Denise LaRocca

Denise LaRocca

Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Occupational Therapy

Prof. LaRocca has intertwined over 20 years of clinical experience in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, chronic conditions, mindfulness and preventive lifestyle practices, and health and wellness coaching with her love of occupational therapy. Her extensive post-professional occupational therapy studies were at Tufts University in Massachusetts. She also obtained a Tufts Certificate in Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation and completed three clinical rotations while studying abroad at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Prof. LaRocca’s qualitative doctoral research focused on the complexity of navigating pain experiences, therapeutic communication, and advocacy. As an occupational therapist and travel practitioner, she collaborated with people and families in multitudes of healthcare settings and rural communities including home care, acute care, assisted living, and inpatient and outpatient stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Her professional memberships entail national and local chapters of numerous occupational therapy, cardiovascular rehabilitation, pain, wellness, psychological, and outdoor associations. Beyond teaching coursework and mentoring doctoral students, she is a clinical instructor in the occupational therapy onsite adult rehabilitation and community behavioral health clinics. Prof. LaRocca recently transitioned her clinical practice to academia in the occupational therapy department at the University of Puget Sound in January 2023.

“My life has been enriched by teachers. This exposure to life-long learning gives me the opportunity to traverse multiple worldviews with cultural humility, resilience, and compassion. There is a synergy between the founding values of liberal arts, occupational engagement, and significant learning. I am dedicated to a holistic, evidence-based, ethical, and person-centered perspective to meaningful occupation. My intentional approach facilitates active learning experiences for students through clinical interactive reasoning and reflection. As an educator, I strive to empower occupational therapy students to be innovative and confident leaders in the field. With the knowledge and clinical experiences obtained through the University of Puget Sound, my hope is for future OT colleagues to develop genuine compassion for themselves and others, and cultivate curiosity and wonder through everyday life occupations.”

Scholarly Interests

  • Expanding teaching and learning scholarship, teaching effectiveness, and curriculum development
  • Continuing qualitative research in persistent pain experiences and therapeutic communication
  • Resilience, chronic conditions, and nature-based therapy approaches
  • Rediscovering wonder and awe with everyday activities

Personal Interests

Beyond teaching and scholarly endeavors, Prof. LaRocca loves to travel and explore all the nuances of life in nature and the outdoors. Escaping to the mountains or ocean for awe-inspiring trail running, backpacking, hiking, and skiing trips is embedded in her lifestyle. She thoroughly enjoys photography, mindful yoga practices, gardening, reading mysteries, music, writing, and pencil drawing.

BS Ithaca College 1991
MS University of South Carolina 1995
MS Tufts University 2017
OTD Tufts University 2019

Contact Information

Weyerhaeuser 214