Occupational Therapy News: Fall 2016


In This Issue



Letter from the Chair

Welcome to Fall 2016!  There is a lot of excitement on campus as this academic year gets going.  Our returning students are looking forward to continuing their education and getting more opportunities to actually work with clients.  Our first year students are full of energy and eager to learn.  We are anticipating a year full of new experiences, lots of learning and many opportunities to interact with our community.

As you can see from our news, there are many things happening in the Puget Sound School of Occupational Therapy.  While we are sad to being saying good-bye to several faculty and staff, we are also excited about the new members of our faculty.  They bring fresh ideas, expertise, experiences, and insights.  We are also excited to be able to once again collaborate with PUSH International and are encouraged by all the ways our students are spreading the word about occupational therapy and serving our community through ELiC opportunities.  Our faculty continue to be active and share their expertise in the community, across the country and even internationally.

There are ways that you can be involved too – including opportunities to collaborate with our students on evidence projects or ELiCs.   You may also want to join our team of excellent Fieldwork Educators or become one of our Onsite Clinic Instructors.  Looking to refine and further your skills, consider our DrOT program.  You can read more about each of these opportunities in this newsletter.

Finally, we love to hear from our alumni.  Our goal is to tell at least one of your stories each newsletter.  So let us know what you are doing. Watch for our winter newsletter for information about our Spring Symposium and other ways to you can come to campus and interact with our faculty and students. 

Visit OT Alumni Page!



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Program News

Class of 2017 and 2018

The start of the Fall semester marked the return of the Class of 2017, as well as the start for the Class of 2018. We are looking forward to another exciting academic year for our students and are glad to have them back on campus!

 Class of 2017

Class of 2017

Class of 2018

Class of 2018

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Staffing Changes

Lori Neumann  Lori Neumann, our Department and Clinic Assistant, will be leaving us this fall to pursue another career opportunity. Lori started with us back in November 2013 as a temporary staff member and joined our team officially in September 2014. During her time with us, Lori revamped our Resource Room procedures into what is today an efficiently working resource for our students and faculty; shared her knowledge of sewing with the students; and was a helpful resource for our students and faculty. We wish Lori the best on her new adventure!

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Onsite Clinic Overview - Spring 2016

Clnic 2016

We are pleased to report another successful year for the occupational therapy onsite clinic at the University of Puget Sound.  This year 31 occupational therapy students participated in their Fieldwork Level I experience in our onsite clinic with the purpose of preparing them for their fieldwork II experiences this Summer.

Twelve wonderful clinical instructors, who are highly experienced occupational therapists practicing in the surrounding community, participated in mentoring, leading and supervising our occupational therapy students. These adjunct faculty members provided over 865 hours of onsite supervision and teaching, and a far greater number of hours mentoring and grading from offsite locations.

Our 31 graduate occupational therapy students treated 69 clients (34 in our pediatric clinic and 35 in our adult clinic) over a twelve-week period for a total of 1107 individual visits.  Many of these clients would not have been eligible to receive services in other clinics due to insurance limitations and waiting lists. These sessions resulted in the provision of roughly $114,000 of service to the community.  Most importantly, clients and families overwhelmingly rated their experiences in our clinic as highly satisfactory. 

There is a growing emphasis on interdepartmental collaboration in occupational therapy, and this year we were able to incorporate increased inter-professional interactions with Puget Sound physical therapy students in both the adult and pediatric clinics. Occupational therapy students also worked collaboratively with students from the Dental Hygiene program at Pierce Community College to complete an inter-professional clinical practice session. We also increased the intra-professional collaborations with the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Bates Technical College.

The biggest change in our clinic this year was the addition of our Electronic Medical Record (EMR) - WebPT.  The use of an EMR in our onsite clinic ensures that our students are learning the most up to date documentation procedures, which will ensure that they are ready to enter the work force in any setting.


