Occupational Therapy Newsletter

Fall 2021

Greetings from the Jefferson Occupational Therapy Department!

As we navigate through the fall 2021 semester, the characteristic of resiliency rises to my consciousness almost every day. As defined by Merriam-Webster, resiliency reflects “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” 

The members of the Department of Occupational Therapy, our students, faculty and staff, are an amazing group of individuals, all contributing to where we are today -- doing our best to provide a quality education and experience for our students and supporting department members in their work activities. I am thankful to work with such committed individuals and am optimistic about where we are headed. 

One of our members, Dr. Amanda Lyons, exemplifies the characteristic of resiliency and beyond. On the evening of May 19, 2021, Dr. Lyons was talking with friends after playing a game of kickball when she was the random victim of a stray bullet that shattered her lower spine. Over the next four months she underwent many, many surgeries and procedures; Dr. Lyons moved from ICU to a med-surg unit at Temple University Hospital and to rehab at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.

Dr. Lyon’s  husband, family and friends supported a move to an accessible apartment complex not far from our Center City campus, where she and her husband now live. Through her resilient nature, determination, commitment and very positive attitude, Dr. Lyons returned to her position as Academic Fieldwork Coordinator this fall, in September 2021! It was such a pleasure for me to welcome her back to work. With her permission, I share her story.

Although the story of COVID-19 is still unfolding, we are moving forward, toward the resumption of some “old” routines, while establishing new ways of doing. Within this Fall 2021 newsletter, we highlight faculty, student and alumni activities, publications and awards during this challenging time.

Speaking for the members of our department, I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season spent with those who are important to you and engaged in activities that are meaningful.

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


Interprofessional Collaboration Across Our Clinical & Academic Pillars

Rehab Heroes: Occupational and physical therapists relate to and inspire patients, whether in everyday circumstances or on groundbreaking clinical trials.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) to a patient’s recovery from stroke, trauma or disease (including recovery from COVID-19). After a stroke, patients leave the hospital unable to walk or use their hands or arms, among other problems.

Through the intensive training with PT and OT experts, patients relearn to walk, talk and regain some hand control. Building back body strength and regaining proper posture and movement are essential to restoring the functions of daily living. Those goals would be far more difficult to achieve without the expertise and dedication of these rehabilitation professionals.

“This job isn’t meant for everybody,” says Joe Kardine, a Jefferson Health outpatient occupational therapist and certified brain injury specialist. “You have to want to put yourself in that position to be multifaceted in your personality – coach, mentor, friend, confidant – because you need to tap into all those parts in order to relate to patients and to motivate them when they are at their most vulnerable.

There can be challenging days, of course. But other days, when you see a patient make progress toward becoming self-sufficient again because of all the work you put in with them, are very rewarding.”

An Amazing Experience for Students Too

Aaron Ulland suffered a stroke in January 2019. Although he regained his speech, ability to swallow and some mobility over several months of outpatient physical therapy near his home in southern New Jersey, Aaron had lost full use of his arm. In October 2020, Jefferson neurosurgeons, as part of a groundbreaking clinical trial, implanted electrodes in Aaron’s brain that would send signals to a motorized brace on his left arm, enabling him to move it again.

The revolutionary Cortimo clinical trial marks the first time this was ever done in a patient with a common type of stroke and demonstrates what could be possible in the future for others with disability from strokes. Providing invaluable assistance during the several weeks of Aaron’s post-surgery therapy were two Thomas Jefferson University graduate students: Ashly Parekh, a first-year OT student at the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, and Joely Mass, a fourth-year student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. They each spent several hours a week coaching Aaron through his exercises and games, accompanying him on his walks and providing good company and conversation.

*Note: This article reflects the expressed views and opinions of those interviewed.


Faculty in the News

Namrata Grampurohit, PhD, OTR/L
How to cope while caregiving for a stroke patient

According to the CDC, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States. Although the risk of stroke increases with age, strokes can affect anyone and cause long-term and serious disability. It’s a life-changing diagnosis for the patient and their loved ones, who often, just as suddenly, become full-time caregivers. Occupational and physical therapy experts provide tips for balancing self-care with helping loved ones on their road to recovery.

Dr. Grampurohit’s research focuses on how to better support patients and caregivers in the rehabilitation process. 

