University of Findlay’s first Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) Program cohort walked through the Griffith Memorial Arch and into their first semester of classes on Friday, May 31. The class of 15 students will be the first cohort to make its way through Findlay’s OTD program since the degree was granted applicant status by Accreditation Council for Occupation Therapy Education (ACOTE).
“It represents the culmination of our efforts to advance with the profession of occupational therapy and move our program from the Master of Occupational Therapy degree to the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree,” Mary Beth Dillon, associate professor and chair of occupational therapy, said. OTD students will conduct more research than they would have in the traditional Master of Occupational Therapy Program, which is being phased out. They will also have an additional 14 weeks of advanced doctoral experience beyond the standard clinical experiences to obtain more knowledge in a specialized area of practice.
After careful consideration and analysis regarding changes in healthcare and the occupational therapy field, Findlay’s occupational therapy faculty decided it was the right time to offer a doctoral program. “Ultimately, the decision was to be on the leading edge of this professional change,” Dillon said. Findlay’s Occupational Therapy Program built the doctoral program from the ground up, using the doctoral accreditation standards as a guide. In Dec. 2018, the program was granted candidacy status by ACOTE. Once the University receives the necessary accreditation status from the American Occupational Therapy Association, students will be eligible to sit for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy Exam upon completion of their studies.
Whitney Smith, OTD student, said she chose Findlay to make herself stand out when she enters the field. “I thought the doctorate program was more meaningful to me because there is more research involved with it, which is really important, and I thought eventually if everyone is switching over to a doctorate, it’s important that I have that extra experience and to do that now,” Smith said. Spenser Bassett, OTD student, said the program will give her opportunities that a master’s degree wouldn’t. “With the doctorate, you come right out of the gate with the opportunity to teach, which I feel is pretty important,” Basset said. “I’m a pretty good advocate for others, so I feel like teaching is definitely in my future. So this just gives us that jump.”
The Occupational Therapy Program has a strong community focus and provides integrated classroom and lab activities designed to enhance student learning. Dillon said Findlay’s program integrates occupational therapy into emerging practice settings like community mental health, the Family Resource Center and the Hancock County Justice Center. “The development of such programs in the community, and the inclusion of this information and experiences for students, distinguishes Findlay’s occupational therapy programs from many others,” Dillon said. “In fact, Findlay has become well known by other academic occupational therapy programs for its work in these important community settings.” The students look forward to the fieldwork and experiential learning opportunities Findlay provides, such as the cadaver lab. “I’ve never dissected a cadaver and we started that this week,” Smith said. “That was cool to get one cadaver from the beginning and work with them all throughout the semester, that’s something new for almost all of us.” Bassett shared a similar excitement for the field work, saying, “I am very excited for field work because everyone who was in the traditional program told us they felt extraordinarily prepared, so I can’t wait to get there.”
The three-year program, pursued after earning a bachelor’s degree, is designed to be completed in nine consecutive semesters, including summer terms. A total of 124 credits must be earned that encompass academic courses, fieldwork and experience credits. Early assurance for admission is available to high school seniors who meet specific academic requirements. Current Findlay students and those admitted as freshmen will be given special admission consideration. In the future, the OTD program will accept cohorts of 30 students each year, beginning in the summer 2020. While Findlay phases out its traditional Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) Program, it will continue to offer its three-year MOT Weekend Program.