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Abe Saffer, an AOTA lobbyist, has successfully gotten bipartisan support for H.R. 3637, a bill to amend Title 7 of the Public Health Service Act to increase diversity in allied health professions. The bill is also supported by Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Rep. Cathy McMorris of Washington, who shared a joint press release about the merits of the legislation.
WHY IT MATTERS
This bill was modeled after the success of nursing lobbyists and clinicians who advocated for similar funding. If it passes, it will provide funding for advertising and recruitment information in high schools and colleges, scholarships, mentorship programs, tutoring, stipends to support fieldwork students, bridge programs to support students transitioning from OTA to OTR, among other strategies.
You can read more about the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019 in Saffer’s blog on the CommunOT website and listen to how his conversation with COTAD Chair Dr. Catherine Hoyt impacted his understanding of the importance of diversity and culturally appropriate terminology as it relates to the bill in a recent episode of the AOTA policy team’s “Policy Matters” podcast (COTAD mention at 8:23).
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Use the AOTA Legislative Action website to contact your representatives and request their support for this important bill. You can also encourage colleagues, education program faculty, students, OT clients, and state OT association leaders to call, write, or visit their representatives and ask for their support for this legislation.
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COTAD’s Executive Board consists of OT practitioners who excel both in both their work and professional endeavors and their work with COTAD. As a volunteer organization, COTAD requires a great deal of time and effort to maintain our current programs and continue to develop as a nonprofit organization – and our Executive Board members make this sacrifice daily. We are proud to have such accomplished and talented members at the helm of our organization, and we look forward to seeing where their leadership takes us next!
COTAD Chair Catherine Hoyt, PhD, OTD, OTR/L was recently featured in a local news story and on the Washington University in St. Louis website for her research on early detection of childhood brain damage or motor dysfunction. This research is detailed in an April 2019 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled “Detection of Pediatric Upper Extremity Motor Activity and Deficits With Accelerometry” that was the culmination of her doctoral research. The project was largely funded by the $25,000 Alvin R. Tarlov and John E. Ware Doctoral Dissertation Award for Patient Reported Outcomes, which Dr. Hoyt also earned as part of her advanced studies. Several weeks before this post was published, Dr. Hoyt also made another trip to serve rural and pediatric clients in Guatemala with OT students and faculty at WUSTL. Finally, Dr. Hoyt successfully defended her dissertation on May 20, 2019 in order to earn her Ph.D. in PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS).
Vice Chair Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L recently joined the faculty at the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy as the new Director of Admissions. In this role, Dr. Anvarizadeh will be responsible for helping promote diversity and inclusion throughout the admissions process and as part of the Division’s curriculum and other programs. Dr. Anvarizadeh was also part of the AOTA Special Task Force on Entry Level Education, and a crucial contributor to the professional dialogue on the entry level degree requirements in 2018-19. She continues to work tirelessly to support and establish COTAD Chapters at OT programs across the country to facilitate dialogue, awareness, and change related to issues of diversity in patient care and professional education.
Education Chair Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, OTR/L was promoted to Director of Admissions for the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She was the 2018 Keynote Speaker at the OTAO Conference (https://to.ly/1zmfX). She also helped coordinate and host the inaugural Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest for local elementary, middle, and high school students in collaboration with MUSC and other local organizations. The contest honored Charleston native and civil rights advocate Septima P. Clark for her dedication to service, education, and equality, and had nearly 75 entries featuring these and other themes. Dr. Smith is also continuing to serve professionals and community members as the Director of Vida Bella Therapy Services via travel scholarships, therapy services, and volunteering at community events.
Image Source: MUSC College of Health Professions Facebook
Web Editor Stephanie Lancaster, EdD, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS recently earned her Ed.D. in Instruction & Curriculum Leadership with a specialty in Instructional Design & Technology after successfully defending her dissertation in March 2019. Additionally, she was recently promoted to Program Director of the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. Finally, in April 2019 she was selected to be the new AOTA Representative Assembly member for the state of Tennessee. Congratulations, Dr. Lancaster!
Interprofessional Coordinator Adam Pearson, OTD, OTR/L received the Alumni Award at Washington University at St. Louis’s fourth annual Trailblazers Recognition Ceremony & African and African-American Studies 50th Anniversary Gala on May 14, 2019. Per the WUSTL website, the purpose of the Trailblazers program is to “acknowledge, commemorate and celebrate the contributions that Black alumni, faculty and staff have made to the institution and broader communities” as well as “recognizing Black change agents who have shaped the present-day institution and making intergenerational connections with alumni, faculty, staff and current students.
