Occupational Therapy Newsletter

Summer 2022

Greetings from the Jefferson Occupational Therapy Department!

CONGRATULATIONS to all of our GRADUATES in the MSOT-East Falls, MSOT-Center City, BS/MSOT-Center City, OTD-Center City and Post Professional OTD programs! More than 100 occupational therapy graduates crossed the stage on May 25, 2022. Also, CONGRATULATIONS to our 3+2 students in the MSOT-East Falls program who received their Bachelor’s degree on May 12, 2022! 

As the summer semester winds down and plans for the new academic year are underway, I have been reflecting on our experiences over the past year. Some routines remain consistent; however, many familiar ways of engagement in daily responsibilities and activities have changed — and continue to evolve. During all of this, we, the members of our dynamic Department of Occupational Therapy, have been extremely active and focused on contributing to the profession and advancing the evidence that supports occupational therapy. 

Personally, in my work directed toward best practices in dementia care, I am passionate about the important role occupational therapy professionals play in optimizing activity engagement for people living with dementia, and supporting and building skills in their care partners. So, I was extremely honored to be asked to deliver the opening keynote at an event focused on changing practices around support for care partners in the workforce, The Impact of Caregiving and Being a Care Partner, held on April 25, 2022. This event was presented by ARTZ Philadelphia and Global Women for Wellbeing/GW4W. In my talk I sought to represent and bring to life the experiences of those who provide care every day, and share the challenges of what is a 24/7 “job” for more than 11 million Americans. Although the illustrations I presented were drawn from my work with care partners, they exemplified the challenges and rewards that all people experience who are caring for someone living with dementia.

I am extremely proud to highlight faculty, student and alumni awards and accomplishments in this special summer 2022 edition of the Department of Occupational Therapy Newsletter!

Stay well,

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

Faculty Awards & Accomplishments

Dr. Jenny Martinez, Associate Professor

Pronouns: She/Hers

  • Roster of Fellows Award (AOTA)
    Championing Stakeholder Engagement to Achieve Health Equity
  • Cordelia Myers AJOT Best Article Award
    Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Vigen, C. L. P, Martínez, J., Blanchard, J., & Carlson, M. (2021). Long-term follow-up of a lifestyle intervention for late-midlife, rural-dwelling Latinos in primary care.
    American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75, 7502205020. (Read Full Article)

Meet Dr. Martinez:

My research focus is on addressing health outcomes for marginalized populations, particularly Hispanic/Latino communities and older adults. Within these research efforts, I am especially interested in best practices for the meaningful engagement of stakeholders. I believe that actionable and trustworthy research is created through partnerships with key stakeholders, including communities that experience healthcare disparities or distrust, or have little-to-no experience engaging in scientific research.

How long have you been at Jefferson?

Just over three years.

What is the best part of your job?

I am moved by the privilege I have in helping chart a path forward to address health outcomes through research and policy, as well as the chance to work with students to expand their approach as future practitioners. I value the opportunity to highlight the voices of all stakeholders, particularly those whose daily experiences are marked by systemic inequities.

What’s one piece of advice you give students?

Resist the urge to compare yourself to others, and remember to be kind to yourself. Your journey is your own, and you are deserving of the same grace you show others.

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

Movement helps me reset, stay grounded and keep in touch with myself. I am especially fond of hiking as well as lifting heavy things via strength training and strength sports. I also enjoy caring for my various houseplant roommates.

Dr. Marie-Christine Potvin, Professor

Meet Dr. Potvin:

I am a faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy. I have the privilege of engaging with our students in a few different ways across four programs. Most recently, I have spearheaded the development of and taught four new courses about the use of coaching within rehabilitation (https://www.jefferson.edu/CoachingAPC). Coaching has a large interprofessional body of evidence, and a growing one within occupational and physical therapy. Learning to coach and the incorporation of coaching into my clinical practice, have been transformative.

How long have you been at Jefferson?

Seven years.

What is the best part of your job?

Mentoring students in their scholarly endeavors.

What’s one piece of advice you give students?

