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FACE OF OTs: Written by Kimberly Hreha, OTR

 

 Face of OT for April 2011:                                               

 Leonora Bradley has been an occupational therapist since 2001. After graduating from Tufts University in Massachusetts, Leonora moved back to NJ and started to work at Staten Island University Hospital, in their acute inpatient rehabilitation department. Her day-to-day responsibilities included evaluations and treatment, however she did mention overseeing a specialized feeding group for many patients. While working at this hospital, she was presented with the opportunity to work with children in an outpatient setting. Leonora would treat these children after her full time job, a few days a week.  Even though this experience was brief, Leonora truly enjoyed this aspect of occupational therapy and was determined to learn more. However, before Leonora started working with pediatrics, her professional journey continued at The Rehabilitation Hospital of Tinton Falls, and she continued to become more proficient in rehab. After a while, Leonora learned of the Trinitas Children’s Therapy Services and the distinct characteristics of the company that fit so well with her life and her career goals. The organization has a large staff of therapists that work in the school districts throughout Union county. She took the job feeling comfortable knowing that she would have the mentorship and collaboration that she was use to, however was able be in the schools and have a more flexible schedule. She stayed in the system for about 3 years and then after having children of her own, Leonora decided to cut back her hours. In 2006 her husband’s company gave him the opportunity to move to Switzerland, so the Bradley family uprooted to Geneva and stayed for 2 years. During this time, Leonora studied French, a required ability needed in order to practice occupational therapy, however the family’s decision to return to NJ, put this very exciting quest to a stop. Leonora did say however that when in Geneva, since she is certified in infant massage, she was able to work with parents, educating and completing this form of therapy. She also was able to meet many OTs and learn about how occupational therapy is practiced there- which she said was an experience that she will always remember and cherish.  When the Bradley’s returned to the States, Leonora started contract work in the school system again and also continued with private massage therapy, which has expanded to include private handwriting therapy for school aged children. In fives years Leonora hopes to continue with school based therapy and possibly return to the rehabilitation world. In her years of experience, she has come to see the need for more education to be completed for patient’s family members as well as support staff in hospitals, schools, ect.  She is compelled and passionate to share the extra-ordinary skills that occupational therapists have as well as information that should be more readily available and known by the public.  It is evident that Leonora is an avid learner as well as a dedicated therapist who will continue to make a difference in her client’s lives, in whatever setting she works in. 

 

September 2010’s Face of OT

Antoinette Gentile has been an occupational therapist for 25 years. Her career began after she graduated from Utica College in December 1984 with her BS. Antoinette moved and lived in Wilkes-Barre, PA where she obtained a job in an Acute Care Hospital on their small rehab unit. It was at this small unit where Antoinette found her calling and her love for rehabilitation began. It was in this setting where to her she saw occupational therapy at its best. It was where she loved being an important part of someone’s recovery. It was where she found contentment helping her patients become more independent and where she could give them HOPE during a potentially very “dark” time in their lives.  She loved looking at how a person functions and figuring out how to make it easier or be better for them. Antoinette stayed only about a year and a half at this unit, however in this time, was able to treat a variety of diagnoses with an adult patient population. She was able to practice splinting skills and even supervise students.

Antoinette then moved to New Jersey and moved to a much larger rehabilitation facility, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. At that time, Kessler had 4 campuses, Antoinette started at the East Orange campus where she worked mostly with patients that sustained severe traumatic brain injuries or had non-traumatic events.  She then transferred to the outpatient department and into a role of the occupational therapy clinic supervisor and after a few years moved facilities again (within the organization) to be the inpatient occupational therapy supervisor and then clinical manager for both the inpatient and outpatient departments. 

 In between all of Antoinette’s accomplishments at Kessler (she has been with Kessler altogether 23 years), she was given an opportunity to travel and practice occupational therapy in California, and did so for approximately one year. She primarily worked at the Los Angles County Hospital practicing acute care OT, specifically for burn patients, was on the infectious disease ward and worked with acute traumatic injuries. She even practiced forensic occupational therapy.

