News and Events

OT Faculty Receives Grant

September 2019

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Dr. Gina Tucker-Roghi, Assistant Professor in the Dominican University Occupational Therapy Department, was awarded a four year, $300,000 Geriatric Academic Career Award (AGCA) by Health Resources and Services Administration (HSRA). The grant, titled “Occupational Therapy Best Practice for Older Adults with Cognitive Impairments and Related Psychosocial Conditions,” will fund the development of resources and training opportunities, including inter-professional training, for
occupational therapy students and teams of healthcare professionals who serve older adults with dementia in healthcare facilities and the community.

Dominican is the first institution to receive a GACA award for occupational therapy. Read more on





OT Student Group Welcome Event

August 2019

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The Occupational Therapy Department welcomed new and returning students to campus the first week of school. The event was co-hosted by two student run groups, Dominican Student Occupational Therapy Association (DSOTA) and Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE) occupational therapy honor society. Activities included tasty food, games, a textbook exchange, and a chance for the different cohorts and professors to get to know one another outside of the classroom. Four teams competed for prizes in the “Occupational Therapy Olympics” by using adaptive equipment, administering evaluations, and completing assessments. This event was a fun way to welcome the OT students to campus and we are looking forward to a wonderful semester!

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OT STUDENT Emilio Villavincencio Elected as AOTA Representative

August 2019

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Occupational Therapy Student Emilio Villavincencio was elected as the 2019-2020 ASD representative to the Representative Assembly (RA) for AOTA steering committee. As ASD representative to the RA and AOTA steering committee, Emilio will be able to give voice to the concerns of Dominican student members of AOTA as well as speak on issues concerning all OT and OTA students.



August 2019

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Kitsum Li, associate professor and program director of Occupational Therapy, is quoted in Forbes and PBS NextAvenue articles about the intergenerational program the Dominican Nursing and OT programs are participating in. The project is funded through the Council of Independent Colleges by a generous grant from the AARP Foundation and pairs nursing and occupational therapy students to provide home visits to socially isolated, low-income adults living in rural West Marin.

Read more about the project and the Forbes/PBS NextAvenue articles -

Nursing – OT Intergenerational Project


PBS NextAvenue:



May 2019

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Benji Harrington, Dr. Karen McCarthy, Derian Ramos Lopez and
Noreen Hasan

The Occupational Therapy Department was honored to receive three awards for The Melba Beals Awards Excellence in Diversity on May 2, 2019. Dr. Karen McCarthy received the Melba Beals Faculty Award, OT students Derian Ramos Lopez and Benji Harrington received the Melba Beals Student Group Award, and OT student Noreen Hasan received the Melba Beals Student Award.

The Melba Beals Awards for Excellence in Diversity at Dominican University of California recognize current students, faculty, and staff who have actively engaged with others in advancing diversity and inclusion in our community. Dr. Beals, one of nine African-American high school students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, recently retired from Dominican as chair emeritus of the Department of Communications and Media Studies. She holds more than 100 awards for heroism and courage. In 1999, the U.S. Congress voted Dr. Beals and her Little Rock Nine companions the Congressional Gold Medal – the nation’s highest honor – for their contribution to the Civil Rights movement.

The awards recognize sustained and collaborative efforts to uphold the Dominican University of California Diversity Declaration, outstanding programmatic activities related to diversity and inclusion on campus and extraordinary individual/collective action promoting diversity and inclusion on and off campus. 



April 2019

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Dr. Ruth Ramsey and Dr. Julia Wilbarger recently traveled to Osaka, Japan, and several other nearby towns in southern Japan at the invitation of the Osaka Jikei Colleges of Health Professions (OJC). The invitation was in response to Dominican hosting 30 occupational therapy students last September. While at Dominican, the visiting students attended lectures and clinical demonstrations, toured local clinics and hospitals, and engaged in intercultural exchange activities with Dominican OT students. While in Japan, Ramsey and Wilbarger gave speeches at Izumi College of Medical Nursing, Tottori City College of Medical Nursing, and Mimasaka College of Medical Nursing. In Osaka they spoke to an audience of 1,700 students, family, and invited guests from several OJC schools. OT students from Japan will visit Dominican again in September.