Audrey Zapletal, OTD, OTR/L, ALC, Tracey Vause Earland, PhD, OTR/L & Susan Toth-Cohen, PhD, OTR/L
LGBTQ+ curriculum gap leads to new training program for Jefferson faculty and staff

Several years ago, a few occupational therapy students came to Dr. Audrey Zapletal to voice their concerns about a gap in the curriculum addressing ways to better work with the LGBTQ+ community.

“They were right,” acknowledges Dr. Zapletal, director of the MS in occupational therapy program and assistant professor on the East Falls Campus. The OT simulation curriculum provided experiences for students to work with standardized patients from different backgrounds (ethnicity, race, age) and body types, but not specifically gender identity.

That candid feedback inspired her and colleagues to develop a standardized patient experience that included members of the trans community within the simulation curriculum. While a move forward for OT students, Dr. Zapletal felt more could be done—not just for her program but for all of Jefferson. She soon partnered with Dr. Karla A. Bell, associate professor of physical therapy; Dr. Susan Toth-Cohen, director of the post-professional occupational therapy doctorate program and Dr. Tracey Vause Earland, associate professor of occupational therapy.

Together, the transdisciplinary team created the pioneering Faculty/Staff/Clinician Development Program for Sexual and Gender Minority Education and Training (SG-MET for short).

Michael Barrett, OTD, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Instructor Recommends the Most Comfortable Beach Chairs: Martha Stewart

Staying in one position for too long can leave your body strained and sore, and that's true whether you're hunched over your phone or stuck at your desk for hours of Zoom meetings. But the ergonomics of your beach chair are just as critical as those of your office seat—unless you want an afternoon engaged in the latest page-turner to cause aches and pains for the rest of your trip. "Poor ergonomics in a chair can place excess strain on your back, hips and knees in any scenario," says Michael Patrick Barrett, OTD, OTR/L and adjunct instructor at Thomas Jefferson University. "Everyone should pay attention to the ergonomics of any chair they plan to sit in for an extended period."

Faculty Award

MJ Mulcahey, PhD, OTR/L was selected as the recipient of the 2021 American Paraplegia Society (APS) Comarr Award presented at the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals Annual Conference in September.

Dr. Mulcahey has demonstrated leadership and expertise and is a recognized authority in the area of spinal cord medicine and research. Her accomplishments have had a positive nationwide impact on individuals with SCI/D and their quality of life. This award serves as recognition of MJ’s achievements by peers, professionals, and the community. 

Faculty Publications

Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, SCEM, CLIPP CAPS
All Work or All Play? The impact of cultural and clinical activities on perceived cultural sensitivity development during an occupational therapy service learning experience

International service learning experiences provide invaluable opportunities for occupational therapy practitioners and students to practice clinical skills while also being exposed to different cultures and experiences not available in their home country.

Studies have shown that, while clinical activities during international service learning experiences increase students’ cultural awareness and sensitivity, the effect of cultural activities on students’ development is not known. Over the span of two years, multiple groups of American occupational therapy students traveled to Morocco for a 10-day service learning experience and served in a variety of clinical activities across the lifespan and population.

Students also participated in cultural and tourist activities for increased exposure to the local culture. This study explored the development of cultural sensitivity through participation in both clinical and cultural activities during the international service learning experience through a quantitative survey (n=22) and qualitative interview (n=17).

Participants indicated that both clinical and cultural activities played a role in their self-perceived development of cultural sensitivity on the quantitative survey. Themes identified within the qualitative interview revealed the impactful qualities of various activities, identified as “Authenticity,” “Communication Skills,” “Role of Religion” and “Exposure to Morocco.”

It appears that both kinds of activities play a role in development of cultural sensitivity, and regardless of the activity, authenticity and exposure to the culture, along with opportunities to practice communication skills, play the largest role in students perceiving a personal increase in cultural awareness and sensitivity while participating in international service learning experiences.

Marie-Christine Potvin, PhD, OTR/L, Mary Beth Thomas, DOT, OTR/L, & LaRonda Lockhart-Keene OTD, OTR/L
Clinical and professional reasoning development in Level II Fieldwork: Occupational therapy assistant students’ perceptions

Occupational therapy academic programs are tasked with preparing occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students to develop and use clinical and professional reasoning in practice. A component of this academic education, Level II fieldwork (FW), develops clinical and professional reasoning by allowing students to practice this skill.