The learning is in the process, not the end-product. All assignments are learning opportunities, especially the ones that we found more challenging or less meaningful. Use these assignments to become the best possible occupational therapist, researcher and/or teacher that you can be.

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

I love the outdoors, especially the southwest of the United States. Hiking, paddle boarding and rafting are my favorite hobbies.

Dr. MJ Mulcahey, Professor

Pronouns: She/Hers

Meet Dr. Mulcahey:

Dr. Mulcahey is professor of occupational therapy and director of the Center for Outcomes and Measurement in the Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Thomas Jefferson University. She has more than 30 years of experience as an occupational therapy practitioner, educator and researcher. Dr. Mulcahey’s areas of research are development, validation and utilization of new and existing outcome measures of impairment, physical function, activity and participation for children, youth and adults with spinal cord injury (SCI) and other chronic conditions.

Since joining in 1990, Dr. Mulcahey has served ASIA in multiple capacities, most recently as president (2015-2017), immediate past president (2017-2019), interim chair of the education committee (2019-2020) and vice chair of the ad hoc Journal Committee (2021-2021). She served as vice president of the Pediatric Spine Foundation (2015-2020), and is current chair of the Steel Assembly for Pediatric SCI and trustee of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. She has served on review panels for a variety of funding agencies, including NIDILIRR, and as chair for the Dept. of Defense congressionally directed Medical Research Program. She serves on the editorial board of Physical Therapy, and as associate editor of Topics in SCI Rehabilitation (official journal of ASIA). Her service has been recognized with awards and lectureships, including being named an ASIA Fellow (FASIA) in 2019 and the Guttman Lecturer in 2018.

Dr. Tina DeAngelis, Professor & Director, OTD Program

Pronouns: She/Hers

Meet Dr. DeAngelis:

I am continually and passionately involved in the impact that occupational therapy services can have on individuals and groups in the Philadelphia area. Annually, I have doctoral capstone candidates (most recently, Anabelle Scalora and Sam Sutton, graduated May 2022) with whom I provide programming in Women's Safe Haven, a permanent supportive housing site, as well as SEPTA’s Hub of Hope located in Suburban Station. We also have developed a comprehensive, interprofessional, user-friendly manual for occupational therapy practitioners working with individuals who have a serious mental illness. This will soon be shared in the Jefferson Digital Commons as well as on the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association website as a resource for educators and clinicians.

In response to the murder of George Floyd and the additional atrocities against historically marginalized people and communities across the United States, I led, in my role as chairperson of the AOTA Commission on Education (COE), the development of a survey to examine OT/OTA student perceptions of DEI content in occupational therapy curricula across the nation. The survey was deployed in 2020 and received over 1,600 student respondents. This offered an opportunity to work with two occupational therapy doctoral candidates, Iris Burns (OTD, 2022) and Adair Sanchez (OTD, 2022), as lead authors, and two MSOT-Center City students, Abigail Mills (MSOT-CC, 20XX) and Taylor Kligerman (MSOT-CC, 20XX) as co-authors, with support from our research coordinator, Maclain Capron, to write a manuscript entitled Moving Forward Together: Reflections of a National Survey of OT/OTA Student Perceptions of Culturally Aware Educational Content Delivery, which is currently under review.

I have two other manuscripts under development – a “sister survey” in which the COE inquired about occupational therapy faculty perceptions of DEI content in occupational therapy curricula that yielded over 500 responses nationally, and a manuscript detailing the results of a survey focused on student shifting roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Olivia Biller (OTD, 2022) and France Calingo (MSOT 2021) as co-authors.

How long have you been at Jefferson?

Twenty-five years in one capacity or another, including advanced Master of Science in OT, class of 1997; adjunct faculty member since 1997, and full-time faculty member since 2008.

What is the best part of your job?

Collaborating with doctoral capstone candidates! Watching them grow, change and make a difference in the community with their scholarly projects/products. It is incredibly energizing and satisfying to collaborate with the future of our profession. Another highlight of my work is serving as the director of the OTD program. The capstone projects are exceptional, and the outcomes are truly the result of our dedicated OT faculty, site mentors and strong doctoral candidates.