April 2019

In Hwa Chae 1.jpg  Elena Vaccaro 1.jpg   Camille Schilling 1.jpg

Occupational Therapy students In Hwa Chae, Elena Vaccaro, and Camille Schilling have been awarded seed money from the California Occupational Therapy Foundation and from the ENspire Seed Money Grant Program from Ensign Services for their Capstone project: “Creating Focused Interventions for Patients with Heart Failure in the SNF". This project  addresses the need for an occupation-based approach that addresses lifestyle management, psychosocial and cognitive aspects of care for individuals with heart failure. The students developed a clinical pathway to guide clinicians in the use of these important interventions and presented a 90-minute workshop to teams of occupational therapists from skilled nursing facilities in Sonoma County. 


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Occupational Therapy students Cece Ly-Peh, Jan Conducto, and  Natalie Barrales have been awarded seed money from the California Occupational Therapy Foundation and from the ENspire Seed Money Grant Program from Ensign Services for their Capstone project: “Translating Mental Health Interventions into the SNF Setting: An OT Toolkit". This project addresses the need for psychosocial OT interventions for individuals with serious mental illnesses who live in skilled nursing facilities. The students presented 90-minute workshops for therapists at two skilled nursing facilities in Sonoma County. During the workshop therapists learned to use the assessments and interventions in the "toolkit" and learned how to document these interventions for reimbursement.


March 2019



1. A small bright object or point. 
2. A sense of liveliness and excitement.

1. Emit sparks of fire or electricity. 
2. Ignite.

The SPARC (Scholarship Program And Recognition Campaign) Scholarship is inspired by its namesake and the sense of liveliness and excitement that therapy students and new graduates bring to Ensign-affiliated facilities and in-house therapy programs. Ensign Therapy has recognized Dominican OT graduate student Jane Song as someone who ignites a desire for excellence in herself, her patients, her colleagues and co-workers, and has awarded her this quarter’s SPARC Scholarship.

You can read Jane’s winning essay by going to



February 2019

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On February 20th, 2019, Pi Theta Epsilon inducted 26 new members into the occupational therapy (OT) honor society that focuses on promoting research and scholarship among OT students. In addition to the induction of 26 new members, Dr. Laura Greiss Hess was inducted as a lifetime Honorary Member by existing PTE members based on her contributions to the field. PTE's faculty advisor, Dr. Julia Wilbarger, and the PTE Officers are excited to welcome the new members listed below:


Meghan Ballog                                 Natalie Neach                                 

Eleanor Brewer                                Natalie Nguyen                                           

Maria Carranza                                Vickie Nguyen                                 

In Hwa Chae                                    Cierra Passey                                  

Megan Chinn                                    Daniela Mari Recinto                     

Melanie Cox                                     Carleigh Robinson                                     

Grace Erhardt                                   Jacqueline Salas

Lauren Ferrell                                   Camille Schilling                            

Christina Floyd                                 Leslie Stenkamp

Brooke Grupe                                   Gabrielle Ann Tabije

Teresa Le                                          Marielle Villanueva

Mia Lopez                                         Noemie von Kaenel

Nooshin Moslehi                               Emily Yuen




January 2019

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Occupational Therapy students Amy Tam, Crystal Lee, Samantha Schauer, and Yareli Vargas have been awarded seed money from the California Occupational Therapy Foundation for their Capstone study: “Are all instrumental activities of daily living equal?” This pilot study will investigate if there is a correlation in performances among different instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) in adults with an acquired brain injury (ABI). Examination of how performance in one IADL may translate to performance in another IADL is important for deepening our understanding of the impact brain injuries may have on adults with ABI and their support network. Results of this study may also give practitioners insight into how success in one IADL may be able to predict success in another IADL.  


October 2018

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More than 100 Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant and Nursing students met with local professionals and clinicians in Dominican’s inaugural Interprofessional Education (IPE) Speed Networking event on Wednesday night.

The event – which provided learning opportunities for students to connect disciplines, promote teamwork, foster mutual understanding, and advance health for individuals and populations – was hosted by the Department of Occupational Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies at Dominican.

In addition to OT, PA and Nursing, faculty from Global Public Health and Counseling Psychology participated.

“The departments did this together to launch the Interprofessional Education Passport Framework; to model interprofessional collaboration; and importantly to demonstrate that we each support the need for students to know more about interprofessional collaboration because it benefits our patients,” says Barbara McCamish, Director of Clinical Simulation Services in the School of Health and Natural Sciences.



September 2018

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Students and faculty in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Dominican University of California hosted 28 OT students from Osaka, Japan in an educational and cultural exchange on the San Rafael campus September 18-20. Read more




August 2018

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Twelve Occupational Therapy students spent the summer in Mexico participating in a four-week program that combined intensive Spanish language instruction with community fieldwork.