Client Survey Results

Clients and families received a satisfaction survey during their last week of clinic. Questions were rated on a 1-5 scale with 5 being highly satisfied.  Responses were as follows:

Overall Satisfaction with quality of care received during clinic

4.91 out of 5.0
OT helped me meet my goals 4.91 out of 5.0
Would recommend the onsite OT clinic to others 4.97 out of 5.0
Satisfaction with treatment provided by the student OT 4.97 out of 5.0
Confidence in student OT knowledge about client’s condition 4.91 out of 5.0
Instructions given by student OT were helpful 4.91 out of 5.0
Privacy was respected during OT care 4.97 out of 5.0
OT student was courteous 5.0 out of 5.0


Client Feedback

Comments from families this year were overwhelmingly positive. Some of the highlights included:

“We have participated in quite a few clinics here and this was by far the best session.  Our (student) therapist really went above and beyond to make sure we have all the resources and direction we need…Keep up the good work!”

“We found the clinic to be so helpful, and we really enjoyed this experience.”

“Great experience! Wish it were longer.  I would highly recommend programs to others!”

“Thank you so much for all your help with my son! Your program is amazing!”

“Working with (the students) has been a tremendous experience as I maneuver my life post-stroke…  I felt listened to and that my goals were understood and integrated into each session.”

“This is a wonderful program.  I love how it benefits both the clients AND the students.”

“Fantastic therapists who were knowledgeable, encouraging and kind.  Thank you all for what you do!”


Student Feedback

In addition to positive client comments, our Puget Sound OT students also had overwhelmingly positive comments about their participation in the onsite clinic this year.  Following are a sample of responses from students:

“I am very grateful to have had this experience and I think it is the biggest strength of the UPS program.” 

“I loved clinic … I feel so lucky to have had this experience prior to starting fieldwork.”

“This experience has been so helpful for advancing my knowledge of the OT process.  I feel that I have learned so much in every day of clinic that solidified the theories covered in the classroom lectures.”

“This was a super valuable, priceless experience! I feel so much more confident after this clinical experience.  I was so nervous a year ago, and now I feel prepared for fieldwork!”

“I really appreciated the opportunity to have a student clinic experience.  It was so valuable overall.”

In conclusion, it was a very successful year in our onsite occupational therapy clinic.  Thank you for your continued support of the occupational therapy program and our successful onsite clinic.


Interested in becoming a Clinical Instructor?

If you are interested in becoming a Mental Health, Adult, or Pediatric Clinical Instructor, fill out our interest form and we will contact you will more information!

Clinical Instructor Interest Form

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Fieldwork 2016-2017 Overview

Fieldwork 2015

Here are the statistics from Fieldwork for this past academic year:

31 students graduated.

29 students will be starting placements this month, including one in Tanzania.

63 total placements for the class of 2016

Breakdown of placements:

14 SNF

8 Peds  Clinics

8 School OT

1 Home Health

18 Hospital

8 Out-pt Clinics

4 Mental Health

2 Other

If you are interested in becoming a Fieldwork Educator, please contact Dawn Yoshimura-Smith at dsmith@pugetsound.edu, or fill out an interest form: 

Fieldwork Educator Interest Form

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Accepting Applications for the Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy

We will be offering another post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (DrOT) program starting summer 2017. The DrOT Program is designed to fit all levels of experience, whether you are a new entry-level occupational therapist or a seasoned one. The twelve month curriculum is designed to be student-centered and to support the development of advanced practice skills specific to the clinician’s career goals. To that end, students in the Program are required to articulate an area of concentration and related learning outcomes that will guide them in:

developing a course of study;

shaping course assignments;

selecting authentic learning experiences; and

developing a doctoral thesis project.

DrOT students will also have opportunities to interact with entry-level MSOT students, developing mentoring, teaching, and collaborative skills in classroom activities, clinic settings, and through thesis projects.

visit DrOT program Webpage


Quotes from recent graduates of the program

“I chose enroll in a post-professional doctoral program in order to further advance my clinical practical skills, increase my understanding and use of research measurement tools, and contribute to the growing body of
evidence-based knowledge.” —WENDELL NAKAMURA, DR.OT ’16, OTR/L

“Having practiced OT for 14 years, I knew I was ready to dig deeper and grow in order to provide the best therapy possible for my clients.” —WENDI TRUMMERT, DR.OT ’16, OTR/L

“I am now thinking about implementing programs focusing on how to impact the lives of more people, how to partner with other organizations, and how to work at system level.” —MARYAM MALEKPOUR, DR.OT ’16, OTR/L

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Teams of graduate occupational therapy students at the University of Puget Sound are seeking collaborators in current professional practice for a translational research project.