What’s one piece of advice you give students?

I always love to share this quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This quote resonates with the work we do with people who are often stigmatized and living with the impact of the social determinants of health who are unhoused/experiencing homelessness and have a history of a serious mental illness (1:1 and via group delivery) at the organization called Project HOME.

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

I am a first-time grandma, aka “Gigi,” to my beautiful grandson, Mason! My kids are all healthcare peeps. One graduated from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in May, another is an ultrasound sonographer in Staten Island and my son is in the 3+3 DPT program at Jefferson! 

Dr. Aster Harrison, Assistant Professor

Pronouns: They/Them

Meet Dr. Harrison:

I teach in the hybrid MSOT program at East Falls. I teach courses about environments, group dynamics and psychosocial practice, among other topics.

I am a member of the OT and Disability Studies Network, and much of my scholarship focuses on infusing disability studies and disability rights perspectives into occupational therapy. I’m currently working on a presentation for the World Federation of OT conference with collaborators Kim The and Jenna Heffron about our work teaching disability studies concepts to occupational therapy students through a research immersion. This is related to a qualitative study we did about the experiences of occupational therapists with disabilities.

I also just completed my dissertation for my PhD in disability studies. My dissertation was a qualitative study examining the experiences of bisexual+ women with chronic pain.

How long have you been at Jefferson?

Just since August 2021.

What is the best part of your job?

The students.

What’s one piece of advice you give students:

Although hard to do, it’s important to work on unlearning perfectionism. We all make mistakes; doing so is part of learning and being human.

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

Maybe that I speak French.

Please tell us about any awards or appointments you’ve recently received.

It is not an award per se, but I was very honored that an article about disability studies that I co-authored for the American Journal of Occupational Therapy was mentioned in the annual Eleanor Clark Slagle lecture at AOTA conference! The article appears in the 2021 special issue on disability studies (for which I was part of the guest editorial team).

I’m also very honored to be part of the diversity advisory group for the forthcoming edition of Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy. The authors, editorial team and advisory group are infusing some important diverse perspectives into this next volume.

Dr. Lydia Navarro-Walker, Assistant Professor

Pronouns: She/Hers

Dr. Navarro-Walker delivered the opening keynote at the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania 2022 Annual Conference (PDF) on June 27, 2022: Understanding the Effect of Bias in Equitable and Client-Centered Care in 21st Century Healthcare.

When they enter their particular field of practice, healthcare professionals (independent of degree or field of study) typically have in common a passion for helping people during challenging periods of illness, post-surgical procedures, etc. It is commonly believed, on an individual basis, that each professional manages potential bias and that no bias exists in the delivery of services. This keynote focused on discussing and challenging the influence of unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, micro-insults, and micro-assaults faced by recipients of care. It also examined the role of intersectionality (interconnection of race, gender, disability, body weight, etc.) in day-to-day interactions between clients/individuals and the healthcare practitioner.

Class of 2022 Graduate Awards & Accomplishments

Adair Sanchez (OTD)

Meet Adair Sanchez:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

After visiting and interviewing for other occupational therapy doctoral programs, I had the opportunity to meet several Jefferson faculty members, including my program director, Dr. Tina DeAngelis, and doctoral capstone coordinator Dr. Lydia Navarro-Walker, both of whom have been immensely supportive throughout my entire experience at Jefferson. They made me feel like Jefferson would be the best fit for my personal goals on my journey to becoming an OT.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist? What are you planning after graduation?

