OT turns 50

Quinnipiac’s occupational therapy program celebrates half of a century of excellence

By on October 1, 2019

Dr. Kim Hartmann remembers when she was a student and Quinnipiac’s occupational therapy program was taught at Albertus Magnus College, Gaylord Hospital and a trailer that would lean when it rained too hard.

Today, the program lives in the state-of-the-art Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences building on the North Haven campus, which ranks No. 22 in the country and contains over 550 students. Hartmann was there every step of the way and still stands with the program today as it is celebrating its 50th year since its founding.

Connor Lawless
“For many years we were trying to catch up with other prestigious universities,” Hartmann said. “We’re there now. So now it’s about planning for the future. And that is Judy Olian. I think as we move forward with her plans and the strategic pillars, we’re planning, we’re finally planning for the future.”

Hartmann stood before a room of more than 100 alumni of Quinnipiac’s program on Saturday, Sept. 28, to celebrate the progress that the program made the last half of a century.

Hartmann has been with Quinnipiac for decades. She was a student, a faculty member, a head of the OT program and today she works as the Director of the Center for Interprofessional Healthcare Education.

She greeted alumni from 1980 to 2019 by name and with personal excerpts. She said her love for students has driven her for years.

“Every single faculty, every staff person really is committed to the student’s success, Hartmann said. “And that’s what makes our program good. It’s not any one person or philosophy.”

She then ceded the floor to Betsy Smith, the senior associate dean of health sciences. Smith is known as the “historian” of the School of Health Sciences. She had a display full of artifacts of the OT program’s past.

Chief among her memorabilia is the cap and gown of the first OT chairperson, Ruth Griffin. Smith says that it was given to her by Griffin and that Smith wears it to every commencement. She hopes to pass it down to someone else one day, although she is not sure who yet.

She also presented the flavor each decade of the OT program brought to the school. The ’70s brought blizzards and the early and defining years. The ’80s brought Apple computers and classrooms dedicated to the program in Echlin. In the ’90s, the program began to grow to the size today. The early 2000s brought new plans for a rapidly growing program and eventually, the opening of a new campus. Today, the program features state-of-the-art facilities and tons of volunteer work.

Tradition was a big theme of the day. The Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) displayed bead lizards they made. They have to detail the step-by-step process to make the lizard and used to be one of the first assignments first years had to do.

“They used to be part of the curriculum but now it isn’t anymore,” Natalie Henry, the vice president, said. “So now if you’re around campus and you see the lizards you know what they mean.”

New Dean of Health Sciences Janelle Jasera talked about what she called Quinnipiac’s deep and wide roots.

“Our students and alumni are unique,” Jaserae said. “They create our reputation. They remain engaged and involved in our community.”

Groups then broke off to explore panels on the best practices taking place in the industry today as well as the most promising prospects for the future. Subjects ranged from the age of people receiving care, mental health and education.

President Judy Olian made a midday appearance at the event, praising the work alumni have done since leaving the program. She praised the nearly 3,000 people who have either graduated or are currently in the OT program.

Following the panels on the future of their industry, the current chair of OT, Salvadore Bondoc, ODT, took the stage to talk to the alumni about the future of the program. As the occupational therapy industry changes, the program at Quinnipiac aims to evolve with it. One of the major additions being made to the program is the introduction of an entry level doctorate track.

“The entry level doctorate, or OTD, is really in response to what’s happening to OT practice,” Bondoc said, “There is a call for leaders in the profession and more users within the healthcare arena that are occupational therapists.”

Five years ago, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) put out a statement that recommended the profession move towards an entry-level doctorate in response to an increase in demand from higher education and the industry. By following this recommendation from AOTA and introducing the new track, Bondoc hopes that students can become more competitive in the job market and be more entrepreneurial, maximize their leadership abilities and build strength in practice areas.

Proceeds from the event went towards scholarships to three current students of the OT program: Nicholas Donohue, Jaclyn Iuzalaca and Amanda Matises. Hartmann sees students as the future.

“I think that, as a faculty, one of our biggest joys is when a student knows more than the faculty does and accomplishes more than the faculty does,” said Hartmann. “And our students have surpassed many of us and we are very proud of that.”

Reporting by Connor Lawless and Stephen MacLeod

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