Occupational Therapy Newsletter

Fall 2023

Message from the Chair

As the Fall 2023 semester is underway, I am thrilled to share some exciting developments within our department that promise to enhance the educational experiences of our students and further enrich our vibrant Occupational Therapy community.

Our department continues to grow, and we are delighted to welcome several new faculty members who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team. Our new faculty contribute to our ongoing mission of fostering excellence in teaching, research and community engagement.

New this Fall:  Faculty, staff and students in the OTA Program moved to the East Falls campus over the summer!  The integration with our OTA program on the East Falls campus offers opportunities for faculty collaboration and provides students with an even broader range of learning experiences. A true example of our integration is reflected in our new faculty member, Natasha Chandra, OTD, OTR/L, who just came on board October 1, 2023 as an Assistant Professor in the OTA Program & MSOT Program. Dr. Chandra brings excellent experience and innovative approaches to build collaborative opportunities between our OTA and OT students. Dr. Chandra will be featured in our Spring Newsletter.

As we embrace the new academic year and celebrate our achievements, we remain committed to engaging in scholarship and providing education that upholds the profound impact that occupational therapy has on improving people’s lives through meaningful occupations.

I hope that you enjoy our Fall 2023 Newsletter!

Catherine Verrier Piersol, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Professor and Chair, Department of Occupational Therapy

Department Updates

Our New Experiential Learning Team

We are happy to announce that an Experiential Learning Team (ELT) has been created within the Department of Occupational Therapy.  The ELT includes four academic fieldwork coordinators (AFWC) representing all program levels – associate, masters and doctorate – and the Doctoral Capstone Coordinator (DCC). 

This dynamic team aims to provide students with hands-on learning that enhances their practical skills and problem-solving abilities in diverse settings through fieldwork and capstone experiences. These learning opportunities allow students to transition from classroom learning to actual practice, preparing them for successful careers in health care.

Meet our Experiential Learning Team

Sarah Klunk, MBA, OTR/L, CTP
Director of Experiential Learning
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
East Falls OTA Program

Sarah Donley, MS, OTR/L, CHT, COMT-UL
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Center City MSOT & OTD Programs

Courtney Gohean, MS, OTR/L, BGC, CLT
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
East Falls MSOT Program

Erin Lynn, OTD, OTR/L, CNT, NTMTC  
Doctoral Capstone Coordinator
Center City OTD Program

Amanda Parezo, OTD, MS, OTR/L
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Center City MSOT & OTD Programs

OTA Program Wraps Up First Year in the Jefferson College of Rehabiliation Sciences

The Jefferson Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program, offering an Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy, provides adults managing multiple responsibilities with the opportunity to pursue an education and accelerated entry into occupational therapy by having minimal prerequisite requirements and offering classes in the evenings and weekends. This formula results in a diverse student population, including adults who are pursuing higher education for the first time, those who have earned college credits but never completed a degree, and those who have a degree in another area and are looking to change careers. Until recently, this program was part of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies with courses held primarily on the Bucks County Campus.

On July 1, 2022, Thomas Jefferson University leadership made the decision to move the OTA Program to the College of Rehabilitation Sciences in alignment with the other occupational therapy programs offered at Jefferson. Soon after that, the decision was made to move the program location to the East Falls Campus and provide students and faculty with additional opportunities for inter- and intra-professional collaboration. 

Program highlights since the program moved to the College of Rehabilitation Sciences:

  • May 23, 2023 - The OTA Program joined the other College of Rehabilitation Sciences programs in commencement at the Kimmel Center. Thirty students earned diplomas.
  • Summer 2023 - The OTA Program held its first classes on the East Falls Campus, in the Ronson Health and Applied Science Center.
  • August 1, 2023 - The OTA Program held its first new student orientation on the East Falls Campus, welcoming 19 new students who will make up the Fall 2023 Cohort. Their anticipated graduation is in August 2025.

Service is also important to the OTA Program. Through the OTA Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), the program can give back to the community where many of our students live, work and are raising families. SOTA has held clothing drives for local psychiatric units in Philadelphia, food drives for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, and regularly volunteers at community organizations such as the ARC of Chester County. This past spring, OTA student Kate Sheridan facilitated a partnership with Finisher Fitness in Bucks County, and the SOTA held a fitness fundraiser to raise money to purchase equipment for the Center for Autism in West Philadelphia. The students raised over $700 to purchase wish-list items and delivered them to the center. This donation had an immediate impact on how the students at the Center for Autism learn, play and socialize.