Although numerous studies have investigated this topic in occupational therapy students, only one small study has previously investigated this in OTA students during Level II FW. Thus, we designed a mixed methods study of OTA students during Level II FW (n = 58) to confirm and expand our knowledge of learning experiences that develop clinical and professional reasoning skills.

Six major aspects of Level II FW were identified by participants as contributing to the development of their clinical and professional reasoning skills: “hands-on experience,” “thinking on your feet,” “the value of community-based placements,” “the supervision approach of the FW educator,” “application of evidence-based practice” and “interprofessional interactions.” Three of these themes were novel as they did not emerge from the previous study.

According to most participants their clinical and professional reasoning development was positively impacted when their FW educator chunked information (88.5%), modeled best practice (84.6%), asked questions (84.6%), or engaged in story-telling (84.6%), with the latter two being perceived as most impactful. The study results suggest that the development of clinical and professional reasoning may be highly individualized and driven by what students experience.


East Falls Disability Awareness Day Event

Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, SCEM, CLIPP CAPS, SOTA Faculty Advisor

Second year students in the MSOT-East Falls program hosted sophomore Interior Design students for the 5th Annual Disability Awareness Day on March 6, 2021 as part of their Innovative Practice course.

This event requires the occupational therapy students to provide an interactive disability simulation and advocate for people with different conditions to raise awareness among the interior design students of the impact of environmental design on people’s daily independence.

Conditions include various physical disability conditions, such as lower extremity weakness, arthritis, and hemiplegia, and use of mobility equipment to other conditions such as low vision, dyspraxia, sensory processing and ADHD. The event also allows for the occupational therapy students to discuss occupational therapy’s role in the environment and the use of an occupational therapist as a consultant within environmental design and modifications.

After the event, the interior design students start their last project of their spring studio, which involves designing a transgenerational community center. The project involves working with two groups of occupational therapy students who design the programming within the center and provide consultative services regarding accessibility of the centers.

We are very pleased to have been able to provide this valuable educational opportunity in person this year, despite the pandemic. All students visited stations on a rotation while following strict COVID-19 social distancing, PPE and sanitization procedures.

Student Awards

  • Umara Iftikhar, MSOT-CC, received the James B. Erdmann Student Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice from JCIPE
  • Ashley Boyd, MSOT-EF, received a student scholarship from the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association 

Students in the News

Ann Claire Macalintal (MSOT-CC, 2021)
Story from the field

For my first Level II fieldwork, I had the opportunity to work with the Afya Foundation in Yonkers, NY.

The Afya Foundation aims to improve global health and empower communities by rescuing surplus medical supplies, sorting the supplies, and delivering them to underserved health systems around the world. To accomplish this aim, the foundation welcomes volunteers – with and without mental illnesses or learning disabilities – from local schools and teams, religious groups and community organizations.  

These volunteers would either come into the warehouse or participate in the Boxes for Life program, where they would receive boxes and work via Zoom. By engaging in this Afya process with the assistance of OT students, volunteers are able to use their own strengths to practice functional life skills, learn work readiness skills and establish communication skills, all while being a part of this altruistic community.

For example, through weekly in-person and virtual occupational therapy sessions, we were able to increase standing endurance and establish strategies for stress and anxiety management to increase confidence in job interviews and future work roles. Aside from these sessions, the other OT students and I were also able to hold an Afya Carnival Day at the end of my fieldwork, where the volunteers were able to independently share talents and run various booths that implemented their meaningful occupations and the work readiness and communication skills they learned in prior weeks.

This experience not only allowed me to become a better advocate for my future clients, but it also taught me how to share the need for occupational therapy in non-traditional sites. I am so thankful for Afya!

AFYA related links:


Tanisha Monte, MS, OTR/L (MSOT-CC, 2017)

Tanisha Monte is one of four Occupational Therapists accepted into the AOTA-accredited Neurology Fellowship program at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Jacksonville, FLA. The program specializes in complex neurologic conditions and runs from July 2021 through July 2022. Tanisha will spend time throughout the year rotating on the spinal cord injury, brain injury and stroke units as well as skilled nursing settings. Fellows receive over 150 hours of 1:1 clinical mentoring and take part in didactic coursework, research and teaching opportunities.

