Occupational Therapy Newsletter

Spring 2021

Message from the Chair

As the Spring 2021 semester ends, I am extremely grateful for the commitment, involvement and tremendous fortitude of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni within the Jefferson occupational therapy community – their contributions have collectively helped to keep our department moving forward.  Although it has been stressful to meet the demands of our multi-faceted occupational roles and we are frustrated and oversaturated with Zoom interaction, we have remained focused on engagement and being action-oriented throughout the pandemic.

Our Spring Newsletter demonstrates this point!  We feature a story about the innovative work of the new Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence, important perspective and updates from the Jefferson Chapter of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD), and the exciting activities of our Undergraduate Student Occupational Therapy Association. We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Tracey Recigno welcomed our inaugural class to the newest chapter of Phi Theta Epsilon.  Finally, we are very proud to highlight some of our exceptional students and an alumnus, Juan Ramirez, Class of 2011.

As we transition to summer and then to fall, I am hopeful.  The “silver linings” of the pandemic that offer new and creative ways of thinking and doing will continue as we return to campus and navigate a safe and healthy path towards a “new normal”.  


Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence Leads the Way in Innovative Programming, Education and Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence has forged paths to create better healthcare outcomes and experiences for individuals on the autism spectrum. They have done so through interdisciplinary collaborations with Wills Eye Pediatric Ophthalmology Center and the DuPont-Nemours Swank Autism Center. At the Wills Eye Pediatric Ophthalmology Center (Dr. Kammi B. Gunton, interim director) , the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence team, including occupational therapy students, worked to develop social narratives and to provide sensory supports and recommendations to physicians to improve participation in eye exams for individuals on the autism spectrum. The response from parents and providers alike has been very positive.  Future plans are to hold more vision clinics at Wills (with occupational therapy support) and to extend this model to other sites such as Vanderbilt and University of California San Francisco.  

Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence doctoral students are also collaborating with the DuPont-Nemours Swank Autism Center (Dr. Diane Treadwell-Deering, director) to create a sensory friendly environment to improve the healthcare experience of children with autism at the Swank Center. They are doing this in collaboration with the Design Thinking Lab at Jefferson (Dr. Matt Fields, director).  The stakeholders are being brought together to create a solution that makes the healthcare experience at the Swank Center more accessible for children on the spectrum.

These projects demonstrate and advocate for the unique skill set and distinct value of occupational therapists within an interdisciplinary team for promoting participation in health and wellness activities.


Researchers in the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence continue to innovate. Recently, Dr. Roseann Schaaf, director, and team launched a study in partnership with the Jefferson Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis & Hemp to understand perceptions around cannabis use in autism. The study is called “A Survey of Parent Interest in Cannabis Use for the Child with ASD.” It will survey parents of children with ASD (aged 5-10) to assess their level of knowledge and interest in cannabis use for their child and gauge interest for participation in future studies. This study will provide valuable information regarding parent expectations, beliefs and specific outcomes that would be of interest in a quickly evolving intervention space.


Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence continues to lead the way in education through the development of online learning modules for clinicians and students. Two learning modules are now available:  Goal Attainment Scaling and Data-Driven Decision Making. Continuing education credits are available. Anyone interested in learning more or taking part in these courses can visit the Center’s education page.

Thirteen occupational therapy students are receiving specialty education through a certification program with the Collaborative for Learning in Ayres Sensory Integration, thanks to a grant from the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation. The program is currently on its second cohort of participants. Last year, 22 students were trained. Training includes the neurological foundations of sensory processing, comprehensive assessment and interpretation of assessment results related to sensory integration, and skills in designing of ASI interventions with fidelity. Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence is excited to provide training for the next generation of occupational therapists to enact change in the lives of people with ASD through evidence-based and value-added clinical skills.

The Autism Advanced Practice Certificate is also in full swing. This four-course, 12-credit certificate provides learners with advance knowledge and skill in autism practice, including assessment and treatment skills, understanding the neural basis of autism, and information about sensory symptoms and treatment - all provided by leaders in the field.  Admission is rolling so sign up any time.