The OTA Program is looking forward to growing and thriving within the College of Rehabilitation Sciences at Jefferson, continuing its legacy of service, providing accessible entry into occupational therapy, and promoting the role of the occupational therapy assistant, which is – currently ranked as the #1 Best Health Care Support Job in 2023 by U.S.News and World Report.  

Congratulations to Faculty & Students!

Christyn Mitchell, MS, Med, OTR/L

Instructor, MSOT Program, East Falls
DHSc Student, Jefferson College of Health Professions

Christyn Mitchell was selected as a recipient of the 2023-2024 Exxat Student Scholarship in the area of Diversity & Inclusion.  This honor reflects her commitment to service and contributions to the multifaceted Jefferson community in a positive way.

Robin Cohen

OTA Program, Class of 2024

Robin Cohen received the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association OTA Student Award of Recognition.  The award was presented at the POTA Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA Friday, September 29, 2023. 

Meet our Faculty

Pamela Talero Cabrejo OTD, BSOT(Col), OTR/L (she, her, ella)

Assistant Professor
Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program
Instagram: @andeanink

As a faculty member in the Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Program, Dr. Talero teaches courses related to leadership, exploring potential capstone project ideas, and cultural humility for transforming healthcare practices. She began as an adjunct instructor at Jefferson in early 2015, receiving the TJU Award for Outstanding Adjunct Teaching in 2020. The department is fortunate that Dr. Talero assumed a faculty position as assistant professor in 2022. In this role, she engages with our active learning community of accomplished faculty, students and staff who collectively seek to reimagine health and social services with a commitment to improving the living conditions of local communities.

Dr. Talero is very involved in professional activities.  She serves as the First World Federation of Occupational Therapists Alternative Delegate for Columbia and is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association Board of Trustees. She is involved in international initiatives to reduce disparities in knowledge production, dissemination and visibility in occupational therapy. Currently, Dr. Talero is working within an international research consortium to examine scientific literature published in Spanish to understand its scope and gaps. This endeavor is part of a broader undertaking spearheaded by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). Dr. Talero’s interest lies in understanding how unequal knowledge-mobility practices shape occupational therapy local practices and how this interplay influences human occupation, health behavior, decision-making and policy-shaping endeavors.

In her spare time, Dr. Talero is an amateur illustrator and has illustrated the covers for the Colombian Journal of Occupational Therapy- Revista Ocupacion Humana since 2016.

Dr. Talero’s words of wisdom for students is to take advantage of the resources accessed as part of the Jefferson community, including physical, technical, technological and social network. Take the opportunity to be open minded and step out of a comfort zone to forge meaningful connections with both people and ideas. Be vulnerable, ask questions, think critically and push the boundaries of what's achievable. 

Courtney Gohean MS, OTR/L, BCG, CLT (she/her)

Instructor & Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Program-East Falls
X (formerly known as Twitter): @Morrisonc2

Courtney Gohean is the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator (AFWC) for our Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Program – East Falls. She joined the Jefferson Department of Occupational Therapy in Fall of 2021 as an adjunct instructor and assumed a full-time faculty position in 2022; however, Courtney’s first position as an occupational therapist was as a staff therapist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital! She came full-circle and continues to practice as a per diem therapist at the hospital.

Courtney is part of the department’s Experiential Learning Team that oversees fieldwork education across all of our entry-level programs. As an Academic Fieldwork Coordinator, she appreciates and values the opportunity to observe and guide students through their educational journey until the very end of their academic and fieldwork experiences. Often she will highlight for students the importance of being a life-ling learner. Courtney describes the growth observed during that time as something quite magical and inspiring.

In her role as AFWC, this summer, Courtney planned, organized and led a service learning and cultural immersion experience to Morocco with 11 students from our MSOT and OTD programs.  

While a full-time faculty member, Courtney is pursuing a doctoral degree in education (Ed.D.) at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.  Her interests center on meeting the needs of students with disabilities. For her doctoral work she is focused on addressing accommodations for students with disabilities in the clinical setting (fieldwork). Towards that end, Courtney and Dr. Aster Harrison (Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy) were awarded an internal University sponsored grant to pursue research around accommodations for students in the clinical setting. 

