expertise, and the classes get better every semester! The curriculum design scaffolds on previous learning, so every new “layer” integrates with concepts we have learned before. I really appreciate how intentionally the program is structured.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson East Falls?

I am a member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), which is the primary way for the OT departments across Jefferson’s campuses to interact for social events and guest lectures. I am also involved in the East Falls Student-Faculty Task Force. This is a group that serves as a liaison between the OT students and faculty, with the goal to continually improve the learning experience based on the needs of each new cohort. Although I am a commuter student, the East Falls Student Engagement team does a great job of offering virtual, commuter-friendly and safe ways to stay involved with the broader campus community as well.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?

I am a newly-converted dog person! I never had pets growing up, and I never thought I would want a dog in the house. Over the last five years, my husband did his best to convince me to adopt a dog. In January, we rescued a sweet terrier mix named Maylie, and she has absolutely stolen my heart.


ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Congratulations to Our 2020 Graduates & New Alumni

Jefferson held its Virtual Commencement Ceremony in August 2020.

A Call to Action: Alumni’s Response. Join Us!

Alumni Contact: allyssabriefOT@gmail.com

In the wake of the recent civic unrest after the killing of George Floyd, a group of Jefferson Occupational Therapy alumni representing varied graduating cohorts gathered to investigate our role in dismantling white supremacy culture and support occupational justice for our clients.

We have held informal virtual discussions to explore the ways in which our academic and clinical training have impacted our preparedness to serve diverse communities. Our aim is to advocate for equity and anti-racism within our occupational therapy communities. We invite you to join us!

For more information on opportunities for you to get involved, ways to stay connected, upcoming alumni events and webinars, alumni resources, and more, visit Office of Alumni Relations: https://www.jefferson.edu/alumni/ or 215-955-7750.

Our Accomplishments:

  • Submitted recommendations for proposed changes to the AOTA Code of Ethics
  • Joined the Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness (IDEA) Committee to support diversity and inclusion efforts of current students
  • Initiated Letter writing campaigns for injustices through an occupation lens
  • Met with Department of Occupational Therapy faculty to discuss development of an Alumni network for Center City and East Falls

Future Goals

  • Establish a formal Alumni Group that will promote mentorship opportunities for underrepresented groups, raise scholarship funds to diversify the student body
  • Participate in advancing the educational curriculum to better represent and serve Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized communities
  • Create opportunities for alumni to mentor new graduates through partnership with SOTA and/or COTAD chapters (Coalition for Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity)
  • Establish formal communication between Jefferson Department of Occupational Therapy and the Occupational Therapy Alumni Group

We look forward to growing successful collaborations, purposeful learning opportunities, and actions that will bring about meaningful change.

For more information on opportunities for you to get involved, ways to stay connected, upcoming alumni events and webinars, alumni resources, and more, visit Office of Alumni Relations or call 215-955-7750.