For more information on current happenings in the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence, check out their website!


KCAPA x COTAD Chapter at Jefferson

By Ayano Endo & Adair Sanchez
Dr. Jenny Martinez, Faculty Advisor

Walking into a classroom at Thomas Jefferson University, the first thing that we notice as students of color is the lack of color among the students seated at the tables or the faculty situated at their podium. This phenomenon is mirrored in the profession of occupational therapy (OT) as a whole. The 2019 AOTA Salary & Workforce Survey found that the OT community is currently made up of mostly white (84%) and female (91%) practitioners.

As a profession in which mutual feelings of trust are essential for strong and effective therapeutic client-practitioner relationships and inter-professional collaboration, OT thrives when its workforce reflects the diverse population that it serves (e.g., gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status, disability status, etc.). More specifically, workforce diversity plays an important role in: (1) mitigating health disparities, primarily through greater access for vulnerable populations and better patient-provider interactions; and (2) creating inclusive communities where students, faculty and practitioners feel a true sense of belonging. Efforts to diversify the OT profession benefit innovative strategies such as pipeline programs that set a foundation for youth from traditionally underrepresented communities to pursue successful careers in the health professions.

On March 26, seven students from the University’s Department of Occupational Therapy represented the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) chapter at our first community event. They virtually attended the 9th Grade Career, Trades, and Military Forum at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School (KCAPA), to introduce ninth graders to OT as a potential future career. This student-led initiative was supported by department faculty members Dr. Jenny Martínez and Dr. Tracey Recigno, who had presented at last year’s KCAPA career fair, and had thereby forged a bridge between the two organizations. 

The event consisted of three 20-minute informal discussions around what OT is, whom it serves, and how high school students can start to prepare for a career in this profession. Each session started with a fun ice-breaker that asked the high school students to think of as many creative ways that they could use common objects, such as a pencil, to segue into a conversation about the importance of creativity in OT -- something that many of the students demonstrated having through the activity. The ice-breaker was then followed by several open-ended questions that encouraged the high school students to share their current understanding of the term “occupations,” and their thoughts as to how OT might be able to help certain populations based on their new understanding of what the word encompasses.

The openness of the questions also facilitated discussions about some of their own valued occupations and interests and how they might consider a career in OT, or about how OT might help someone who had the same interests but were faced with certain limitations. The event incorporated strategies from the ABC Toolkit provided by the Philadelphia Education Fund, which emphasized the importance of attendance, behavior and course performance to maintain a positive trajectory throughout high school towards their post-secondary plans. Following the event, some of the Jefferson students also compiled a list of additional resources that could be distributed to the high school students for more information about OT and how they could start preparing for their futures now.

We, the Thomas Jefferson University OT students, spent several weeks planning the event to discuss various strategies that could be utilized to engage the high school students, such as fun ice-breakers, ways to promote conversations and participation through various technical features on Zoom and discussions about whether the presentation should be in the form of a student panel or discussion-based. On the day of the event, we were met with varying levels of engagement and interest in the event from the high school participants. For example, the first breakout room consisted of roughly 18 students, half of whom had their screens on, with an ongoing dialogue occurring in the chat box throughout the session, while the third breakout room consisted of roughly 10 students with all but one student with their screens off. Probing from the high school teachers in the room was constantly necessary to engage the students in the conversation.

As we began to introduce OT, the main emotion that we encountered from the high school participants was one of confusion. Were we like doctors? What is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy? Is an architect, an artist, a nurse, etc. an occupation? As we progressed through the sessions, the seven of us found, , that it was beneficial to first explain what occupations were, and to then have them come up with their own personal examples of occupations that they engage in during their daily life. From there, the direction of the discussions in each breakout room was dictated by the type or lack of questions, and whether the group responded better to quiz-style questions or personal anecdotes of our experiences getting into OT.