Sarah Klunk, MBA, OTR/L, CTP   

Director of Experimental Learning
Instructor & Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, East Falls

Sarah Klunk has been at Jefferson for three years as the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator (AFWC) for our Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. As the AFWC, she is responsible for coordinating fieldwork rotations and committed to offering a diverse array of fieldwork experiences for each OTA student. She is actively engaged in community outreach and collaboration with community organizations and educators in order to support learning experiences for our students. Sarah supports initiatives to build new programs, improve existing services and identify needs in the community that can be supported by our Jefferson occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant students.

Sarah has an entrepreneurial spirit! She has a kitchen-design business specializing in designing IKEA products. She has designed over 250 kitchens over the past eight years, which she truly enjoys. Merging her kitchen design skills with her occupational therapy expertise, she also advises clients about home remodeling options to maximize functionality and aesthetics.

With the establishment of our Experiential Learning Team, a new instrumental role was created to lead this team, focused on centralizing the policies and procedures guiding fieldwork across all programs. In July, Sarah assumed this new role as the Director of Experiential Learning. With her experience as a manager and business administration, she is perfectly suited for this role and is excited to lead the effort to merge experiential learning curricula and processes across our entry-level programs that will support and promote student learning and meet accreditation standards. Sarah is excited to work with the other experiential learning team members and is excited to see the progress the team will make together this academic year.

Building relationships with colleagues, students, and professionals in the community is important to Sarah. She enjoys learning about the great work that Jefferson and community partners do, in addition to students’ passions and initiatives. By blending these groups together and structuring experiential learning opportunities, Sarah believes student perspectives broaden and educator knowledge of the profession grows.

Sarah describes how guiding and supporting students towards their dream of becoming an occupational therapy practitioner is so rewarding! Words of wisdom for students center around the value of mentorship, “When a mentor or educator takes time to offer thoughtful constructive feedback, it is a gift that shows they are truly invested in the personal and professional growth of the student”. She encourages students to accept feedback with an open mind and appreciate how important it is for professional growth. 

Sarah Donley, MS, OTR/L, CHT, COMT-UL (she/her)

Instructor & Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Master of Occupational Therapy Program & Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program, Center City

Sarah Donley joined the Department of Occupational Therapy this summer as one of the Academic Fieldwork Coordinators. As a 2007 alumnus of the MSOT program at Jefferson, she is excited to return to Jefferson in a faculty role.  

Sarah worked for 16 years as a hand therapist at NovaCare Rehabilitation and Cooper University Healthcare. During that time, she earned her Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) credential and certification in Orthopedic Manual Therapy for the Upper Limb (COMT-UL) and the Graston Technique© of soft tissue mobilization.  Sarah completed Certified Educator training for Dynamic Tape© leading to the development of a training in-service on the application of Dynamic Tape©. In addition, she participated in a research study on post-operative hand therapy, examining hand infections following surgery (refer to article)

While in clinical practice, Sarah was involved in designing and presenting education modules for NovaCare/Select Medical’s Hand Therapy Fellowship Program.  Advancing the knowledge of students has always been important to Sarah, as such she served as a fellowship mentor, fieldwork educator, and OTD capstone site mentor. 

Sarah is currently pursuing her Post-professional OTD from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. For her doctoral project she is using a mixed-methods survey to examine the perceptions of Level II Fieldwork Educators regarding student need for additional didactic and clinical content prior to Level II Fieldwork in hand therapy. Sarah is interested in creating a hand therapy elective for our entry-level programs.

As she transitions from clinic practice to academic fieldwork coordinator, Sarah brings a valued perspective to students. She shares with students that occupational therapy offers many opportunities and encourages students to hone their skills and explore traditional and emerging practice areas.

Erin Lynn, OTD, OTR/L, CNT, NTMTC  (she/her)

Instructor and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator
Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program, Center City

Erin Lynn joined the Department of Occupational Therapy this summer as our Doctoral Capstone Coordinator. Prior to coming to Jefferson, she worked for 17 years in pediatric clinical practice, working in early intervention, schools, acute care, and outpatient.  Her passion as an occupational therapist emerged when Dr. Lynn began working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  As such her doctoral work focused on developing a program to facilitate access to therapy services and provide family support/education to promote better developmental outcomes for infants being discharged from the NICU . Dr. Lynn's doctoral work led to presentation opportunities including a continuing education webinar through DandleLion Medical (a NICU education and resources organization). 