Treasurer Stacy Wilson, MS, OTR/L was promoted to Supervisor of Acute Rehabilitation Services at WakeMed Cary (a private hospital) in November 2018. Stacy started as a staff therapist, but in six short years he demonstrated his potential for achievement not only as a clinician but as a leader within the rehab services team. In his new role, he is responsible for hiring and retention of all therapy staff (including OT, PT, and ST) and clinical aides. He also performs annual staff performance reviews and collaborates with fellow leaders to develop initiatives to improve work flow and streamline the department’s budget.
Volunteer Coordinator Jordan Skowronski, OTR/L recently completed the coursework to earn a Ph.D. in Public Health – Community Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He will start the dissertation phase of his program in fall 2019. Skowronski has also published articles related to occupational therapy intervention for children with autism in AJOT and OJOT.
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On February 25, 2019, the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity officially became a nonprofit organization! This designation comes with many benefits, including the ability to apply for local and national grants, provide tax exempt goods and services, and recruit and retain skilled and knowledgeable members to help achieve our vision and promote our mission.
In the five years since it was originally conceptualized and created, COTAD has had an increasingly important impact on the profession of occupational therapy. For example, through COTAD’s efforts and the dedication of its Executive Board members, committee members, and volunteers, several new programs have been launched and older programs improved upon. These include the Minority Mentorship Program, COTAD-ED, and collaborations with AOTA leadership. Further, we are now able to accept donations large and small that will help us fund current and future projects, provide scholarships for students of diverse backgrounds, and have a bigger impact on the profession.
In our first year as a nonprofit, we are hoping to raise a minimum of $2500 to help ensure that current initiatives can continue and new programs and resources can be developed to meet theneeds of occupational therapy students, clinicians, educators, and consumers. We are committed to creating a world in which occupational therapy practitioners are well-prepared to serve and collaborate with professionals and clients of diverse backgrounds, and every dollar we raise helps get us one step closer to our goal.
If you believe in the power and value of having a truly diverse profession, consider donating to our organization today! If you are interested in partnering with COTAD or a local member, please email cotad2015@gmail.com to connect.
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COTAD | Coalition of Occupational Therap.. by Lauren Jones, Ms, Otr/l - 1M ago
This year marked several important events in COTAD history! Since its establishment in 2014, COTAD has continued to grow and have an impact on the professional dialogue, student education, and professional practice in occupational therapy.
At this year’s AOTA Conference in New Orleans, LA, COTAD received a special shout out from AOTA President Amy Lamb, who highlighted our five year anniversary and the work we are doing and will continue to do in order to move our profession toward the Vision 2025 goal of being an “inclusive profession...maximizing health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living" (AOTA, 2019). Our ongoing collaboration with AOTA leaders helps strengthen our organization, increase our reach, and provides us with important opportunities to share perspectives, data, and resources with the national organization. Thank you, AOTA!
In addition to celebrating our five year anniversary, on DATE, 2019, COTAD officially became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization! This is a huge step towards our ongoing goal to have national and international influence, as we will now have more opportunities to access valuable grants, develop community partnerships, and organize fundraising and education events. Additionally, we are able to accept donations and offer tax write-offs and other benefits to individuals and organizations who support our mission financially.
At AOTA19, COTAD leaders and members stayed busy hosting professional networking events, influential speakers, and leading Conversations That Matter, short courses, and workshops on various topics related to diversity and inclusion. Conference events started with the annual pre-Conference COTAD-ED “Discussions on Diversity” dinner and social, which included more attendees than ever before.
Throughout conference, COTAD was hard at work sparking discussion, making connections, sharing resources, and driving change. Check out the slideshow below for highlights from our fifth year and stay tuned for more changes to come!
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Congratulations to the first-ever winners of the COTAD Chapter Excellence Award! Washington University at St. Louis (WUSTL) occupational therapy students earned this honor for their dedication to community service, education, and fundraising to support diversity-related causes in their community.