Starting in September, students will perform evidence reviews on topics of interest to their collaborating practitioners. By January 2017 students will present their findings, and then through April 2017, they will assist their clinical collaborators as they act to translate the research evidence into practice.


Early September 2016- Teams of graduate occupational therapy students are assigned collaborators.

December 2016- Students present their preliminary findings to their collaborator, discuss implications.

Late Jan/early Feb 2017- Students present the final evidence findings from the literature. Students and collaborator formulate a follow-up involvement plan which “translates” the evidence.

Feb-April 2017- Students work under faculty supervision to carry out the involvement plan.

May 2017- Student groups make a poster presentation on the evidence for their topic and the “evidence translation” process at a campus symposium, to which collaborators are warmly invited.

 For further information contact: 

George Tomlin, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Professor of Occupational Therapy
University of Puget Sound

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Faculty News

Welcome New Faculty!

We hired two new faculty members last Spring; one Clinical Faculty line to teach Anatomy now that Dr. Martins Linauts is retired, and one Clinical Faculty line to manage the adult clinic. Here is a bit more about our new team members:


Wendell NakamuraWendell Nakamura, MOT, OTR/L

Please tell us about your professional work:
     I have been practicing as an occupational therapist since 1999. Primarily working in adult acute rehabilitation with a specialty in cardiac rehabilitation, I have also practiced in adult subacute inpatient rehab, skilled nursing facilities, and home health and in pediatric outpatient settings. I will complete my post-professional doctorate (DrOT) in August, 2016.
     I have taught at the University of Puget Sound as Adjunct Professor since 2012 and was appointed Clinical Assistant Professor in 2016 to teach Functional Anatomy of the Limbs and Trunk, in addition to other courses (to be determined). I enjoy teaching on topics related to sociocultural issues, health communication, teaching and learning, professional development, and adult physical dysfunction.

What are your research interests?
     Improving the health of low-income, community-dwelling older adults living with chronic conditions; Verbal and non-verbal communication strategies in the therapeutic relationship; Teaching/learning in the contexts of client-practitioner, inter- and intra-professional, and classroom education; Diversity training for health care professionals to reduce the health disparities of under-served populations

What are some of the things you like to do outside of work?
     I enjoy international travel, language and culinary arts, and learning about different cultures. Closer to home, I enjoy engaging conversations with friends, a good stout beer, the outdoors, riding my motorcycle, and the company of my two cats.

Anything else you want us to know?
     As a graduate of the Puget Sound, both in 1998 and 2016, I’m very excited to be joining the full-time faculty! I love the rich relationships I’ve built with both students and faculty here. Puget Sound is a place that values the diversity of its students, faculty, and staff and is grounded in a collaborative learning process. It’s my vision to transform the lives of my students toward becoming leaders for change. By designing inclusive, interactive learning environments that lead students to challenge themselves, to think critically, and to develop strategies for autonomous learning, I view my primary role to be one who promotes exploration and, ultimately, personal and professional transformation.


Jennifer PitonyakJennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L

Please tell us about your professional work:
     I have 18 years of professional experience as an occupational therapist, with most of my clinical practice in pediatrics, family mental health, and community-based settings.  Early in my OT career, I worked at Kennedy Krieger Institute, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital, and then at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  In these settings, I developed my interest and eventual expertise in OT for children with feeding difficulties. More recently, my work as an OT has been in early intervention and a community hospital neonatal intensive care unit.  I am currently doing a few hours of per diem work per month at Fall City Children’s Therapy and Seattle Children’s Hospital.  I also collaborate with MedBridge, an online continuing education provider, to develop and teach courses in the area of pediatric feeding intervention.
     For the past 10 years, I have also worked in OT education.  I taught for 7 years in the MOT program at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia where I collaborated to develop a new entry-level clinical doctorate program and eventually served as vice chair of the OT department.  Most recently, I was teaching in the MOT program at University of Washington where I was involved in a number of interprofessional education activities.