Antoinette currently is the inpatient occupational therapy clinic manager at the Saddle Brook campus.  Her typical day includes; program development for Kessler’s programs, working closely with the rehab team counterparts (PT, ST, nursing, CMs) on daily operations of the department, being a mentor to her staff and will occasionally treat patients if the team needs her assistance.

In five years Antoinette would like to be able to travel to different parts of the world to share ideas & knowledge of occupational therapy.  She did not specify in what capacity, however it is apparent that she is passionate about the work she does and the profession of occupational therapy. Antoinette did stated that she still would like to be very connected to patient care and of course in the rehabilitation setting. She would like to remain involved in staff and program development to continue to support & expand the profession of occupational therapy in this capacity as well!

 

August 2010 Face of OT:

Margaret (Peggy) Swarbrick, Ph.D., O.T.R., C.P.R.P is the Director of the Collaborative Support Programs of the New Jersey Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives. She is also a part time assistant professor in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions Program at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Health Related Professions.

Dr. Swarbrick’s career path is in my opinion to be considered nothing short of impressive. She earned an associates degree in OT from Union County College in 1986 to then started out as an occupational therapist assistant at Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital. Dr. Swarbrick continued to work at both MPH and acute rehabilitation settings as she went on to complete a bachelor’s degree at Kean University. Then in 1996, she earned her master’s degree and finally in 2005, completed her PhD, both degrees at New York University. She also completed a post doctoral fellowship (Advanced Training and Research, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research) in the UMDNJ-SHRP Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions.

Dr. Swarbrick has been involved in the mental health field since 1977 personally and professionally since 1986. She worked as an occupational therapist in a variety of settings providing wellness and recovery focused services. Dr. Swarbrick wanted to make a difference in the mental health field—especially find ways to help the field move towards a wellness framework—this was her inspiration to pursue graduate studies. She wanted to learn to organize her ideas better and find ways to bridge ideas into actual practices that make a difference in the quality of the life of persons served. Dr. Swarbrick has always been a strong proponent of persons in recovery (people living with diagnosis of mental illness) assuming provider roles for many years. She has had a passion for wellness and peer-delivered service models.

 Dr. Swarbrick has lectured nationally and internationally on recovery, wellness and consumer-operated services. She has published on the wellness and recovery model, consumer operated services, a commentary on a cognitive behavioral treatment for persons diagnosed with mental illness who experience PTSD, and peer delivered wellness and recovery programs. She continues to assume lead roles in the areas of program development, training, and research supporting efforts to transform the mental health delivery system to include persons in recovery in both key administrative and direct service roles. Dr. Swarbrick is the co-editor of the new publication of “People in Recovery as Providers of Psychiatric Rehabilitation: Building on the Wisdom of Experience.” This publication brings the reader up to date information on the amazing strides that have taken place over the last decade. Dr. Swarbrick was this year's recipient of the USPRA Carol T Mowbray Early Career Research Award. The award was presented to her in June, at the national US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA) conference.

  “You get what you give”. This is so true. Hard work pays off and if you are as talented and committed to the profession as Dr. Swarbrick is, you will defiantly produce extraordinary results. Dr. Swarbrick’s career is still in the beginning stages; I know that she will continue to amaze us as she sets high goals and dreams large because her heart is invested and her hands are dedicated.  Occupational therapy is a lucky profession to have her a part of!

 

Face of OT for July 2010:

Lynn Nalupta has been an occupational therapist for 9 years. She graduated from Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 2001, with a bachelor of science in OT. In 2009, she received her training and certification to practice Health Counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is the only nutrition school that integrates different and modern dietary theories with the traditional philosophies.

Since 2002, Lynn has been working as a full-time occupational therapist at PG Chambers School (PGCS) in Cedar Knolls. She works two days within a nearby school district and spends the other three days at PGCS, supporting children with special needs in their development of sensory processing, self-care and academic skills. Whether Lynn treats individually or in small groups, she provides adaptations that the children may need in the areas of dressing, feeding, and computer access. Also at PGCS, Lynn co- runs the splinting and adaptation clinic and is on a task force that is working on the easing the transition of PG students to other schools, including a lunch and recess program. Lynn took on an interest in assistive technology and is currently working towards being able to put these strategies/techniques into practice with the kids on her schedule. She also runs an afterschool handwriting group.