The Merida program offered students opportunities to visit and study Mexican health care clinics in the mornings then attend afternoon lectures on topics such as public health, infectious disease,  geriatrics, and physiotherapy practices in Mexico. For more on this Dominican Experience see the Universidad Anahuac Mayab video, Penguin Press and OTAC.




May 2018

Anthony Sassano - Sports Shot

The recognition and support Anthony Sassano ’18 has experienced at Dominican has ranged from the President of the University to the President of the NCAA. Read



April 2018

DSOTA Veteran Event

Congratulations to members of the Dominican Student Occupational Therapy Association (DSOTA) who had a successful tabling event to honor Veterans. The event was held to raise money for the purchase of essential supplies for Veterans at the San Francisco VA Hospital. Student Veterans and members of the Dominican University community stopped by to support the volunteers, who included master degree students in the Occupational Therapy Program and the on-campus Veteran Liaison, Trae Carpenter.

Students raised funds and collected supplies to be donated to the San Francisco VA. In addition, students put together a package of information to reach out to Dominican’s Veterans and help connect them with available services.

The students’ future plans include the formation of a Student Veteran Club and expansion of the Veteran Liaison resources on campus. 



April 2018



On April 10th, the Department of Occupational Therapy, sponsored by Democracy and Equity, hosted a free screening of the documentary film Crazywise with a guest panel from the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network, the Bay Area Mandala Project, and Families Healing Together. 

Over 60 people, including students, faculty, staff and community members were in attendance. The event was organized by Dr. Karen McCarthy, as part of the course: Psychosocial Aspects of Occupation II. The film brings awareness to alternative perspectives on mental health and the lived experience of hearing voices. 

To learn more about the movie and see a trailer go to 

To learn more about the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network, the Bay Area Mandala Project, and Families Healing Together go to their websites:




March 2018

Evelyn Tang

Evelyn Tang, occupational therapy graduate student (MS, 2018)

Evelyn Tang was accepted to the competitive American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTA/AOTF) third annual Summer Institute of Future Scientists in Occupational Therapy. The AOTA/AOTF third annual Summer Institute is a 1-day program that will match potential student scientists with doctoral and post-doctorate mentors. Program participants will meet with leading occupational therapy scientists to address topics such as possibilities within OT science, considerations when evaluating potential doctoral programs, and career opportunities as a scientist. Participants will also attend the sixth annual 2-day Occupational Therapy Summit of Scholars at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The purpose of the Institute is threefold: (1) to identify potential scientists in entry-level education programs; (2) to connect potential entry-level scientists with mentors in the occupational therapy scientific community; and (3) to develop a peer network.




March 2018

Karen McCarthy

Dr. Karen McCarthy was published in the March 12, 2018 issue of OT Practice. Her article titled "Dating as an Occupation: Swipe Right for Occupational Therapy" highlighted the role of occupational therapy in the emerging area of dating coaching. Dr. McCarthy draws on her clinical experience and private practice in dating coaching. Her clinical practice also links to her continuing research in occupational science, exploring the occupation of dating for young women living in Ireland. 

McCarthy, Karen, "Dating as an Occupation: Swipe Right for Occupational Therapy" (2018). Collected Faculty and Staff Scholarship. 329. 





January 2018

The opportunity to earn two degrees from Dominican provided Sabrena McCarley ’04 and ’09 MBA with the education and foundation to be a confident leader, which she applies to her position now as Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Chair for the Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee.

“The combination of these degrees has allowed me to hold both clinical and operational positions within the rehabilitation industry and has allowed me to understand the ins and out of the business aspect of the rehab agency,” says Sabrena, Director of Clinical Operations with RehabCare/Kindred Rehabilitation Services.

“I have always been passionate about clinical excellence and advocacy and have worked my way up to this position.”

Grateful for the small class sizes and the relationships they helped foster, Sabrena graduated from Dominican with her BS in Occupational Therapy then pursued her masters in Strategic Leadership.



January 2018

Laura in Iran   

Dr. Laura Greiss Hess, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, traveled to Iran in December to present her research and clinical experience focused on working with children diagnosed with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Hess was the occupational therapist on an interdisciplinary team of geneticists, pediatricians, psychologists, behaviorists, and speech language pathologists from a variety of universities, including UC Davis, Cal State Monterey Bay, and Emory University.