During my undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida (UCF), I was a full-time student, worked part-time, and volunteered over 600 hours at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, FL. While volunteering in the Therapy and Rehabilitation Department I was introduced to the field of occupational therapy. The work that I observed with the occupational therapists at Nemours inspired me to want to become an OT. I also saw an immense need for OT practitioners from historically marginalized backgrounds. I am proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, and identify as a Latina; I wanted to be able to make an impact by providing OT services to individuals of the Latinx community. After graduation, I look forward to beginning a new career opportunity and working for an organization that empowers me to provide OT services to individuals of historically marginalized backgrounds.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

I was fortunate to have been provided the opportunity to participate in several research projects, both as a graduate assistant and as part of my doctoral capstone year. Having those opportunities made me realize that I enjoy academic research.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

I was the president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), Diversity and Inclusion co-chair (Fall 2019 – Spring 2020), member of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) chapter (Summer 2020 – Summer 2021), and also one of the student liaisons for Jefferson’s Health Mentors Program.

What activities have you been involved in outside of Jefferson that relate to your journey to becoming an OT?

I was a student intern for the American Occupational Therapy Association for the Home and Community Health Special Interest Section (HCHSIS) (2020-2021).

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

Oftentimes, people are surprised that I have been a part of multiple publications before graduating from Jefferson, and that I was one of the award recipients of the American Occupational Therapy Association (Special Interest Section Quarterly Excellence in Writing Award (2022).  

Rachel Boyer (OTD)

  • James B. Erdmann Student Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

Meet Rachel Boyer:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I was drawn to the OTD program at Jefferson because of its impressive reputation for producing competent, research-driven practitioners. I also appreciated the emphasis on expanding occupational therapy to non-traditional areas of practice and generating evidence to support the efficacy of occupation-based interventions in diverse settings. After interviewing at Jefferson and hearing faculty members’ genuine passion for their work, I knew that this is where I wanted to complete my graduate education!

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist? What are your plans after graduation?

At its core, the aim of occupational therapy is to help people do what they need and want to do in their daily lives. Occupational therapy can look vastly different depending on the setting and client population, but the common factor is that it uses a strengths-based approach to empower individuals to reach their greatest potential. After graduation, I plan to work in pediatrics within the Philadelphia area.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of my educational experience at Jefferson has been meeting such an incredibly intelligent, driven and compassionate group of classmates (and future colleagues). I am excited to keep learning from my classmates and to see how they continue to make an impact in the field of OT.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

During my time at Jefferson, I served as the advocacy and awareness chair for the Student Occupational Therapy Association. In that role, I organized events related to opioid addiction and overdose-reversal training, sexuality and disability and legal and systems advocacy. As a graduate assistant, I helped to plan and implement group sessions focusing on emotional regulation and health literacy for students at the Honickman Learning Center.

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

I love to host charcuterie nights for my friends!

Danielle Kempner (MSOT-CC)

  • James B. Erdmann Student Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

Meet Danielle Kempner:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson for many reasons, such as the amazing reputation the university has within the field and vast networking opportunities that result from this reputation and resulting connections, high employment and NBCOT exam passing rates. The accelerated program at University of Delaware and Jefferson’s location made it rich with shadowing and fieldwork opportunities that may lead to potential job opportunities in the city.

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

Like most, I want to help people, but I would prefer to do it in a unique way that opens people’s eyes to the creative side of intervention, and would like to help implement a more innovative mindset into practice and intervention as a whole. I think OTs bring an outside-of-the-box mindset to any situation or team, so I want to help make this mindset more widely understood, since in the end it can be truly beneficial for the client. Ultimately, I want to be a clinician that others on my OT team or others within my interprofessional team can come to if they are stumped or need a creative solution, and I feel like no one is better equipped to do this than an occupational therapist.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

Personally, I truly enjoy opportunities to be a “maker,” so the classes we spent making adaptive equipment (like using tri-wall in our environments class) made me feel in my element. To further this practice, I have had the opportunity to partake in extracurricular activities making adaptive devices using 3D technology, and also competed in and won the Jefferson Hackathon invention competition along with some of my amazing OT classmates (Charlotte Seltzer and Ezra Lee). This one particular experience allowed us to put together a wide variety of concepts we learned from OT, and I think our success was routed in us being and staying so OT-minded from beginning to end while engaged in the competition.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

I am a member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association and the Autism Advocacy Group.