During her work in a local NICU, she also created an annual reading program and a Kangaroo-A-Thon to encourage parent engagement and promote developmental outcomes universally in the NICU.  These programs provided Dr. Lynn opportunities to work with marketing and local foundations and generate support from community resources.  Together they successfully created programming for the unit that benefitted all the families and increased awareness in the local community about the NICU and infant development. As a result of these activities, the NICU expanded the role of therapy from Dr. Lynn's part-time position to a full therapy team representing occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech and language pathology to improve the outcomes for the babies. 

Dr. Lynn's enthusiasm and commitment to the role of occupational therapy in the NICU is a wonderful example for students. She describes her experience of helping a parent hold their sick baby for the first time as amazing and very rewarding. Moreover, impacting brain development and setting up an infant for success, she shares, is extremely critical and very meaningful to her. 

Dr. Lynn transitioned to academia with the desire to inspire students and ensure they are exposed to opportunities in the NICU and other areas of practice in which occupational therapy makes a difference. She is inspired by her academic colleagues and their work; she is energized by the many possibilities for occupational therapy and the opportunity she has to develop capstone experiences and place students in settings that will expand practice. Dr. Lynn is grateful that Jefferson provides the opportunity to engage in this type of work.  

Faculty Innovations

Infusing Simulation into the Occupational Therapy Curriculum: On the Cutting Edge

Simulation education is a specialized instructional method designed to create a safe and nonjudgmental space for learners to practice their skills, develop their professional identity and enhance their confidence in a realistic environment.  Simulation education is considered the gold standard for training in medicine and has expanded to other healthcare and non-healthcare professions. Depending on the learning objectives, educators can choose from a variety of simulation modalities, including peer-to-peer role play, role-play, manikins and standardized patients in order to craft an experience that the student is prepared for and able to perform successfully. Simulation encounters provide students with real-time feedback so they can modify their interactions with the client. After the learning experience, faculty-led debriefing provides additional opportunities to learn more about how to navigate different circumstances and highlight strengths and areas for growth.

Despite the clear utility of simulation education and standardized patients, it took until 2018 for it to be incorporated into the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education Standards as an option for Level I Fieldwork. Late in the first decade of the 21st century, Thomas Jefferson University was ahead of the curve with the establishment of the Robert and Dorothy Rector Clinical Skills and Simulation Center on the Center City Campus.  With University leadership’s support for all health professions to utilize the resources within the Simulation Center, Dr. Janice Burke, then chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy (and currently professor emeritus), encouraged faculty to learn the specialized training method in hopes of better preparing students for the complexities and dynamics of clinical practice. Faculty participation in the simulation center led to many occupational therapy-based and interprofessional simulation experiences.

The Department of Occupational Therapy, led by, Dr. Audrey Zapletal (Assistant Professor), Dr. E. Adel Herge (Professor), Dr. Tina DeAngelis (Professor), Dr. Tracey Earland (Associate Professor), Dr. Arlene Lorch (Adjunct Assistant Professor), Dr. Kimberly Mollo, (Associate Professor) and Dr. Susan Santalucia, embraced simulation as part of the curriculum in several courses and co-authored an article in the Journal for Allied Health Professions in 2013. One of the first simulation encounters was developed for “Jefferson’s Student Clinic Day” in the Center City Interventions: Enhancing Human Performance.  This half-day simulated hospital experience consisted of students completing a 30-minutetreatment session with a SP with a chronic condition, receiving constructive feedback from their SP, and participating in a debriefing session with clinical lab instructors and peers. It also had students using a schedule to locate patients on different floors and gathering equipment from the rehab gym between patients, real-world tasks that were new to many students.  After the simulation, faculty and the SP team held a debriefing session.  Many SPs commented how occupational therapy students were unique in their approach, encouraging and supportive. 