In addition to working full-time, Lynn is the owner and creator of ‘The Health Dish’ where she provides health-counseling services to busy women striving for balanced wellness mainly through food and lifestyle changes. This business came about in 2009 after Lynn was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2005. Today, Lynn is cancer free, however as you can imagine, this had a profound effect on her life. One area that was particularly affected was her diet. She found foods that helped her deal with the fatigue and mood swings she experienced during and after her treatment, as well as foods that helped her manage her thyroid issues more naturally. She was truly amazed at the impact that good, healthy food has had on her life. She now feels blessed to be in a position to help other people regain a sense of balance with their health and well-being. Lynn typically sees 1-2 clients for health counseling every weeknight. The sessions typically last one hour and the time is spent assessing the clients’ needs. Depending on the needs of the clients, she will provide them with strategies such as teaching them healthier alternatives for their diet, breathing techniques for stress management and trying new foods/recipes. In addition, Lynn holds monthly lectures around New Jersey discussing such topics as “sugar alternatives” and “healthy snacks”. One of her recent lectures focused on stress management for OTs and PTs. She also writes a bi-monthly online column on discussing topics such as health and wellness for New Jersey Life Healthy and Beauty Magazine. Lynn especially enjoys sharing recipes for food that people have never tried before.

In five years, Lynn sees herself expanding her health counselor role to serve a wider
audience. She would like to continue her work as a pediatric occupational therapist and to continue expanding her knowledge of splinting, adaptations, and assistive technology.
Lynn is someone who embodies AOTA’s slogan Living Life to its Fullest because she knows that life holds so much possibility. This view of life was strengthened and when she battled cancer, and Lynn focused on making her life as meaningful and fulfilling as possible. She is now spreading this proposal to others as she challenges us to dream, take chances and seize every day!

June 2010’s Face of OT:
Claire Glasser graduated from Columbia University with her bachelors in occupational therapy. After graduation she began working with the physical disabilities population, however soon after, Ms. Glasser decided to change jobs and work at Belleview Hospital, with the pediatric population, and stayed there for about four years. While there, she was asked to be the director of the occupational therapy department at the NYU Hospital as well as teach at the college. In her “free” time at NYU, she decided to pursue her master’s degree and finished in a few years. When Ms. Glasser had her children, she worked in home therapy part time, however eventually became full-time and continued in this area of practice for most of her occupational therapy career. Ms. Glasser also taught at Kean College for 8 years where she developed their OT curriculum. She also started the student fieldwork program at Occupational Therapy Consultants and developed relations with many colleges and universities.

Her love for administrative work and education, along with her organizational skills and communication abilities led her to contribute to the state of New Jersey in the area of fieldwork and administration for over 20 years.

Her involvement in OT organizations at the state level include being President of the New York OT association for 2 years, and in NJOTA as the founder and chairperson for the home health special interest group and on the professional practice committee. Ms. Glasser was also the OT representative for the home health assembly of New Jersey, as well as the delegate to the AOTA House of Delegates.
Nationally, she was AOTA’s representative to the National League of Nursing and the American public health association for 5 years. Ms. Glasser was a member of the commission on education and on the task force that developed National Home Health Guidelines.

She has also presented various topics at the state and national level. She was unit chair for the 1958 AOTA conference. And in 1986 she was named FAOTA for her work in education and home health. In 2006 NJOTA recognized her to receive an Award of Merit in the area of Administration.

One of Claire’s major accomplishments was her co-development of a re-activation program to bring back therapists interested in rejoining the workforce.

Currently Ms. Glasser is retired, however she said to me that she never stopped being an OT, and this mostly meaning in her personal life. However, Claire still works for OT Consultants with student fieldwork placements. I think most OTs are like this, that we feel a need to be an “OT” in all areas of our life. Ms. Glasser told me that when she “found” this profession and it just “fit”. She says that her journey with the field has been nothing short of wonderful and that it has been exciting to be part of the profession as it grew and changed since her college years. In 5 years she hopes to still be living her life to it’s fullest and that is by continuing to do everything that she is currently doing!