 What are your research interests?
     I have two main areas of scholarship—education research and family life course health development.  I participate in several scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) groups that came together through AOTA’s SoTL Institute.  With these collaborators, I am examining critical thinking in OT education and the methods used to teach both intra and interprofessional education in OT curricula.  I am also interested in faculty development and methods for metacognitive and reflective learning.
     My work in the area of family life course health development includes collaboration with the Life Course Research Network at UCLA to demonstrate opportunities for OT in public health and primary care settings.  I am particularly interested in occupation as a social determinant of health and well-being and situations where policy or sociodemographics create situations of occupational injustice.

What are some of the things you like to do outside of work?
     I relocated to the Pacific Northwest several years ago after making almost yearly trips to the Seattle area for over 20 years to visit family and enjoy the outdoor activities of the region.  My husband and two children are also outdoor enthusiasts so we spend a lot of time hiking, camping, fishing, and exploring coastal beaches.  I also like to trail run, garden, cook new vegetarian dishes, and read for my occupational balance outside of work.

Anything else you want us to know?
     I am excited to be a part of the OT department at Puget Sound and a community grounded in liberal arts education.  My personal and professional values of innovation, service, and occupational justice evolved from my own undergraduate liberal arts education and professional experiences examining how OT can help address unmet community and societal needs.  I value service to my profession, and am currently serving on AOTA’s DDSIS committee and as chair of the conference committee for Society for the Study of Occupation (SSO:USA).

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George Tomlin receiving FAOTA  George Tomlin: Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (FAOTA)

At the 2016 AOTA conference in Chicago George was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. The award was bestowed for career-long accomplishments and especially for “Translating evidence into wisdom in professional decision-making.” He is shown here with Virginia Stoffel, AOTA President. About 35 other Fellows were named that day.


Kirsten Wilbur - Husky 100  Kirsten Wilbur: Husky 100

In the Spring of 2016, Kirsten Wilbur received the Husky 100 award while completing her EdD in Educational Leadership. This award recognizes 100 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at the University of Washington (Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma campuses) that make a difference on campus, in their communities, and for the future. Kirsten was chosen for this award because of her discovery mindset, commitment to inclusive community, capacity for leadership, and ability to make connections between coursework and real life.


Faculty Updates

The University of Puget Sound School of Occupational Therapy Faculty are recognized experts in their fields of study in both national and international venues. Faculty expertise covers the depth and breadth of occupational therapy practice and education.

Anne James  Anne Birge James, PhD, OTR/L

Anne Birge James received tenure in the spring of 2015, so just completed her first year as tenured faculty. The past year has provided Anne with several opportunities to pursue her passion that rests at the intersection of teaching/learning and occupational therapy. She developed the Teaching and Learning in OT course for the doctoral program. Hopefully, the students learned as much as she did! She has also had the privilege of managing the Experiential Learning in Context requirement. It is exciting to see entry-level students’ passion for “real life” experiences that remind them why they are in OT school. They have come up with some amazing ideas for this requirement and their their capacity for reflective practice shines through when they discuss their experiences. Anne will have an opportunity to focus on student learning during her sabbatical in the spring of 2017. She will be exploring options for the assessment of “soft skills,” that are so critical for practice, but difficult to evaluate through traditional academic assessments, such as understanding the importance of context in clinical reasoning, developing therapeutic use of self, and engaging in effective self-reflection. Outside of work, Anne and her husband are delighted that their daughter has been closer than a plane ride away, having relocated to Seattle about 2 years ago. They also continue to pursue long-time hobbies of biking and cross-country skiing (often at their cabin in Winthrop, WA – where they will spend next January and February, breaking up sabbatical research with daily cross-country ski breaks with their dog, Siouxsie).


