Published on March 1, 2019 by Catie Bell  

As the School of Health Professions continues its tradition of offering quality health care programs such as physical therapy, communication sciences and disorders, and kinesiology, a new entry-level doctorate in occupational therapy (O.T.D.) is beginning to take shape.

Just as unique and special as Samford, the developing Department of Occupational Therapy is aligned with the mission, vision and core values of the university in striving to set itself apart from other programs throughout the U.S. With a clear focus on the Christian faith, students are urged to answer their calling to serve by viewing a person holistically while addressing spiritual, physical, cognitive and psychosocial needs.

Core values of the program include:

  • Leadership and service
  • Ethics, faith and respect
  • Advocacy and compassion
  • Development of intentional relationships
  • Commitment to one’s calling and one’s profession

These core values will guide students as they learn to engage clients through occupation-centered practice. Students will focus on the foundations of occupational therapy while developing the ability to evaluate evidence and engage in research and scholarship. They will also learn how to evaluate clients while planning and implementing appropriate interventions.

All this will be coupled with hands-on experience through simulation, working with standardized patients as well as community- and congregational-based clinics and internships focused in their practice area.

“Interprofessional education will also be a big part of their time here. Because the School of Health Professions and the College of Health Sciences offer a full array of health professions, these students will develop a strong professional identity while learning how to be part of a health care team,” shares Elaine Fehringer, director of the occupational therapy program.

Concerning the types of clients that an occupational therapist will interact with, Fehringer notes that graduates will be educated to engage with infants to the elderly. “This program has a track that will consider productive aging because by the year 2030 all the ‘baby boomers’ will be age 65 or older, and there will be more older adults than young children. Assisting the aging population is going to become a trend in the industry due to the increased need for assistance to help those that want to ‘age in place’ and allow people to stay in their own home or community.”

“To be an occupational therapist, you have to learn to love the poetry of the ordinary. All of those simple things that we do—brushing our hair or brushing our teeth, everything we do is very ordinary for us but for someone who has not been able to do it and then they can—it is like poetry; it is a beautiful thing,” said Fehringer.

Applications for the new program will open in May 2019 with plans to interview candidates in the fall. The first class is anticipated to start May 2020. Learn more about the doctor of occupational therapy program.

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