May 2010’s Face of OT
Felicia Herrera was inspired to learn more about occupational therapy and applied to OT school after her 92-year-old grandfather started to receive occupational therapy services after sustaining a stroke. She saw first hand the benefits and uniqueness of OT as her grandfather went from being unable to independently care for himself, walk, and participate in his hobbies, to now, 3 years later, living and functioning independently as well as painting beautiful artwork. Felicia was inspired; she wanted to be an OT and make a difference in people’s lives by allowing them to live to their full potential.
Felicia currently attends Thomas Jefferson University College of Health Professions masters program in Philadelphia, PA. Over the past 3 years she have been the President of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, where she helped organized the 1st Annual Philadelphia Intercollegiate OT Night, spearheaded the 4th and currently the 5th Annual OT Awareness Night at the Phillies, helped organize our NJOTA Networking Night (this past February), and completed the Leadership Live Program at Jefferson 3 years in a row. Additionally, she is a member of the Student Advisory Committee and is involved in the Graduate Assistantship Program. She will be presenting at this years AOTA Conference in Orlando, Fl and representing Jefferson as the Student Delegate at the ASD Meeting. And in December 2010, she will be graduating.
Felicia’s Level II Fieldwork placements were at Cooper Hospital and Fox Rehabilitation. Cooper Hospital was a fast-paced environment where Felicia gained a lot of experiences. She was able to work in the acute rehabilitation gym, the traumatic intensive care unit, the oncology unit, the orthopedic unit, the intensive care unit, and the pediatric unit. She enjoyed learning about different diagnoses and providing therapy to allow each patient to achieve their goals. Her second Level II Fieldwork placement was at Fox Rehabilitation. In this setting Felicia saw similar diagnoses however provided more individualized, occupation- based treatment in the comfort of each patient’s home. Felicia felt that the best thing about this fieldwork placement was actually seeing that her interventions were helping her patients to live safely and independently, which is what was so important to her and her family when her grandfather was sick.
Felicia has not settled on job yet, however, she knows that she wants to work with the geriatric population. She hopes to start interviewing for jobs soon and looks forward to working with other clinicians who share her values, skills, and passions. In 5 years, Felicia sees herself as a practicing occupational therapist working with the geriatric population. She hopes to be a strong advocate for the profession by being actively involved in NJOTA and AOTA. She wants to continue to try to raise awareness for OT. She hopes to be presenting at AOTA conference and at local conferences as well.
I see a lot of myself in Felicia, in regards to her strong love for the profession and goals to bring about awareness to the public. I truly believe that she will be a leader in the field because of her passion and hardworking attitude that is evident thus far. Please join me in congratulating Felicia on graduation and wish her luck on her board exam as well as her future endeavors! Also do not forget to support NJOTA and Felicia at the Annual Philly’s night, which is June 18th!