This experience reminded us of how difficult it is to explain OT and the services that we provide, especially in a way that is both appealing and meaningful to a high school audience. It is extremely difficult to introduce and explain the distinct value of OT in a two- or three-year graduate program, let alone in 20 minutes to a group that consists of many individuals who have never even heard of OT. That being said, we can confidently say that many of the high school participants were left with a beginning, general understanding of what OT is, with one student verbalizing their interest in OT. The interest in OT from this one student allows us to conclude that this event was indeed a success, as it fueled us with hope that we were taking steps in the right direction.

Participation in this event also reinforced the value that students have in advancing the field of OT through involvement in our education programs and student organizations. Student involvement in events such as the KCAPA career fair provide student leadership and character development opportunities while they contribute to the advancement of our profession. These events provide avenues to greater awareness of the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion within the field, as well as opportunities for students to take initiative and be active change-makers in creating the future of OT that they envision. We look forward to growing the initiatives such as this partnership between the COTAD chapter at the University and KCAPA to support recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds, including first-generation college students and communities of color. 

A Very Active Undergraduate Student Occupational Therapy Association on East Falls Campus

Dr. Monique Chabot, Faculty Advisor

Over the past few years, the undergraduate chapter of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) on Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus has hosted a variety of events to spread awareness of occupational therapy (OT) on their campus. Every fall, SOTA runs Backpack Awareness Day, where members set up a scale and weigh backpacks of fellow students while educating them on the importance of avoiding backpacks that are too heavy to prevent future back injuries.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, SOTA was still able to host an event last fall via a virtual presentation for the student body. This event hosted students from Green Tree School and included treats from The Trolley Car Café to support customer service skill development.

Other past events Undergraduate SOTA does to raise awareness of OT and provide opportunities to members to gain exposure to the profession include small events to fund volunteer opportunities and host speakers. Examples of the latter have included a graduate student from the accelerated program to answer student questions and professionals to talk about international OT during World Occupational Therapy Day. Undergraduate SOTA also participates in Graduate SOTA events. Students from the accelerated tracks and those who have become interested in OT and plan on applying as entry-level students are welcome to be members.

Phi Theta Epsilon

By Tracey E. Recigno, OTD, OTR/L, Assistant Professor

Academic year 2020-21 marks a landmark moment, as Thomas Jefferson University welcomes its inaugural class to the newest chapter of Phi Theta Epsilon, the national occupational therapy (OT) honor society. Pi Theta Epsilon is defined by its Greek translation, which is “Advancement of Occupational Therapy.” This honor society recognizes and promotes academic excellence and scholarship. The purposes of Pi Theta Epsilon, as stated in its constitution, are to:

  • recognize and encourage scholastic excellence of OT students
  • contribute to the advancement of the field of OT through scholarly activities of students and alumni
  •  provide a vehicle for students enrolled in accredited programs in occupational therapy to exchange information and to collaborate regarding scholarly activities

Its mission is to support the practice of occupational sciences and the practice of authentic OT by promoting research, leadership and scholarly activities by its members. In this way, the organization not only serves the profession but also helps to ensure quality healthcare services for the public.

Pi Theta Epsilon maintains rigorous eligibility criteria, which must be satisfied upon membership. This includes ranking among the top 35% of one’s class, a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and engagement in leadership and scholarly activities.

The University joins almost 100 other OT programs across the country which are part of Phi Theta Epsilon. Each chapter is given its own Greek name – TJU’s is “Epsilon Phi.” This year, we welcome 13 OT students from the East Falls and Center City campuses into this prestigious organization:

Oliva Biller
Maggie Sheridan
Kathryn Virostek
Casey Sheehan
Marisa Ortiz
Regina Antoni
Krista Garrison
Tierney  Simpson
Taryn Pettigrew
Rachel Larson
Kerri Wells
Natalie Rhoads
Perci Gomez

Even though the University established our chapter in 2020, there is still opportunity for alumni who may wish to join as retroactive members.  Retroactive membership may be conferred on any OT not a member of Phi Theta Epsilon when a student. Prospective members will be responsible for obtaining their transcripts and pertinent information for review and submitting this information to the review board as designed by the executive committee at the national office for membership. The prospective member must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Graduate of an accredited program in OT
  • Graduate in the top 35% of the OT class
  • Evidence of three or more of the following, achieved either while a student is in an OT program or during their career as an occupational therapist:
  • Membership in professional organization
  • Scholastic recognition and awards
  • Research
  • Evidence that papers have been submitted to and/or accepted for local or national meetings and publications
  • Documented leadership, e.g. service organizations or community activities requiring commitments to scholarship

Retroactive membership fee is established at $125.00, which also bestows lifetime membership in Pi Theta Epsilon. Applicants who are accepted may join a local chapter, adhering to any other standards/requirements that the chapter may have established.