The visit was organized and sponsored through the Iran-based Charity Foundation for Special Diseases and Senses Cultural. Senses Cultural is a California-based nonprofit organization focused on promoting Iranian culture.

In Tehran, the team presented to an audience of more than 200 government officials, psychologists, behaviorists, therapists, special education teachers and families attending the Third International Autism Conference at the Presidential Club.

The first day of the conference was focused on scientific research and clinical interventions for an audience of professionals. The second day featured practical, day-to-day intervention recommendations from Dr. Hess, as well as a child psychologist, a behaviorist, a speech and a language pathologist. Both days of the conference featured lectures from scholars and clinicians from both the USA and Iran.

The audience, Hess recalls, was well informed about developments in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders.  Many questions focused on how to better integrate children into the greater community, especially as they age.



December 2017

 Nursing - OT Student Collaboration                             
Those participating in the collaborative effort include nursing students Janelle deDios,
Angelina Farias, Samantha Naguit, Linnie Nguyen, Jennifer Sims, Daniela Smith and
occupational therapy students Justin​ Pring, Sarah Pashby, Janine Rebekah, Villanueva,
Ashton WolffeIvy, Torres-Flores and Cristina Cummings (not pictured).

"Honestly, until a few months ago I had no idea what occupational therapy was and what an occupational therapist did,” nursing student Samantha Naguit '18 says.“This semester I have been able to see that an occupational therapist is an important part of a health care team.”

Samantha’s insight is the result of a project funded through the Council of Independent Colleges by a generous grant from the AARP Foundation. Conducted throughout the fall semester, the program has paired nursing and occupational therapy students to provide home visits to socially isolated, low-income adults living in rural West Marin.

During each 90-minute weekly visit, the OT and nursing students work as a team, each observing and building on the other’s tasks.

“When we do our home visits, I take vitals and do assessments focused on making sure that the patient is doing well physiologically," Samantha says. “The OT student is focused on more functional tasks that help the clients with their daily routines.”

The OT, for example, monitors the client’s ability to complete every-day tasks around the house, from using stove controls and reaching food supplies to accessing light switches and safely walking up and down stairs. The OT students also assess overall home safety, making sure that rugs are placed on non-slip surfaces, that lamp cords are out of the flow of foot traffic, and that curtains and furniture are at least 36 inches away from heaters.



November 2017

Mark Lukach Book Talk  Mark Lukach   Mark Lukach and Psych Class

The Department of Occupational Therapy hosted Mark Lukach Monday November 13th for an author reading from his memoir: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward. Dr. Karen McCarthy organized the event for approximately 65 students, staff, faculty, and community members to hear this heart felt presentation from a partner's perspective. The evening ended with acoustic guitar and a lively discussion surrounding metal health and how we can strive to work better with families. For more information surrounding his memoir visit


November 2017

Karen McCarthy Brown Bag Talk

Dr. Karen McCarthy was invited by the Dominican Student Occupational Therapy Association (DSOTA) to speak about her experiences in Lifestyle Redesign® and using Motivational Interviewing. Dr. McCarthy shared about her journey as an occupational therapist in the USC Well Elderly Study II and how the findings from this groundbreaking study opened the doors for OT to work in wellness and prevention. Her presentation also exposed students to Motivational Interviewing strategies that can be used to help clients move towards lifestyle change, always keeping occupation at the core. 


November 2017

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Jordan Song, May Anne Gamueda, Janie Grant and America Ortega

Occupational Therapy students presented their Capstone posters on November 8th in Creekside. There were twelve completed graduate research projects, five of which were also presented at the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) poster session in October.  



October 2017

Li Kitsum      Julia Wilbarger 4.17.13
Dr. Kitsum Li                                                                  Dr. Julia Wilbarger

On Oct. 28, Associate Professors Kitsum Li & Julia Wilbarger presented at the 2017 American Occupational Therapy Association Education Summit at Fort Worth, Texas. They presented the innovative behavioral interview process, acceptability, feasibility, and outcomes at DUC in selecting students into the entry level graduate program. The Education Summit was attended by higher education faculty, program directors, and chairs from Occupational Therapy programs around the nation. 



October 2017

2017 OTAC Presentations
Raechel Jacala, Amanda Lee, Holly Snyder, Katelyn Harden and Dr. Laura Hess

On Saturday, October 21st students from the Department of Occupational Therapy presented five signature work research posters and one podium presentation at the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) annual conference in Sacramento.The podium presentation titled Exploration of the Use of Sensory Diet was presented by students Allison Hunt, Morganne Peterson, Emily White and Professor Julia Wilbarger to a sold out audience.