I volunteer as a research assistant in the Jefferson Health Design Lab.  I work on adaptive device projects where my knowledge in disabilities can contribute to the project. For my elective in fall 2021, I took a 3D printing course and independently learned additional skills in 3D design and printing so that I can inform others and design adaptive devices for patients or groups that make design requests to the lab. I also help co-run social media efforts to highlight the work we do and the positive impact that 3D printing has in health care. I am currently a 3D printing consultant for Magee Rehab through the Health Design Lab.

Participating in the Jefferson Health Hackathon was an amazing opportunity and experience. I sought this out early when starting at Jefferson, and it was something I had been waiting to participate in for over a year. I knew this event would be one of the highlights of my time here at Jefferson, and that it was an opportunity to proudly represent occupational therapy and our program. I led a team that included two of my occupational therapy classmates, a computer science student, a recent mechanical engineer graduate, a marketing major and a PhD candidate specializing in aphasia studies.  The competition was only a weekend-long event; thus, the entire project - from problem conception to solution design and pitch - came about organically within less than 48 hours. The question we asked ourselves was, How can we help people living with Dementia and communication difficulties maintain independence and enhance their quality of life in an accessible and intuitive way? Before we started brainstorming for a solution, we needed to recognize a large problem this population faces when it comes to resources and technology available to consumers: a majority of current solutions require new learning by the individual, which is something that is not just a challenge for this population, but a key aspect defining this disease. So, we geared our research and our “hacking” to help us assess just how to adapt communication styles during cognitive decline in a manner that would not require new learning, but rather would rely on machine learning.

Our solution was a wearable predictive language device called “PreDict-ionary,” that was tailored around Dementia-related communicative disorders, particularly, aphasia. Similar to how Amazon’s Alexa listens for a “wake-up word,” our device triggers word suggestions to popup on the wristband when a longer-than-normal pause or excessive filler words such as “um” or “uh” are detected. An earpiece collects data from the user’s typical speech and language patterns to develop a predictive language system that aids in word retrieval and communication. Word retrieval often becomes more difficult as the disease progresses, so using machine learning and the individual’s own speech patterns and vocabulary in natural language processing  can aid the device to fill in those gaps down the road.

The device utilized concepts revolving around predictive language, artificial intelligence and machine learning and how it could be honed to aid in word recall for those with communication disorders. The end goal was to improve life quality by giving these individuals back their voice and providing a means for them to continue being heard. Similar to systems that exist when you type a text message, predicted or recommended words come to the top of the screen to help fill in gaps. While people use this feature for convenience, people with communication disorders may use this out of necessity. Someone who has barriers to communication may become embarrassed or frustrated, and, rather than working through word recall, they seclude or distance themselves from conversation. A device that can fill in communication gaps may be just what someone needs to reduce frustration and keep people more actively engaged in conversations. Being able to give them back this confidence is instrumental in prolonging independence and pride for individuals who just need that little extra push to be heard.

We were so excited when the “PreDict-ionary” device won 1st Place in the Data in Action: Patient Wearables & Devices track of the Health Hack!

This opportunity was not only unforgettable but also provided me with lessons I plan to carry along with me and utilize in practice. I truly believe that it was the OT-thinking minds and the very unique interdisciplinary team that made us so successful. I highly recommend participation in this competition!

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

I have a patent and hope for many more. I am largely into inventing and research surrounding adaptive design and wearables. This has led me down an amazing path of inventing and has provided me a sense of purpose and fulfillment I was truly missing. My patent is for a wearable alerting device for ADL cueing tailored to people with dementia that I call CueMinder™.

I am the co-author of the chapter entitled “The CueMinder Project: Patient-Driven Wearable Technology to Improve Quality of Life,” published in Gargiulo, G. D. & Naik, G. R. (2021). Wearable/Personal Monitoring Devices Present to Future.  Singapore: Springer (Read Full Article)

Danielle Lynn (OTD)

  • James B. Erdmann Student Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

Meet Danielle Lynn:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson because of their commitment to creating well-rounded occupational therapists and to bettering the Philadelphia community. 