Simulation experiences are a mainstay in the Center City entry-level program curricula and are intentionally being added in specific competencies and courses in the East Falls’ MSOT program. These simulations go beyond what can be practiced in traditional labs and classes, giving students their first experiences of being healthcare practitioners in a safe controlled environment. In collaboration with other simulation-certified OT educators and professionals, Dr. Audrey Zapletal and Dr. E. Adel Herge began to lead simulation workshops for educators at national and international conferences. They gained invaluable expertise and skills through these collaborations, sharing this knowledge through a recently published book, Clinical Simulation for Healthcare Professionals, an instrumental tool for establishing and implementing effective simulation encounters within healthcare education. Dr. Zapletal, as lead author, collaborated with Drs. E. Adel Herge, Joanne Baird, Tracy Van Oss, Maureen Hoppe and Jean Prast from various institutions across the US. The book is a comprehensive resource for designing, implementing and evaluating a single simulation-learning encounter or an entire simulation-based curriculum. Contents of the book include examining the differences among low and high-fidelity simulation modalities, budgeting, training-guides for simulated/standardized patients, debriefing templates and more. This manual consists of sample simulations and worksheets for customizing simulation experiences in a variety of settings and professions as well as for various learning and teaching needs. The book operates as both a how-to guide and a collection of evidence-based research supporting the development and integration of simulation-based education into a new or existing curriculum.

Simulation education is a unique training method designed to enhance student performance and confidence prior to embarking on fieldwork. Using evidence-based approaches simulation education supports student growth and professional identity. For more information on simulation and how to become certified as a simulation educator, visit the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) and the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning websites. These organizations, SSH in particular, have affinity groups specific to rehabilitation professionals and educators.

Addressing the Complexities of Long COVID: The Role of Occupational Therapy

Though the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 emergency over in May, the coronavirus continues to profoundly shape many people’s lives. Data from the CDC’s Household Pulse Survey revealed that more than 40% of U.S. adults reported having COVID-19, and nearly one out of five of those are still experiencing symptoms of long COVID. One study estimates that at least 65 million people around the world have long COVID.

There’s currently no cure for long COVID, though healthcare providers across a range of specialties are working to treat it in new and innovative ways. One of those specialties is occupational therapy, as a health profession that helps individuals with illness or injury take part in the activities that matter to them. In a Rehabilitation Grand Rounds, Dr. Malachy Clancy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, discusses how his field is approaching the complex problem of long COVID.

How Can Occupational Therapists Help People with Long COVID? (The Nexus)

Meet our Students

Kerri Carpenter

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, East Falls
Class of 2025

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I am a COTA/L and served as clinical supervisor for Level I students from Jefferson in the past. I was very impressed by the students and what they had to say about the OT program at Jefferson. When I was exploring the various OT programs in the area, Jefferson’s every other weekend MSOT program at East Falls Campus offered a convenient location and feasible schedule for my busy lifestyle as a working single mother of two children.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

I have been a COTA/L for 22 years and love everything about the field of occupational therapy. I work in pediatrics (school-based) with students in autistic support and multiple disabilities classrooms. I also have two children who are neurodiverse (my son has autism and is gifted, and my daughter has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). I would like to get involved in research and hope to someday teach future generations of occupational therapists.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

Hands-on, experiential learning and collaborating with my peers in our cohort. Getting to know some of the instructors better and connecting on a professional level has been very rewarding.

Doing graduate research assistant work with Dr. Schaaf’s team at the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence continues to be an incredibly valuable learning opportunity for me. 

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

I participated in the Anatomy and Kinesiology preparation course with Dr. Sinko in August, prior to the start of the first semester. I am a member of the Student-Faculty Task Force. I am working as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Schaaf with the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence (JeffACE).

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

I have a diploma in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies and am fluent in conversational sign language. I used to be a competitive bartender, flipping bottles in the air for TGI Fridays (25+ years ago!).

Serena Shim

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, East Falls
Class of 2025

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I initially chose Jefferson because of its unique and rigorous program that provides me the flexibility to continue working while studying for my degree. After hearing about Jefferson’s impressive reputation and the faculty’s passion for their work during my interview, I knew this is where I wanted to pursue my education.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

My younger brother with autism. Being a keen observer and creative problem solver, his occupational therapist was able to support him in becoming independent in many of his occupations. After a variety of shadowing experiences, I was amazed to see the breadth of the OT profession that combines compassion, science and creativity to promote independence.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

So far, I would say the best part has been getting to know my cohort and faculty. It’s awesome to be surrounded by so many supportive classmates who have diverse interests but also h a huge passion for OT. My professors have also done such an amazing job providing a supportive environment for both professional and personal growth despite this being a hybrid program.