During the awards ceremony at the 2019 COTAD Breakfast in New Orleans, LA, Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, COTAD Vice-chair and founder of the COTAD Chapters program highlighted the multiple achievements of the organization, including hosting multiple events related to diversity and inclusion for school and community members, as well as working closely with COTAD leadership and other nationwide Chapters on diversity issues. Emily Sherman, OTD/S ’19 proudly accepted a certificate and commendation on behalf of the WUSTL COTAD Chapter and stated that she was grateful for the award and the contributions of her fellow student leaders to the chapter’s work.
Thanks to the efforts of students in COTAD Chapters at WUSTL and across the country, the next generation of OT practitioners and others are learning about the value and importance of occupational therapy for diverse people, populations, and communities. Through the COTAD Chapters program, occupational therapy students are learning how to advocate for their profession and leverage their skills and knowledge to benefit multicultural members of their communities both on- and off-campus.
If you are a student or educator who is interested in bringing a COTAD Chapter to your campus, email Dr. Anvarizadeh at anvariza@gmail.com to learn more and join our journey towards a future with a diverse workforce serving diverse people, populations, and communities!
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On December 18th and 20th, 2018, members of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center COTAD Chapter coordinated a holiday toy drive. The event COTAD Chapter leaders and students from the Occupational Therapy Classes of 2018, 2019 and 2020. Over two days, students wrapped and delivered presents to children and teens in a local Brooklyn homeless shelter. The children, teens and parents of the residence stated that they greatly appreciated the presents.
COTAD Chapter Chair Keiona Ellison ’19, COTAD Quarterly Call Representative Brittany Chandler '19, Holiday Toy Drive Co-Chairs Siham Bennis ’20 and Eirish Anne Doyogan ’20 worked together to organize the event by reaching out to SUNY Downstate students, faculty and staff. They raised over 200 toys and gift card donations and were able to give multiple gifts to each child within the complex. In addition, they were able to provide presents to their siblings and provide a sizable donation to the homeless shelter’s daycare center. This was accomplished under the leadership of faculty advisor Vikram Pagpatan, MS, OTR/L, ATP and Marjorie Norton, Residential Aide Supervisor at the Fannie Barnes homeless shelter.
Fannie Barnes is just one of many shelters under the organization known as Urban Strategies, Inc. Urban Strategies, Inc. provides transitional housing services for thousands of children, adults, pregnant women, and families in Brooklyn. They have successfully operated and managed shelters for over 28 years. They help to assist residents to attain permanent and independent living. The COTAD chapter student leadership at SUNY Downstate hopes to collaborate with Urban Strategies Inc. for future events!
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COTAD’s leaders and members are busy year round spreading the word and increasing awareness of issues related to cultural humility, professionalism, and diversity in occupational therapy practice.
Whether locally or nationally, in-person or on-screen, COTAD is working around the clock (and around the world!) to accomplish the goal of “meeting society’s occupational needs by developing local and national initiatives and aligning with key stakeholders to create a socioculturally diverse workforce that is able to provide culturally sensitive and client-centered services to occupational therapy consumers” wherever we are and wherever we go.
Click the image below to access an interactive map and see where COTAD has been -- and where we’re headed!
Image Attribution: © Thunderforest © OpenStreetMap contributors
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UNC Chapel Hill students and event presenters at the Spring 2018 "Cultural Humility & Ethical Practice" continuing education event
Students in the UNC Chapel Hill COTAD Chapter organized a continuing education event in Spring 2018 to increase awareness about cultural humility and professional ethics. The program titled "Cultural Humility & Ethical Practice" was 1.5 hours long and featured four speakers from diverse clinical and personal backgrounds who addressed multiple topics related to cultural humility and diversity and professional ethics. These students not only gained valuable experience in coordinating a large-scale CE event (including recruiting speakers, communicating effectively, and problem-solving), but they were able to deepen their own and others' understanding of the importance of cultural humility in everyday OT practice.
Throughout the evening, each speaker addressed a different element of cultural humility and diversity. For example, the first speaker provided a general overview of specific terms and concepts related to cultural humility to ensure attendees were using a shared language throughout the rest of the evening. Afterward, additional speakers provided case examples of advocating for patients of diverse backgrounds, cross-cultural learning experiences, and systems-level initiatives. Attendees participated in interactive activities and discussions, and refreshments were served to encourage a dialogue in a more informal atmosphere before and after the presentation.