Tatiana Kaminsky  Tatiana Kaminsky, PhD, OTR/L 

Tatiana is starting her twelfth year teaching at Puget Sound. She continues to be the lead instructor in the adult neurological disorders treatment course and loves the subject and the students. She is also excited to take over neuroscience after Martins Linauts' retirement. She continues her per diem work at Rehab Without Walls and enjoys keeping up her clinical skills and treating patients in the summer. When not teaching, Tatiana is working hard on a sizable revision of a textbook on visual, perceptual, and cognitive rehabilitation after acquired brain injury. She anticipates having the writing done in the next year. Outside of work, she spends time with her family. They traveled to England and Scotland to visit family this summer. They also went on their first backpacking adventure early in the summer. The kids did a great job carrying in their gear and they are all excited to do more camping next year!


 Yvonne Swinth  Yvonne Swinth, PhD, OTR/L 

 Yvonne is going into her 5th year as Department Chair.  Now that the updated curriculum has been fully implemented and we have graduated our first class of DrOT students, she will be working with faculty and students to further refine these programs.  She continues to teach pediatrics with Sheryl Zylstra and helps with the 3rd class of the Performance Adaptations series.  She also services on the AOTA workgroup for state school-based leaders, helps with the ESA certification course in WA State and has been working with Medbridge to develop a series of online courses for school-based therapists.  When not working, she can be found shuttling her girls between activities or doing family hikes, games or boating.  She is currently working with Kari Tanta to edit a book on advanced practice in pediatrics. 


George Tomlin, Durham, England  George Tomlin, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

George had the opportunity to travel to Europe this summer for the European Occupational Therapy Congress in Galway, Ireland (COTEC/ENOTHE 2016). He presented or co-presented five papers on the theory of evidence-in-practice, how practitioners produce their own evidence during the OT process, similarities and differences in the cultures of research and practice, the research pyramid, and a transnational comparison of collaborative student-therapist evidence projects in Austria and the US. Three papers were with Dr. Deborah Dougherty, program director of OT at Mercy College, NY, and one was with Verena Tatzer, OT faculty at the programs in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. It was also a chance to re-connect with many other OT colleagues from Ireland to Sweden, and Spain to Turkey. After the Congress George traveled to England and Germany to see family. in Germany he presented seminars on evidence, decision-making, and OT in the USA at German OT programs in Hildesheim and Berlin.

George continues to be on the Board of Directors of NBCOT, serving as chair of the Qualifications and Compliance Review Committee. He is also currently working on a revised chapter about scientific reasoning for the 2nd edition of Schell and Schell’s Clinical and Professional Reasoning in Occupational Therapy.

He is very excited to be starting a new year of teaching, leading evidence projects for second year students and getting to know the first years.


Kirsten Wilbur   Kirsten Wilbur, Ed.D., OTR/L

On June 10, 2016 clinical assistant professor Kirsten Wilbur was awarded her doctorate from the University of Washington in Educational Leadership along with UPS OT alum and former visiting professor Lucretia Berg.  Kirsten and Lucretia were part of the inaugural cohort of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at University of Washington Tacoma.  The Ed.D. program at UWT centers on training leaders in K-12, higher education, and allied healthcare fields to solve problems within their field of practice.  Kirsten found her time in the program to be valuable stating, “The Ed.D. program was instrumental in helping me to increase my understanding and knowledge of problems unique to my profession and work setting, and then set about identifying ways in which we as leaders and practitioners can offer solutions that work towards institutional change.”

Kirsten’s time in the Ed.D program focused on the lack of racial diversity within the OT workforce and the inherent racism that exists in our profession and professional educational programs that create structural barriers for people of color.  Dr. Wilbur’s dissertation of practice studied how high school students of color make decisions about college and career and in particular what high school students of color know and understand about a career in occupational therapy. 

In addition to earning her doctorate degree, Dr. Wilbur was chosen for the HUSKY 100 Award that recognized 100 undergraduate and graduate students from the three University of Washington campuses for their academic and community involvement.