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist? What are your plans after graduation?

I want to become an occupational therapist to show individuals that even the smallest changes can have the biggest impact on your quality of life. As occupational therapists, we also have a unique impact on both the physical and mental well-being of patients. My plans for after graduation are to stay in either Philadelphia or return home to New York City.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of my educational experience was learning the fundamentals of occupational therapy such as anatomy, and getting to do so with such an amazing group of people! Having a supportive group of friends was so important throughout OT school.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

Throughout my time at Jefferson, I was involved with SOTA, the executive board of the Autism Advocacy Group, and, during my capstone year, with the Jefferson Autism Center of Excellence.

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

I am incredibly interested in both pediatrics and hand therapy.

Heather Morey (MSOT-CC)

  • James B. Erdmann Student Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

Meet Heather Morrey:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson because of its great reputation and stellar faculty who are experienced clinicians now involved in valuable research and community engagement that will change the field. 

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist? What are your plans for after graduation?

I want to be an occupational therapist because I believe that it is truly a meaningful profession in which we have the opportunity to work alongside people to address their needs holistically in an effort to improve their participation, performance, and independence in valued occupations. My immediate plans for after graduation are to take a brief break and then begin studying for the NBCOT exam. After my boards, I hope to pursue a career working with adults who have experienced neurological diagnoses, such as TBI or stroke. I had the opportunity to experience the continuum of care for this population during my fieldwork experiences, and I really love that population across all settings.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The best part of my educational experience is the connections that I made within the Jefferson community with both my peers who will be my friends for life and the professors who have guided me along my journey. Additionally, I value the connections made in the Philadelphia community through my involvement in academic and volunteer experiences. 

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

At Jefferson, I have been involved in multiple activities through a variety of organizations. Through the Jefferson Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (JCIPE), I participated in the Health Mentors Program, as a student in my first year and as a facilitator in my second. Additionally, through JCIPE, I was a student hotspotter in the year-long Jefferson Hotspotting program, where I collaborated with an interdisciplinary student team and a client in the community to improve their self-confidence and self-advocacy to address their health needs.  Other programs I have taken part in were Bridging the Gaps, where I co-taught a summer camp class for 8-year-olds with a member from the organization and led health education courses throughout the summer, both in person and virtually. I also participated in ARTZ at Jefferson, where I engaged in facilitated conversations about works of art with a community member living with dementia and/or their care partners to enhance my interpersonal skills and promote self-reflection. Regarding collaborating with faculty, I was the MSOT representative for the Department of Occupational Therapy Student Faculty Task Force and a graduate assistant for Dr. Allison Bell, professor of neuroscience.  Lastly, I have enjoyed being a member of several campus organizations such as Student Occupational Therapy Association, Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity, No One Dies Alone and the National Honor Society for Occupational Therapy, Pi Theta Epsilon.

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

I really enjoy reading and can sit down with a good book and finish it that day.

Sarah Dever and Sydney Smith (OTD, 2022)

  • Spotlight on Doctoral Candidates at The Kennedy Willis Center, Edmeston, NY

Through its 25 years, one of the most rewarding avenues of service for The Kennedy Willis Center on Down Syndrome has been its work with young human service professionals through internships.

The Center is now completing its third an­nual partnership with the Occupational Therapy program at Thomas Jefferson University.

Graduate students Sarah Dever and Sydney Smith, under the guidance of OT program director Dr. E. Adel Herge, finalized their doctoral capstone projects in April.

The students’ work is centered in working with direct care staff to meet the needs of those with intellectual disabilities and age-onset dementia.
Recently, Brittany Goodrich, director of the Kennedy Willis Center, interviewed doctoral candidates Sarah Dever and Sydney Smith to learn more about their planned career paths in occupational therapy and human services.

Student Innovations

MSOT-East Falls First-Year Graduate Students

Toni Feite (OTD, 2023)

Meet Toni Feite:

Why did you choose Jefferson?

I chose Jefferson because of its commitment to provide both traditional and nontraditional care, and my love for the city of Philadelphia!