As one of the guest speakers, COTAD Editor Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L explained the difference between cultural competence and cultural humility using the following analogy to help attendees understand why this difference mattered:
"Imagine the occupational therapy process as going on a road trip with your client. Being culturally competent means you are the captain of the car, controlling the course of the therapeutic relationship. You have a roadmap, and you’re headed to the destination that you’ve selected. Sure, you chose this route based on “facts,” in many cases, but ultimately the course of treatment is what you believe to be the best path and doesn’t necessarily take into account your passenger or your patient’s preferences, beliefs, and opinions.
In comparison, cultural humility means you are the co-pilot. You have experience driving, and there is a map available to you (as in, the index card in your pocket), but you are aware of the fact that the roads on the map are only the paths most commonly traveled. As a culturally humble practitioner, you seek input and guidance from your client, planning the trip as you go along, learning and making changes to the route to get to a destination you’ve both selected together." (Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L)
Another speaker described her experience of going with fellow OTD students to work with clients in a foreign country, and how she had to suspend her own personal beliefs, assume a posture of cultural humility, and learn how to collaborate with and learn from patients whose experiences – and whose homes, adaptive equipment, and preferences – were very different than her own.
At the end of the event, attendees were able to ask questions and share experiences with the speakers and others. Conversation flowed freely, and students as well as veteran practitioners came away with a deeper understanding of the value of cultural humility in modern OT practice.
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Attendees at the 2018 COTAD ED Dinner in Louisville, KY during the AOTA Education Summit
The second annual COTAD-ED dinner at the AOTA Education Summit was a success! Attendees included nearly 20 faculty and staff members from occupational therapy education programs across the country, as well as prominent AOTA leaders. The AOTA President, Vice-President, and President-Elect were all present and active participants in the dinnertime dialogue about diversity and inclusion issues affecting OT practitioners.
After a brief introduction of the COTAD-ED leaders and program background, attendees broke into small groups to discuss topics including: holistic admissions, increasing awareness of OT among individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, collaborating with established campus initiatives, student organizations and educational programs, and supporting COTAD Chapter activities related to diversity. Participants also discussed the importance of critical self-reflection by program admissions coordinators, faculty, and others to identify strengths, weaknesses, and goals related to diversity and inclusion.
Future plans for COTAD-ED include developing a shared database of relevant literature, resources, and information to help facilitate skill and knowledge development for occupational therapy educators. Additionally, the group’s leaders plan to continue gathering information about issues in academia related to diversity and inclusion to help identify problems and find solutions that will ultimately benefit all groups involved with the profession of occupational therapy – from prospective students to OT educators to the wide variety of clients OTs serve. If you would like to get involved with COTAD-ED or learn more about initiating or facilitating similar conversations in your academic setting, email us at cotad2015@gmail.com.
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Washington University in St. Louis Program Faculty with Emerging Leader OT Program Alumni Award Honorees (from WUSTL Facebook)
COTAD includes many high-caliber and high-impact occupational therapy professionals. From faculty members to podcast creators and clinical researchers, COTAD includes many dedicated occupational therapists who work in a variety of settings to improve our profession for OT practitioners, clients, and others. On October 6, 2018, Dr. Adam Pearson, OTD, OTR/L was honored by leaders at his alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis at the Centennial Gala event at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis. During the award ceremony, Dr. Pearson received one of four “Emerging Leader OT Program Alumni Award” and was recognized for his leadership in the community and his dedication to supporting the mental health and well-being of chronically homeless individuals in St. Louis.
Although he has since transitioned to a new position, Dr. Pearson spent much of his career working at Peter and Paul Community Services, a nonprofit human services agency in St. Louis, Missouri that provides housing and supportive services to those who are chronically homeless. As the program director for the Safe Haven Program and site manager for Garfield Place Apartments, Pearson helped develop an application process for residents, and collaborated with interdisciplinary team members to “surround the individual with services so they can accomplish their goals.” Additionally, Pearson notes that “Traditional OT is just a small part of what we can do as practitioners. The world is a big place and there are so many people who could use the services of OT and not just in the traditional sense. The big part is if we can help with issues like homelessness, then everyone’s participation in the community improves.”
Pearson’s holistic approach to practice and acute awareness of the true impact occupational therapy can have at the individual and population levels are just two of the qualities that make him such a valuable member of our organization and an outstanding member of the professional community. Congratulations, Adam!

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