Sheryl Zylstra  Sheryl Zylstra, DOT, MS, OTR/L 

Sheryl enjoyed her first year as faculty in the Occupational Therapy program at Puget Sound. Although she reports there was a steep learning curve in her transition into academia after working as a school-based therapist for many years, she notes there are many things that she loves about working here at Puget Sound -  some of which include the daily mentoring of students who are so enthusiastic about becoming OT’s, the in-depth discussions with acclaimed faculty members regarding the the occupational therapy profession, and the opportunity to participate in clinical research while co-managing the onsite clinic.

On a professional note, Sheryl was recently selected to participate in AOTA’s newly established Academic Leadership Institute.  The ALI is a year long educational and mentorship program for occupational therapy faculty around the country.  In addition, she continues to serve as vice-chair of the Washington States Occupational Therapy Practice Board.


Dawn Yoshimura-Smith  Dawn Yoshimura-Smith, OTR/L

 Dawn is enjoying the challenges of being the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator.  She has enjoyed connecting with fieldwork educators and working with them on their student program.  Over the summer Dawn visited many fieldwork sites and met with students who are adjusting to the 40 hour work week.  It has been rewarding to see students succeed in this last phase of their education.


Renee Watling  Renee Watling, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Renee is entering her second year as Visiting Assistant Professor, teaching both first and second year students. In addition to teaching, she is revising the book Autism: A Comprehensive Occupational Therapy Approach, updating the AOTA Sensory Processing and Integration Practice Guideline and is active on the AOTA Autism Workgroup.  Renee also enjoys consulting with therapists across the country and teaching continuing education workshops on the topic of addressing challenging behavior.

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Student Spotlight: The Student Fieldwork Experience, by Ana Wright

Ana Wright The first day of my (voluntary) third Fieldwork rotation, I walked into Enterprise Elementary school in the Federal Way School District knowing that I liked working with children.

Here I was, ready to use play to generate change, ready to help children master their environment, and teach them to use technology to increase independence and autonomy. I was thrilled to be able to accomplish this while working in their natural environments, supported by my fantastic instructors and UPS alumni, Cara Newlun and Alison Fillmore.  

I walked those hallways that first week and I felt the palpable camaraderie, caring, empathy, and commitment from the teachers and staff. This continued, because throughout my first few weeks I was greeted with warmth, support, and respect unlike I’d ever experienced. This was it. This was my new home.

At Puget Sound we learned models for how to work in teams like this, and we benefited from the many opportunities to collaborate with physical therapists, nursing students, dental hygienists, prosthetists, and clients in our experiential learning projects. We polished our communication styles, learned our strengths and weaknesses, and here I was putting all this experience into practice, where collaboration is the norm, the rule. I witnessed how the students benefited when we collaborated well and worked toward a common goal. “This district, these people get it!” I thought.

In Federal Way, it was in bright living color. These professionals with their vast knowledge welcomed me to utilize them, learn from them, and teach them. The teachers, para educators, speech and language therapists, vision team, and families welcomed me and treated me as an integral part of their team without hesitation.

In the following weeks and months, I realized that each school was different; each is a unique ecosystem, so the support given from management is vital. Chris Willis, Director of student support services honors the critical importance of successful inter-professional relationships. He supports us with this by providing us weekly meetings within our discipline, and monthly meetings as a “motor team” with PT, OT, Adapted PE , and vision. We are assured ongoing opportunities for working seamlessly for the many schools and families we serve.

I have realized from my experience at Puget Sound, and Federal Way school district that one can possess all the knowledge in the world, but success depends on working as a team member, respecting diversity, and honoring experience and knowledge. Honest curiosity, passion for those we serve, and advocacy for them and for our profession will continue to feed me throughout my career no matter who I work with, no matter what population I am serving. I am so thrilled that I choose UPS because I value the program’s focus on mental health, on best practices not only in therapy but in teaching, and how they modeled a commitment to the humanness of those we serve, and not just their diagnosis. Yvonne said to us, “ You shouldn’t need to know their diagnosis to treat them.” This has proved true in every sense; we meet ALL people “where they are”.