April 2010’s Face of OT
Jennifer O’Dea has been an occupational therapist for 13 years. She graduated in 1997 from Boston University with a BS in OT. Jennifer’s first job was The Phoenix Center in Nutley, NJ where she worked there for 10 years. During that time she advanced to a senior level OT position, was the Therapeutic Listening coordinator, member of the BRIDGE to learning program, and had many Level II students.
In 2009, when The Smile Center opened in Manhattan, Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to work at a facility that fosters a vision of best practice. At this state of the art clinic, she provides outpatient services using an NDT framework, sensory intervention, DIR/Floortime, and Therapeutic Listening models.
Jennifer’s work in the LADACIN Network, in Monmouth County, began in 2008. At Ladacin, she works in early intervention and provides assessment and treatment at the Schroth School, which is the Cerebral Palsy center of Monmouth County. Her OT services are provided in the homes of children, newborn to age three, that have neuromotor impairments, medically fragile, and/or have sensory issues. At the Schroth School, Jennifer’s job responsibilities include treating children ages 5 to 18, who have severe and profound neuromotor impairments. She specializes in using NDT treatment. Most of her day is spent having children on the mat, ball, and swing, where she uses handling techniques to improve postural and movement abilities. She also has an interest in feeding therapy. Jennifer spends part of her day in the school’s feeding clinic where she works with orthotists and venders as well as physiatrists and neurologists to help address nutritional issues that the children may have.
Not only does Jennifer work for the above companies, but she also works with Chernobyl Children's Project International. This she states is her true passion! Since 1991, Chernobyl Children’s Project International has delivered direct and indirect humanitarian aid to the Chernobyl region to restore hope to the people who were affected by the after-effects of Chernobyl Nuclear disaster. Jennifer has been providing medical humanitarian aid in the form of OT assessment and treatment in rural Belarus, since 2005, and has made 5, 1-2 week long, trips. Her awareness of this country devastation started from seeing an HBO documentary, Chernobyl Heart. Soon after, Jennifer sent her resume and was offered a spot on their first American team of therapists to travel to Belarus to provide services. She was the only occupational therapist.
Jennifer stated that treating in Belarus is very different than the states because you are forced to take on many roles and provide all you can, using limited resources. She said that she found herself using the NDT, sensory and traditional OT frames of reference in her treatments, however treating the children wasn’t enough. The children also needed to have advocates for them and that the staff members of the facility needed to be educated and trained on how to care and produce an environment that fosters growth. Jennifer now provides therapy services to over 150 children who live within a state asylum called Vesnova Mental Asylum, holds training sessions for the staff members and brings as much positive energy and compassion as she can!
In 5 years, Jennifer hopes to have her own part-time practice specializing in pediatrics with an emphasis of providing the highest quality of therapy with a wonderful network of therapists who share her vision. She would like to be part of a network that provides OT services to families who have adopted children with special needs from international countries. And most importantly, Jennifer wants her work in Belarus to spread like wildfire and to inspire others to get involved. A few years ago, on the 20th Anniversary of Chernobyl, Jennifer and her unique story was showcased on CNN, the CBS Early Show and in People Magazine, and she was able to bring public awareness to others and share the positive stories of what is happening in Belarus. Now was I found Jennifer hoping for was continued public awareness but also she portrayed her hope that more occupational therapists give back to the world by helping those less fortunate then themselves…maybe that is by providing therapy services in a country in need like Belarus or Haiti or maybe just giving more time to a client at our current jobs because they look like they could use a person to talk to. Occupational therapy is a special profession for sure, and Jennifer O’Dea is defiantly a special occupational therapist!


March (2010) Face of OT
Dr. Sharon A. Gutman, PhD, OTR, FAOTA received her baccalaureate degree in Occupational Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in 1992 and then her PhD from New York University in 1998. When she graduated from Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Gutman specialized in traumatic brain injury in both sub-acute and long-term community rehab centers. She continued to work in this area when she received her PhD. Dr. Gutman then took a job at Long Island University, as professor in their Occupational Therapy Program. During those years she also worked with women who sustained domestic abuse and were attempting to gain the skills to live independently in the community, and adults with psychiatric disabilities who desired to obtain a GED or post-secondary education.

These job experiences lead Dr. Gutman to the following current prestigious career roles.

Dr. Gutman is an associate professor for the Occupational Therapy Program at Columbia University where she teaches in their entry-level masters program and their EdD program. She has been at Columbia for 4 years. In between faculty meetings, grading papers, teaching a sequence of 4 research courses, mentoring students specifically with their applied research projects that examine practice areas; Dr. Gutman finds the time to complete her own research and clinical work.
Specifically Dr. Gutman and her colleague Professor Emily Raphael have been running a social skills intervention program for adolescents with Asperger's syndrome. For the past 2 years, she has used the role of “playing techniques” to help the children learn appropriate social skills in specific situations that they encounter in their daily life. For example, the focus may be on learning how to join or start in on a conversation with peers or learning how to ask someone for assistance in a community store. The intervention starts with simulated role-plays and then progresses to naturalistic settings as the children master these desired skills. This is just one research project that she is hoping to expand this summer secondary to the positive results that were determined from its pilot study that was conducted with 9 participants.
In regards to research, Dr. Gutman has published/co-published over 35 articles in journals that include: AJOT, Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, OT International, and OT Practice. She has written books as well as chapters in books, most of which pertain to the neurological population, physical rehabilitation, and mental health.