Any alumni interested in joining Phi Theta Epsilon as a retroactive member can send their evidence of eligibility to Tracey Recigno at tracey.recigno@jefferson.edu, and she will forward the information to the national office for review.  Once the national office confers retroactive membership, dues can be paid at the PTE Products and Membership page.

Stay tuned for more events and news from Phi Theta Epsilon as the Jefferson chapter grows! 


Stephanie Miller, BS/MSOT-Center City Class of 2023

Why did you choose Jefferson?

My initial interest in Thomas Jefferson University was sparked by its unique and highly ranked accelerated BSMS program, but I quickly fell in love with everything it had to offer. I was drawn to Jefferson’s strong emphasis on interprofessional education. Jefferson offers the opportunity to work with students from various programs and learn what it’s like to be part of a healthcare team, advocate for the profession, and provide the best holistic care to future clients. Jefferson’s OT program is also distinctively creative. Faculty promote innovation and encourage students to think outside of the box. I knew Jefferson was the perfect fit for me. This program will provide me with the tools to become a creative, collaborative practitioner well-equipped to contribute to the future of OT.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

A famous quote by occupational therapist Valerie Pena states, “I help turn hopeless into hope, can’t into can, and impossible into possible.” Occupational therapy is a uniquely holistic field that helps people live their lives to the fullest. When people encounter unexpected barriers due to disorder, illness and injury, occupational therapists help them break down those barriers or learn how to adapt to them so they can continue to accomplish their goals. I want to do the rewarding work of helping others achieve independence. I am drawn to the client-centeredness of the profession because I enjoy working closely with clients, learning what is meaningful to them, and creatively collaborating to help them do what they need and want to do.

Through my own health struggles, I came to understand what it’s like to lose independence and the ability to engage in the activities by which I defined myself. I would not be where I am today, pursuing my dream of becoming an occupational therapist, without the support of an amazing interprofessional healthcare team. I am incredibly grateful for those who helped me turn the impossible into possible. I want to become an occupational therapist so I can someday do the same for others.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of my educational experience has been the atmosphere here at Jefferson. The supportive environment created by students and staff makes the University an exceptional place to learn. Classmates are like-minded, inclusive individuals excited to collaborate and support one another. Every class makes me more excited to become an occupational therapist because professors are incredibly passionate about OT and excited to share their knowledge with students. They are invested in seeing every student succeed. From hybrid classes to Zoom study groups, being a first-year OT student during a global pandemic has impacted my educational experience thus far. I have found that professors go above and beyond to make learning fun, engaging and interactive. Even in the current climate, Jefferson has managed to safely promote hands-on learning whenever possible.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson Center City?

I am so excited to be a part of Center City’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) chapter as Diversity and Inclusion co-chair. SOTA is an organization devoted to promoting the OT profession, connecting students and serving the community. It has provided me with opportunities to learn more about the broad scope of the profession. Becoming part of SOTA’s board has allowed me to help orchestrate events that promote awareness, help students recognize biases, and train future practitioners to increase cultural competence.

I’m also grateful to be involved in the health mentors’ program as a liaison. I work with fellow students pursuing varying healthcare degrees to provide feedback and collaborate with faculty on new ideas for the program. Additionally, I serve as a BSMS representative on the OT student-faculty task force. Getting involved on campus has allowed me to meet amazing students, work closely with professors, and learn even more about my chosen profession.