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Alumni Spotlight:  Bree Lair-Milani and Heidi Vladyka with Push International

It is a pleasure to share with you the work of Bree Lair-Milani (’09), a Co-Founder and Director of International Service Learning of Push International and Heidi Vladyka (’15), who has joined Push International as the Co-leader of International Service Learning Experiences.

Push International’s mission is to “…provide mobility and facilitate sustainable development in the disabled community inside the countries where we work” (http://pushinternational.org/our-mission/). Currently, they work primarily in Mazatlán, Mexico where they partner with Padres y Compadres, sharing rehabilitation facilities that include a therapy center, sensory integration gym, hippotherapy, aquatic therapy, and more. Push International gathers and delivers wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment in the USA and redistributes it to clients in the surrounding community of Mazatlán, as well as collaborating with the clients, families, and staff at Padres y Compadres.


Bree Lair-MilaniBree Lair-Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT started Push International with the late Steve Oliver in 2006, prior to pursuing her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Puget Sound. She continued the work throughout her graduate program and has led over 38 teams of volunteers on trips to Mazatlán. In 2008, Bree began taking groups of OT and PT students to help with the wheelchair distribution and to work with the clients and therapists of Padres y Compadres, a pediatric clinic specializing in cerebral palsy. To date, Push has contributed to the education of ~380 therapy students and volunteers, helping them apply learning to practice and developing an ability to think on their feet as they apply therapy concepts in an unfamiliar context. Students gain a rich cross-cultural experience as they give back to the community and learn from them as well.



Heidi VladykaHeidi Vladyka, MOT, OTR/L joined a Push International trip when she was a student in 2012. Her passion for sustainable mobility as well as therapy in Mexico has inspired her to join Push and move into a co-lead role. Heidi is an essential part in developing and teaching the cross-cultural curriculum, providing students with knowledge on topics such as Mexican Culture and History, OT delivery models, Cerebral Palsy and non-verbal communication, and wheelchair seating and positioning in Mexico. Heidi has lead OT teams from other Universities and has been approved as a Fieldwork 1 clinical instructor.

You can learn more about Push International on their website: 

Push International Webpage

For those of you in the Seattle area, you can join Push International at their annual fundraiser in Woodinville on October 15th (find more information on their website). The University of Puget Sound Occupational Therapy Program congratulates Bree Lair-Milani on the 10th anniversary of Push International and commends Heidi Vladyka for joining in this important work.  

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Special Topic: Experiential Learning in Context (ELiC)

Experiential Learning in Context, commonly called “ELiCs”, are a fairly new curriculum requirement that engages students in authentic contexts that enrich their understanding of occupational therapy practice and the populations served.  Students take part in three ELiC experiences over the course of their two years in the program. Students identify learning goals for experiences that range widely in scope, including assisting with clinical research, providing wellness programing for older adults, summer camp experiences for children and youth with disabilities, and so much more. Here we highlight two ELiCs that students participated in during the past academic year.


Helping Incarcerated Women Find Their Voices

Helping Incarcerated Women Find Their VoicesDuring the fall of 2015 three second year OT graduate students worked with incarcerated women to deal with anger and grief issues related to incarceration. Students Christi Llewellyn, Rebecca Newman, and Nadia Kabbani led several activity sessions at the Washington Correctional Center for Women (WCCW), with the support of lay practitioner Sharon Peterson, who provides ongoing, weekly programing with the Center. Using various craft media, the students worked to help the women express their feelings around incarceration and to communicate with the community outside of the prison through three different art projects. The students also worked with administrators at the University of Puget Sound to establish a venue to display the women’s artwork. The campus displays, which were in several locations, were titled “The Art of Communication” and offered viewers an opportunity to respond on postcards to the women’s art and statements regarding incarceration. Those cards were brought to the incarcerated women. Kirsten Wilbur, EdD, OTR/L, faculty liaison to the program at WCCW, reported, “There are so many needs incarcerated women face, such as learning independent living skills, stress and anger management skills, and the need for help with transitioning back to independent living in the community.  Occupational therapists can have a true impact in helping these women.” Overall, the campus project was praised by faculty and campus visitors, and the students reported developing a great appreciation for the experiences incarcerated women face and hope to advocate in the future for OT’s role in working with incarcerated individuals.