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

I recently picked up a new hobby: making mechanical keyboards.

Alumni Highlights

Olivia Biller, OTD, OTR/L (OTD, 2022)

Many people are taught to start thinking about our future career paths in adolescence. It may start with your first job in high school, your decision to go to college or your declaration of a major. But we’re often not taught that career paths can look different and that there’s not one “correct” path for anyone to take.

Olivia Biller is the perfect example of someone who took the road less traveled in the healthcare field. A 2022 graduate of the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy program, she’s now a postdoctoral fellow of patient-reported outcomes for Johnson & Johnson.

Instead of using her clinical training to treat patients, Dr. Biller is applying her education and knowledge to a role in pharmaceutical research. “I want to approach occupational therapy in a way that’s genuine to me, even if it’s considered non-traditional,” she says.

See article about Dr. Biller’s work: How Alumna Olivia Biller Followed Her Own Path (The Nexus)

Michelle Gorenberg, OTD, OTR/L (PP-OTD, 2012) (she/her)

Dr. Gorenberg recently retired from her full-time academic position at Widener University in Chester, PA. Currently she consults to academic programs in higher education to provide faculty development and mentorship and provide support for curriculum development. She also co-facilitates a virtual teaching and learning book club for faculty in the health professions from across the country and serve as associate editor for the “Instructional Insights” column in the journal Occupational Therapy in Health Care. In addition, she maintains a small clinical practice, working in children’s mental health. For enjoyment, outside of her professional work, Dr. Gorenberg and her husband love ballroom dancing!

Completing her PPOTD at Jefferson prepared Dr. Gorenberg to transition my professional role into academia, but more than that, –it connected her with colleagues from across the country who have contributed to her professional growth and development. Through the program, Dr. Gorenberg made lifelong colleagues and friends that have enriched her professional and personal life.

 To her students, Dr. Gorenberg encourages them to “Stay curious, be open to possibilities and embrace challenges!” 

Sonny Misa, OTD, OTR/L (OTD, 2020) (he/him)

Instagram: Sonnehhh

Dr. Misa grew up in the Los Angeles area. He moved across the country to attend Jefferson in 2017. Sonny pursued an entry-level occupational therapy doctoral degree to allow the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, to teach and to engage in research. He enveloped himself in multiple pursuits, which provided the chance to engage and connect with people in each of these areas.

Dr. Misa was amazed to meet so many passionate people who loved to engage in the various opportunities that Jefferson provided. This helped him to foster friendships and create interests in fields he never thought of before, including working with caregivers, refugees, individuals who are unhoused, people living with dementia, and people with a myriad of life experiences. This helped Dr. Misa grow as an individual through listening to firsthand stories.

Since graduating, Dr. Misa has taken advantage of many opportunities and stays very busy!  He is an occupational therapist at MossRehab working in neurorehab, rotating between specialty units including brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, comprehensive rehabilitation (patients post-transplant or amputation), neurological disorders (multiple sclerosis, Guillain Barre), outpatient services, and acute care. Interested in research, Dr. Misa serves as an interventionist for a NIH funded study on which Drs. Earland and Piersol are co-investigators. The randomized controlled trial is testing the Home-based Occupational Therapy and Management of the Environment (HOME), an intervention for individuals with traumatic brain injury. Dr. Misa delivers the intervention to participant dyads (person with TBI and family member) and meets with the research team for debriefing. In addition, the department is fortunate that Dr. Misa is an adjunct instructor, teaching Functional Anatomy, Interpersonal Relations and Groups and Psychosocial Interventions

While he enjoys the outdoors, Dr. Misa’s true passion is rock climbing. He loves being able to look at a wall and plan out a route that requires him to move in specific ways to complete it. He also enjoys sharing this experience with people, helping them use rock climbing as a platform to experience self-growth by learning to trust themselves and push their limits.

Dr. Misa’s advice to students draws on the curiosity of children. He proposes that children learn to grasp an object based on their curiosity. They pull themselves to stand just to grab a toy that’s slightly out of reach. Eventually, they start walking to further explore their environment. That nascent curiosity is deep within all people and he encourages students to follow their curiosities to find their passion.