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

Most people would be surprised to learn that I own a small custom-cake-and-cookie business. I have always enjoyed expressing my creativity through crafts and fine art. A few years ago, I discovered a new passion for baking. I love to tinker with recipes, experiment with unique flavors, and, of course, eat delicious desserts! When I merged my passions for art and baking, my company, Artist with an Apron, was born. Making decorated cakes provides me with a fun, creative outlet that allows me to contribute to special celebrations and bring smiles to others’ faces. 

Anita Ching, MSOT-East Falls Class of 2021

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson for its leadership, commitment, and distinction in the Philadelphia healthcare system.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

Becoming an occupational therapist combines my love for creativity and the science of helping others. I have seen the positive impact an occupational therapist can have on a person’s life. My desire to become an occupational therapist stems from seeing the joy on a person’s face when they can participate in meaningful activities. 

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of my educational experience is the countless learning opportunities Jefferson has to offer, such as interprofessional collaboration, fieldwork abroad, and certification attainment.

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

During my time at Jefferson, I have been involved in creating and delivering health graphic novels on a cultural trip to Morocco. I have helped older adults from the East Falls Village get “fitted” for their car and complete screenings for general health, balance and strength to ensure safety within the home and community. Also, I have worked alongside my peers and faculty mentor to present at the AOTA conference. 

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

I can touch my nose with my tongue. 

Hunter Roth, MSOT-East Falls Class of 2021

Why did you choose Jefferson?

East Falls’ hybrid program interested me due to its flexibility.  I had recently graduated from COTA School and wanted to find a program where I could work while attending school.  Jefferson’s program worked perfectly for this.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

I’ve always been interested in helping people, and when my grandfather was in the hospital post-stroke, I was intrigued by his OT sessions. Since then, I’ve known that this is what I wanted to do.  I also love the flexibility of the profession and how many different settings we can work in.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of this program is the diverse fieldwork experiences I was offered due to Jefferson’s connections within the medical field.  Although the pandemic has significantly affected all students, this program was still able to give me ample experiences in the field I love.  As a Level 1 fieldworker, I had the opportunity to travel to Morocco and Spain with a few classmates to learn the ins and outs of another healthcare system and the value of OT in these countries.  It was amazing to learn the way of another culture, especially in terms of health care.  For Level 2, I was on Christiana’s trauma floor, where I learned the importance of providing acute health care to patients in very medically complex situations.  I believe all of these experiences are going to contribute to my success as a clinician. 

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

I was the Assembly of Student Delegate, where I represented the university at the AOTA national conference.  At East Falls Village, I participated in a falls screening for the members and helped to develop a smart technology program.          

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

I love meteorology, especially tracking winter storms! 

Maria Santangelo, BS/MSOT-East Falls Class of 2021

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson for a plethora of reasons – a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and opportunities such as a project with industrial design creating an assistive device for a client in the community, small class sizes and mentorship, and a beautiful, evolving, forward-thinking campus.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

While I always knew I wanted to help others in a meaningful way, it wasn’t until high school, when I had the opportunity to observe occupational therapists across a myriad of settings, that I discovered the natural fit between my talents and this diverse profession. Ultimately, I chose to become an occupational therapist because it presents a unique opportunity to facilitate independence and collaborate with others across the lifespan to enhance their quality of life through the use of daily activities and participation in the things they love to do. Experiences spent volunteering and exploring the field as a student have validated my decision to pursue a science-based career with a harmony that is humanistic and holistic, and the dynamic interaction between a person’s valued occupations and environment.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

A highlight of the program is certainly the diverse experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom, such as the OT student ambassador trip to Morocco. This fieldwork experience beautifully illustrated occupational therapy across the lifespan. The interwoven cultural immersion was significantly valuable and catalyzed growth in me as both an individual and a clinician, making this a trip of a lifetime.

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

Such activities include being a member of Jefferson’s Women’s Cross Country and Track teams, Psychology Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and National Society of Leadership and Success; co-leading the Student Occupational Therapy Association; and volunteering and traveling with Jefferson’s chapter of Global Medical Brigades. I continue to enjoy being involved in research opportunities at Jefferson and began the ARTZ @ Jefferson program this spring.