Dr. Gutman also is the Editor- in -Chief of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT). Since her start in July 2008, Dr. Gutman has changed the publication priorities of the journal to evidence-based research, specifically studies examining the effectiveness and efficacy of intervention. Her primary responsibilities as editor include (a) screening all submitted manuscripts to make sure that they meet publication standards and are congruent with publication goals; (b) ensure a fair, formal review process for those manuscripts that go forward beyond the initial screening; (c) correspond with reviewers and authors; and (d) make final decisions about all submitted papers.

Dr. Gutman has received many awards in her career as an occupational therapist. Some include fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association in 2009, receiving a certificate of appreciation for her contribution as the Author of Living with illness or disability, in 2005, and for Screening Adult Neurologic Populations, in 2003. She was a board member for the Metropolian New York District of Occupational therapists (MNYD) from 1999- 2001, Liaison to the MNYD Research Committee from 1999 -2001, member of the MNYD Special Interest Mental Health Section from 1998 –2000, member of the MNYD Ethics Committee from 1998 - 1999, a member of the Metropolitan Occupational Therapy Educational Council (MOTEC) from 1998 -1999 and was on the American Journal of Occupational Therapy Editorial Board from 1997 -1999.

Dr. Gutman stated that when looking toward the future, she “tries to be open to accepting how life unfolds instead of imposing her will and expectations onto events.” It is evident by her accomplishments however, that Dr. Gutman is an occupational therapist that has many goals and aspirations and is dedicated to achieving them.
Dr. Gutman did conclude that in five years she hopes to have developed a college transition program for adolescents with Asperger's, with the help from her colleagues Professor Rafael and Sabrina Salvant.

It is a privilege to have Dr. Gutman as this month’s Face of OT, as she truly is someone that I and many other individuals look up to.


February’s (2010)Face of OT
Elsa Zavoda has been an OT for 13 years. She graduated from University of Indianapolis with a MS degree in OT in 1996. Then she received a graduate certificate in low vision from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2007. This is a distance based web platform program developed by Mary Warren, OTR/L, FAOTA, SCLV.
Elsa worked at JFK Medical Center full time for 9 years and rotated throughout most of the clinical settings. She still works there however on a per diem basis. She started a Low Vision Rehabilitation program at JFK in conjunction with Kim Conti, OTR/L. In May of 2006, she began working for the North Jersey Center for Sight in Paterson, NJ and started a low vision program. She currently works under an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist, who specializes in low vision. In February of 2009, she also began working for The Low Vision Center of Central New Jersey in Somerset, NJ. She works with a husband and wife team of Optometrists (Drs. Fishbein), who are also low vision specialists. She provides low vision rehabilitation services there as well.
Elsa works one day per week at each practice. A typical day for her includes seeing 5 patients for one hour individualized sessions (as per Medicare guidelines). She treats adults and older adults, who typically have eye diseases, such as Age Related Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, etc. She performs Low Vision Evaluations and treatment sessions, based on the recommendations of the prescribing OD (optometrist). She educates patients and families in home safety and the importance of using appropriate lighting, contrast enhancement techniques, organizational systems, and general environmental safety. She also instructs and trains patients in being able to perform reading and writing activities with low vision aids (magnifiers, CCTV’s, strong reading glasses, etc.) She also educates patients in learning how to use their residual vision to its optimal capabilities, by learning to use different viewing strategies (eccentric viewing).
In 5 years, Elsa sees herself continuing to work in the field of low vision as a practitioner, while also maintaining her skills as an occupational therapist in a traditional setting. She also sees herself providing education to her colleagues and hopefully encouraging others to specialize in low vision. She would like to present lectures at NJ OT schools to educate students prior to going out into the workforce. Elsa’s main goal is to more firmly establish a network of OT’s in the state of NJ that can provide low vision services. Elsa states that “There is such a growing need especially with the baby boomers aging, and unfortunately, not many therapists trained to provide them with these services.” As of right now, Medicare only recognizes OT’s and PT’s as legitimate providers of services.
Just recently Elsa has received her Specialty certification in Low Vision from AOTA. She is the 16th OT in the country and the first one in the state of New Jersey. Congrats Elsa!!