The Brooks Neurologic OT Fellowship assists in preparing OTs in becoming recognized by the AOTA Physical Rehabilitation Board Certification (BCPR). Tanisha started her career as a travel therapist right out of grad school and has worked in multiple settings including acute care, acute inpatient rehab, PACE programs, general adult outpatient, sub-acute neuro rehab and home health. She has also worked in South America as a pediatric OT and has worked independently, assisting a client with locked-in syndrome with relocating and reintegrating into his hometown in India.

When asked why she wanted to pursue a neurology fellowship with Brooks Rehab, Tanisha said, “Now that I’ve been exposed to a little bit of everything, I’m ready to specialize in an area that I love. Working with patients with neurological disorders has been something I’ve been passionate about since grad school. I chose to become a neurologic fellow because I want to make sure that I’m providing the best service to my patients. I want to further develop my clinical reasoning and be confident that what I’m doing is giving the patient the best chance at recovery. I want to become a change agent and to be able to confidently address the gaps in our profession.”

The fellowship is not only an opportunity to increase knowledge in a certain practice area, but to take everything you already know, maximize it and become an expert at the implementation of that knowledge. Said Tanisha, “you don’t just learn how to become a highly skilled clinician but you’re provided the resources and tools you need to continue practicing at that level, no matter what direction you decide to take your skills.”

Rachel Kim, OTD, OTR/L (OTD, 2020)

Alumni Awards

Rachel Kim, OTD, OTR/L (OTD, 2020)

Dr. Rachel Kim was named the 2021 ACRM R13 Diversity Complementary Integrative Rehabilitation Medicine (DCIRM) Mentoring & Career Development Fellowship recipient. As you know, Rachel is an alumni of the entry level OTD program at Jefferson and has been working in the Center for Outcomes and Measurement for a little over one year (since she graduated). The fellowship is awarded to an early career researcher or practitioner who has an interest in complimentary and integrative approaches to rehabilitation.

Jennifer Dodson, OTD, OTR/L, CHT (PP-OTD, 2021)

Dr. Dodson received the NBCOT Impact Award as a Clinician with High Impact in the field of Occupational Therapy. This award is given to practitioners who demonstrate exceptional professional commitment through dedication, hard work and outstanding OT skills to improve their clients' overall life satisfaction.

Alumni Publications

Life Skill Development and its Impact on Perceived Stress, Employment and Education Pursuits: A Study of Young Adults with a History of Homelessness and Trauma

An occupational therapy educational training group for young adults in permanent supported housing was developed, implemented and evaluated with pre-post outcome measures including Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) and the Perceived Stress Scale-10 (PSS-10). The study explored stress levels and employment-related goals of individuals who have aged out of the foster care system and may also have a history of chronic homelessness and trauma. Results demonstrated a trend toward significance in perceived stress Z=1.689, p=0.91) with seven of eight participants surpassing the expected outcome according to GAS. Limitations included a small convenience sample (n=8), inconsistent attendance and use of self-report measures.


The only thing better than having a door opened for you is opening a door for someone else.

That’s what scholarships do: They open doors to the future by giving support to our students as they embark on careers in Occupational Therapy and more.

That’s what you can do. Open the door for a student who will make a difference. You can be a difference maker too by supporting one, or both, of our newest scholarships.

  • The Dr. Janice P. Burke Scholarship honors a former Jefferson dean and co-founder of the widely influential Model of Human Occupation. Scholarship awards are aimed at creating a more diverse student body and will be given to first-year Occupational Therapy students pursing a master’s degree on the Center City Campus. Make a gift to the Dr. Janice P. Burke Scholarship by visiting Jefferson.edu/BurkeScholarship
  • The Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells Scholarship honors the memory of a transgender person who was murdered in 2020. A group of Jefferson Occupational Therapy students, now alumni, worked with her at Morris House, a residential recovery program in Philadelphia that serves transgender and gender-variant people. The scholarship supports transgender and gender nonconforming students at Thomas Jefferson University who are Black, indigenous, or people of color.Learn more about the scholarship or make a gift at Jefferson.edu/Fells