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

As a lifelong learner and advocate for the arts, formative seeds, such as discovering my love for playing the violin and ballet, were planted in my early years. My childhood claim to fame was performing the role of “Marie” in PA Ballet’s The Nutcracker on the Academy of Music and Kennedy Center stages.


Dr. Namrata Grampurohit was spotlighted in Jefferson Health’s electronic publication The Nexus for her research focused on enhancing outcomes such as self-care and ability to carry out domestic tasks in people with neurological conditions throughout their lifespans. Dr. Grampurohit’s work targets people with spinal cord injury.

Dr. Jenny Martinez was spotlighted for her work promoting health outcomes for marginalized populations -- specifically Hispanic and Latino communities and older adults.  Dr. Martinez shared her passion and expertise in leading stakeholder engagement throughout the research process.   

Dr. Tracey Vause Earland was inducted as a 2021 Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice (NAP) in Occupational Therapy.  This well-deserved honor reflects many years of hard work and achievement contributing to occupational therapy and interprofessional education and practice.

Dr. Stephen B. Kern was inducted as a 2021 Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice (NAP) in Occupational Therapy.  This well-deserved honor represents many years of work and accomplishments in education and practice.

Dr. E. Adel Herge received the Community Advocate Award from the Philadelphia Intellectual disability Services and Public Awareness Committee  at the 29th Annual My City, My Place Brighter Futures Awards virtual event on March 26, 2021 

Dr. MJ Mulcahey was appointed Chair of the Board of Directors of The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF), effective January 2021.


Alumni Update

Juan Ramirez, MS, OTR/L (MSOT-CC, 2011)
Juan is currently in the second year of study toward a PhD in Geography at the University of Colorado.  He is preparing to take comprehensive exams in order to move on to doctoral candidacy. Juan shared some reflections on his experience and journey since graduation.

This year marks one decade working as an occupational therapist. A little over ten years ago, I was taking the ‘Advanced Research Seminar (OT670)’ in the final semester of my tenure at Jefferson. I remember going through the process of establishing a PICO question, critically appraising papers to answer clinically relevant questions to our discipline, etc. During this process, I realized how little research there was out there to support all the complex ways in which occupational therapists intervene in our patients’ lives in order to support their journeys towards living meaningful lives. I knew I eventually wanted to do research, but decided to work in the profession first to gain confidence in my newly acquired OT skill set, and further my clinical expertise to inform relevant questions that affect current practice. As the years passed, my focus was pulled more and more toward occupational justice and addressing how occupational satisfaction is impacted by larger, systemic structures.

All this led me to geography. So, what the heck does geography have to do with occupational justice? Don’t you, like, make maps and stuff? Yes, cartography is a facet of geography, but much like occupational therapy, geography is an often misunderstood discipline. I serendipitously fell into geography after attending a critical geographies mini-conference being held at the University of Washington, my previous workplace. This conference exposed me to the breadth of this discipline. Broadly speaking, geography is the social science that addresses the issues of space, place, scale, landscape, mobility and nature (Rogers et al., 2013). The vast scope of geography felt reminiscent to occupational science’s definition of occupation. My interest piqued with the idea of taking a deeper geographic lens towards occupation, and vice versa. This led me to ask, how can these two disciplines complement and expand each other’s approach to the understanding of human interactions?

Within most popular occupational therapy ecological models and in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (e.g. PEO, PEOP, EHP, etc.) we understand how ”environment” is an important factor to the performance of occupation (AOTA, 2017; Cole & Tufano, 2008; Crepeau et al., 2009) (for brevity I will swap the term of ”environment” with “space” to illustrate a geographic understanding of how we can expand upon the idea of ”environment”). Despite this understanding of environment/space’s importance in occupation, it is often defined with the idea that it is fixed or static, something that is physically enclosed and tied to a particular materiality that can be quantified (i.e., acreage, square footage, boundaries of neighborhoods, etc.). Doreen Massey, a post-structural feminist geographer, would argue emphatically against this notion of defining space/place as something static or fixed. According to Massey (2005), space is the product of multiple interrelations, a realm of possibility that is open to a plurality of interpretations and constantly under (re)construction. Occupations are an important piece of these interrelations that create space. Occupation can both be shaped and shape the environments/spaces/places in which they occur. This openness of space and its constantly being under (re)constructed draws connections to Wilcock’s (1999) understanding of occupation as the synthesis of doing, being and becoming, where occupation’s dynamic nature is also in constant construction based on the complex, multiplicious factors in which they occur.