January (2010)Face of OT

Jason Campbell has been practicing occupational therapy for over 13 years. He graduated from Keuka College, located in upstate New York, in 1996 with BS in occupational therapy. After graduation, Jason started work at the Cebral Palsy Center in Rochester, New York. He stayed there for 18 months before relocating to the Essex County area. He then took a job at Caldwell Community Physical Therapy (CCPT) in West Caldwell, New Jersey. He was the first full time occupational therapist there. Initially, CCPT only provided orthopedic outpatient therapy, however during his first year he started the pediatric portion of this practice. Jason still works at CCPT however the pediatric practice has grown into its own practice. Jason owns this practice and it is now called Caldwell Pediatric Therapy Center (CPTC). His facility offers pediatric occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech/language therapy. The center currently provides school based services to both public and private schools, where their staff will travel to the schools to provide therapy in and out of the classroom. They also provide clinic- based services for children in their outpatient office, where they have equipment for sensory integration as well as highly trained staff that work with this patient population. Jason’s typical day involves direct treatment, administrative responsibilities and supervisory responsibilities. When he is providing direct care, Jason will start off working within the schools and then finish at the clinic during the evening hours. In 5 years Jason hopes to continue to own a flourishing, vibrant, and quality practice, where he and his staff will continue providing exceptional pediatric services to their patients. He is always looking to grow as a clinician and thus hopes to continue to seek out new opportunities. He greatly enjoys his career and hopes to continue to develop his skills as an occupational therapist.


December (2009)Face of OT
Tom Mernar has been an occupational therapist for ten years. He graduated from Rutgers University (B.A. in Biology) in 1996, admitted to SHU in 1997 and graduated SHU in 2000 with his masters degree in occupational therapy. Tom worked at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute for approximately two years, before moving to Los Angeles California to continue his education. His doctoral studies in Occupational Science were completed at the University of Southern California. Concurrent with his studies at USC, Tom worked as an occupational therapist and director of rehabilitation at a continuing care retirement community at Hollenbeck Palms in East Los Angeles. He also worked as a research assistant at the Brain Mapping Center at the University of California Los Angeles to investigate the effects of occupational therapy intervention to cortical plasticity in chronic stroke patients. His dissertation research at USC focused on understanding the links of occupation and environment to the health of newly relocated older adults in nursing facilities. After graduating with a Ph.D. in Occupational Science from USC in 2008, he moved back to New Jersey and has been working as an Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program at Seton Hall University.

After interviewing one of his former students, it is evident that Tom has a thirst for knowledge and a love for occupational therapy. These passions emanate to his students as they find his energy contagious. Thus, not only does Tom’s typical day include preparing for a future lecture for one of his courses, coordinating his current occupational science research efforts, attending academic meetings, and grading papers; his encouraging personality brings his students to want to be involved in more school and volunteer events. The advisement of his students is something he takes very seriously as well as his ever-growing music library on iTunes!

In five years, Tom hopes to continue working as an Associate Professor however with larger scale research studies across several topical domains. This March, he may visit and serve to advise/collaborate on aging research at Metropolitan University in Denmark. Therefore, he expects to forge international academic and research collaborations to build knowledge in occupational therapy and occupational science. Tom also hopes to continue presenting at annual conferences such as at AOTA and for the Society for the Study of Occupation: USA, as well as publishing conceptual and empirical research to occupational therapy, occupational science, and interdisciplinary journals. The field of occupational therapy is very fortunate to have individuals like Tom, who are embedded in making our profession ev

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