Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy
Dr. Pitonyak has over two decades of experience as an occupational therapist in early intervention, the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric rehabilitation, and other community settings, with an emphasis on infant and family mental health. She holds specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing (SCFES) from the American Occupational Therapy Association and is also a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI). She previously worked in multidisciplinary feeding programs at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and was a per diem therapist at Seattle Children’s. She applies her extensive experience working with children with disabilities and their families to her current collaborations with the local public health department to conduct research and develop programs using occupational therapy approaches that address disparities in family occupations and health development.
Dr. Pitonyak joined the faculty in the School of Occupational Therapy at University of Puget Sound in 2016 and teaches content on the foundations of occupational therapy and psychosocial approaches to intervention with children and youth. She also coordinates the course series OT652/653/654 Experiential Learning in Context and teaches content on teaching and learning approaches and policy influences on occupation in the post-professional DrOT program. She brings prior academic experience to her position at Puget Sound, including expertise with curriculum development and accreditation, and has previously taught courses and mentored students in both clinical and research doctorate programs. Dr. Pitonyak has presented nationally and published in peer-reviewed journals on topics related to the scholarship of teaching and learning and family life course health development.
“The mission and curriculum design of the School of Occupational Therapy are an exceptional match with my own values of innovation, service, and occupational justice. Our curricular emphases of respect for diversity, therapeutic use of self, and client-centered, occupation-based practice prepare graduates to work in diverse, complex contexts. I really enjoy seeing our students develop their critical thinking and professional reasoning through our many experiential learning opportunities in the program. Our mental health, pediatric, and adult occupational therapy teaching clinics are embedded in our curriculum and not only provide students with mentored practice experience prior to Level II Fieldwork, but are also a resource to individuals in our local community who benefit from these pro bono occupational therapy services.”
“OT is the liberal arts.”
My own undergraduate liberal arts education at Allegheny College and PhD in health policy prepared me to critically analyze the context within which occupation is performed and to recognize that occupation and health are shaped by structural factors, resulting in situations of occupational injustice and health disparities.
Scholarship of teaching and learning: pedagogical approaches for critical and reflective thinking; faculty development and mentorship; experiential learning methods for community engagement and partnership; interprofessional education and collaboration
Family life course health development, including interventions for mental health promotion; occupational therapy services in public health settings; policy influences on family occupations and health development
Theory development related to aspects of critical thinking, client-centeredness, and occupational justice; qualitative and participatory action methods examining social determinants of occupation and occupational determinants of health
Dr. Pitonyak enjoys reading, gardening, vegetarian cooking, trail running, and hiking and camping with her family.