Developing a deeper understanding of geographic constructs, and engaging with geography more, will aid in a deeper understanding of occupation, which is the goal of my research. This will hopefully illuminate a more nuanced approach toward learning how space/place/environment not only shape occupation but are shaped by occupation and are given meaning based on the occupations performed within them.


AOTA Occupational Profile Template. (2017). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(Supplement_2), 7112420030p1. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2017.716S12
Cole, M. B., & Tufano, R. (2008). Applied Theories in Occupational Therapy: A Practical Approach. SLACK Incorporated.
Crepeau, E., Cohn, E., & Boyt Schell, B. (2009). Willard & Spackmans Occupational Therapy (11th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Massey, D. (2005). For Space. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Rogers, A., Castree, N., & Kitchin, R. (2013). A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199599868.001.0001/acref-9780199599868
Wilcock, A. A. (1999). Reflections on doing, being and becoming. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 46, 1–11.

Alumni Network Update

Building the Jefferson Department of Occupational Therapy Alumni Network

By Stephen B. Kern, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

As many of you know, I’ve been connected with the Department of Occupational Therapy for a long time. Ever since founding chairperson Dr. Ruth Schemm and academic fieldwork coordinator Ellen Kolodner yanked me from the hospital department, I’ve been teaching in the Department. Over the years, I’ve wanted to see a vibrant, engaged, alumni network. There have been fits and starts over the years, but we hadn’t been as successful as we had dreamt in establishing this network. Then in 2020, COVID-19 arrived and alumni arose. They want to engage with the department faculty and students by offering their energy, experiences, mentorship and strategic guidance. We welcome it all and finally, the time has come!

We have achieved the momentum to collectively build this network. Supporting us is the University’s Alumni Office -- specifically Jeff Spence who is ready to help us turn this goal into reality. You can email Jeff directly through the Staff Directory.

Dr. Marie-Christine Potvin, associate professor, and I serve as faculty advisors to the Alumni Network.  We will attend meetings and avail ourselves to all alumni to discuss and field questions, ideas and concerns. We also want everyone to use the Alumni Network to let us all know what you’ve been up to professionally and personally. In exchange, we are committed to keeping you informed about program, department, college, University and professional issues and happenings.

This winter we launched our new Jefferson Occupational Therapy Alumni Network and are actively building our database, structure and objectives. This newsletter is one vehicle the Alumni Network will have to share achievements and information with you about professional and social opportunities and events serving our collective needs and goals. Some of the ideas generated and briefly discussed were the creation of mentor opportunities between alum, and between alum and current entry and post-professional students, and the establishment of a regular Alumni Continuing Education/Social event, featuring invited alumni as guest speakers, guest instructors fieldwork supervisors (always needed!), and department advisors. Alumni also expressed interest in assisting the newly formed College of Rehabilitation Science in fundraising in order to create new scholarships to attract and financially support the best students.

Recently, after many years of planning, we launched a professional advisory panel. It consists of alumni, employers and consumers. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Audrey Zapletal, Director, East Falls MSOT program and Dr. Tracey Recigno, assistant professor, who have recently assumed leadership of the Department Program Evaluation Committee, their panel’s first meeting is happening this month. .

Finally, our programs enjoy national recognition for the many faculty and student-driven innovations in teaching, practice and research. In order for us to continue that trajectory, we need to hear from you about trends you are seeing and rumblings you’re hearing that current students need to be prepared for as they successfully enter practice. So, again, please use the Alumni Network to share that information. We share our connection to Jefferson’s Department of Occupational Therapy. Together, we remain in that top tier of programs, nationally. Stay connected to the department and lend your energy to our success by training entry and post-professional therapists. Help us create new practice areas to serve the occupational needs of society; and  develop new knowledge through scientific inquiry.