Helping Older Adults Age in Place in Rural Communities

Helping Older Adults Age in Place in Rural CommunitiesProfessor Anne James organized three teams of OT graduate students and occupational therapists who completed 11 home evaluations for older adults in the Methow Valley in northcentral WA. This experience was planned in collaboration with Methow at Home, a village-model non-profit organization that supports aging in place in the Methow Valley, which has few health care resources. The teams were led by occupational therapists Anne James, Juli McGruder (professor emeritus), and Marge Luthman (adjunct faculty) and students included Meg Batson, Jenn Thomas, Kaitlin Gaspich, Liz Siska, Jamie Theuer, Enjoli Washington, Connie Wyatt, Lauren Maher, Cate Terhune, , Maureen Traxler, Julie Tinsley, and Melanie Murphy. Students worked with the residents to identify concerns about aging in place and students wrote up reports with recommendations and information for purchasing equipment or making environmental adaptations. Methow at Home provides the residents with access to volunteers for simple tasks (e.g., help with rearranging cabinets or reducing clutter) and they have a list of professionals who they have vetted for bigger projects, such as installing a ramp. In addition to learning more about home safety assessments, students learned a great deal about the daily activities of older adults in rural settings, such as snowshoeing out to the clothesline in the winter to dry laundry and the many tasks needed to heat homes with wood. Students also found the teamwork supported their learning, which Liz Siska summarized effectively when she wrote, “I valued working in a small team and switching leads and roles during the assessments. This allowed to me to learn from my peers, for each team member to support one another, and for the lead to give the client their full attention during the home visits.”

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Summer Camp for kids at university of puget sound

Summer Camp 2016

The fourth year of the UPS Summer Camp for Kids with special needs was another successful experience for both campers and counselors.  Twenty-five children, with disabilities, ages 5-12 participated in a summer camp.  This is a collaborative effort between OT and PT with both faculty and students involved.  Once again, adjunct faculty (and recent DrOT graduate), Julie Anderson, DrOT, OTR/L led the OT charge for the fourth year.  Camp was offered for 2 weeks with the first week having campers with more orthopedic challenges and the second week having slightly older campers with more cognitive, motor coordination, and social concerns.  Each week had similar activities but required the counselors to adapt the activities in different ways, provided hands-on problem solving and allowed, for some, first time interactions with children with special needs.  In addition, it connected the OT and PT students and gave them insight into future collaboration.  This experience will be followed up with pediatrics class in the fall and pediatric clinic in the spring.  If you have students or clients you feel would be appropriate and would benefit from summer camp look for camp information in April at: https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/departments-and-programs/graduate/school-of-physical-therapy/.

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Student Occupational Therapy Association

2016 SOTA OT T-Shirt Fundraiser

SOTA 2016 T-ShirtIt is that time of year again! The  Puget Sound Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) t-shirt fundraiser has officially commenced! This year's shirt features core themes from the PNW, occupational therapy, and the university: a limitless T-rex (with reachers in hand) on the peak of a majestic mountain! This custom designed image will be set in maroon and white ink and printed on lovely heather military green colored, softstyle jersey t-shirts. Oh sooo cozy! 

All funds raised will go directly to SOTA to support various program activities and personal and professional development workshops, provide scholarships to students for the 2017 AOTA conference in Philadelphia, etc. We have set a minimum goal of 150 shirts by the end of the month and would greatly appreciate any support in moving us toward reaching this!  

Here is the link to the booster site where you will find the campaign details including sizing, price, payment options, and deadline for ordering: https://www.booster.com/upsotshirtcampaign16

***Make sure to select the "pick up for free" delivery option if you are in the part of the campus community or in Tacoma area! We will have the entire order of shirts sent to campus (except for those opting for personal delivery) and will be setting up times to distribute your orders. If you have family and friends in the area making purchases, you can pick theirs up as well.***


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