Why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

Because I find great joy in helping others develop their independence, and I enjoy making the road to independence creative and fun.

What is the best part of your educational experience?

The diverse perspectives provided by the faculty at Jefferson.

What activities have you been involved in at Jefferson?

Being a member of SOTA, assisting with interviews for admissions, and running youth groups for the refugee population as Dr. Kerns’ Graduate Assistant.

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

I am a certified scuba diver.

Alumni Updates

Kara Yost (MSOT-EF, 2014)

Meet Kara Yost:

Where are you from originally?

New Cumberland, PA.

What are you doing now professionally?

I am the manager of statewide programs at Self-Determination Housing of Pennsylvania (SDHP), a program of Inglis Community Services.

How has your program prepared you for your current career/position?

My occupational therapy education at Jefferson included coursework on community-based practice as well as foundational theory and experiential learning that emphasized the importance of one’s environment to their overall wellbeing.

At SDHP, we are working to improve access to affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities in PA. My OT education taught me that the environment causes disability, and not the other way around. This lens informs my work and my worldview and lays bare the massive amount of work there is to do to make our communities and homes truly accessible to all.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to our current students?

Whatever area of practice you end up in, those services you’re providing are not in a vacuum. They are connected to histories of oppression and privilege and a multitude of systems that both help and hinder the people you are serving. Research the social determinants of health, and incorporate both health literacy and advocacy into your practice as you are able. Occupational therapists are invited and valued in so many different settings, and you are uniquely poised to provide authentically holistic care. 

Stephanie Stein (Combined BS/MSOT-CC, 2007)

  • Makeup is Therapeutic at MossRehab (mossrehab.com)

Combined BS/MSOT-CC alumnus (and certified makeup artist) Stephanie Stein creates an innovative program for inpatients at MossRehab. She is putting a new face on occupational therapy by offering a makeup skills therapy program to its inpatients at Elkins Park.

Meet Stephanie Stein:

Where are you from originally?

Jenkintown, PA.

What was the best part of your time at Jefferson?

This is a hard question. I had exceptional teachers and really enjoyed my classes. I enjoyed living and going to school in Center City. I met many wonderful people while in the Occupational Therapy program.

What has a Jefferson degree done for you? How has it prepared you for your career?

My degree from Jefferson has laid the foundation for my career.  I learned not only the prerequisite knowledge for my degree, but also how to “think outside of the box.”  The knowledge and skills obtained helped me to become a successful OT and a very holistic practitioner.

What are you doing now?

I have worked at MossRehab hospital for the past 13 years. I am currently an occupational therapy supervisor on the Traumatic Brain Injury input unit.  In addition to my supervisory duties, I run a program called “Groom, Glow, and Grow” with a social work colleague of mine.

“Groom, Glow, and Grow” is a makeup skills program that serves inpatients at Moss Rehab Elkins Park and the Einstein Healthcare Network’s Pride Program. There was a need in the network for more grooming training, specifically in makeup for both inpatients and those in the Pride Program.

In addition to being an occupational therapist, I am a freelance makeup artist. I created this program to marry my two loves and fill the knowledge gaps in the system. Due to lack of clinician comfort and numerous competing priorities on top of the ever-shortening length- of-stay, makeup application on inpatients is rarely addressed. For the Pride Program, our virtual education is accessible to the LBGTQIA+ population. Education on makeup, shaving and skin care is especially important to those during their transition, as individuals are learning an entirely new grooming routine.  Working as a makeup artist and program co-leader with Groom, Glow, and Grow is definitely a career highlight for me.

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

I have been belly dancing off and on for more than 10 years.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to our current students?

My piece of advice is to find your passion and not be afraid to pursue it.

When I first graduated, my goal was to find clinicians that had the career path I thought I wanted and to try to reproduce that in my career. The best thing I did was create my own path, my own program. What makes people unique, stand out and become successful is that they are offering something different to the world.

Take time to find your passions, your spin,” and what makes you tick. Your individuality is what the world needs.