Additionally, next April OT students will present five signature work research posters at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) annual conference in Salt Lake City, UT. 


October 2017

Karen McCarthy at SSO
Drs. Susan MacDermott, Jeanne Jackson and Karen McCarthy

Dr. Karen McCarthy presented at the Sixteenth Annual Research Conference of the Society for The Study of Occupation in Seattle, WA Oct 19-21, 2017. Her presentation was titled “How is the concept of gender contemplated within occupational science and occupational therapy?”  and included co-authors Eoin Gorman, Alice Moore, Karen McCarthy, Jeanne Jackson. Dr. McCarthy also had a poster included in the conference titled “Exploring the occupation of dating for young women living in Ireland”  along with co-author Jeanne Jackson. 



September 2017

 Noelani Brisbane 2016
The goal for Noelani Brisbane '16 and '17 MSOT of working in a Children’s 
Hospital has come to fruition.

The Occupational Therapy graduate in the School of Health and Natural Sciences started a specialized 3rd Level internship on July 10 with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Noey returned to Dominican last fall to pursue her Master of Science OT degree and was soon after named the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award at the 40th Annual Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Conference in Pasadena.

"I jumped right into all treatment sessions and by the end of the week will become a primary for my first patient," Noey said after her first day at Children's Hospital in Oakland. "My heart is so full working there. I'm excited for every moment that I am about to experience during this internship. The minute I stepped into the clinic I knew this is what I am meant to do."

Working at Children's Hospital in Oakland is the culmination of Noey's hard work and passion at Dominican where she has shown her skills and dedication in a variety of ways. She studied health care in Spain on a trip through Dominican’s nursing program. She served as a student ambassador for four years at Dominican. She was a soccer coach for young children in Marin County.

A member of Pi Theta Epsilon, Occupational Therapy’s National Honor Society, Noey completed field work at Buckelew Services, the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and OT Studio in San Francisco. She also volunteered at Park School in Mill Valley and the San Rafael Heathcare and Wellness Center and has been a nanny for a child with Cerebral Palsy for two years.

Noey, who also minored in psychology at Dominican, has been inspired by her cohorts and professors at Dominican since arriving from St. Francis High School in Sacramento. She volunteered and was chosen to participate as a simulated client for OT graduate admission interviews and instructional labs. She is on a fast path to become a patient focused future pediatric Occupational Therapist after completing her 2nd level internship in acute rehabilitation this year at Kaiser Permanente in Vallejo.



May 2017

Inter-Professional Lab
OT student assists stroke patient while explaining to nursing students
specific feeding and swallowing adaptations.

The world of health care is rapidly changing and health care is increasingly being delivered in interdisciplinary teams, which call for new models of collaborative practice. In 2010, the World Health Organization  proposed a Framework for Action on Inter-professional Education and Collaborative Practice,  recommending increased inter-professional collaboration in health professions education programs to better prepare  a ‘collaborative practice-ready’ health workforce. In response to this recommendation, Dominican University’s Departments of Nursing and Occupational Therapy created a laboratory experience, designed to enhance inter-professional understanding, appreciation and communication between nurses and occupational therapists in clinical settings.

The laboratory is taught every semester by Dr. Kitsum Li (Occupational Therapy), Dr. Olivia Catolico (Nursing), and Ms. Barbara McCamish, (Nursing Sim Lab Director) and is held in the nursing simulation lab on the Dominican campus. The goal is for occupational therapy and nursing students to develop an appreciation of their professional differences and similarities, and develop a common language to strengthen their communication. The class uses a case scenario where the nursing and occupational therapy students are positioning and discussing proper feeding and swallowing techniques for a simulated patient with Cerebral Vascular Accident . Using guided discussions and collaborative activities, students gain skills in inter-professional communication. Here is what some students said about the class:

“What I would do differently tomorrow in my clinical practice would be to familiarize myself with the language of all the health professionals working in an acute care setting, or at least develop a common language to effectively work together. That way, less time is spent explaining our professional language differences and more time is spent caring for and treating our patients”

 “The in-class simulations helped me to recognize that it is much easier to accomplish your goals when you communicate effectively with the other members of the support system and find ways to utilize each person’s strengths.” 

Dominican University is implementing many pedagogical strategies to enhance inter-professional education in the health professions, including having nursing and occupational therapy students work together to learn patient interview skills and making joint home visits to older adults in the community, creating international programs for health professions majors, and using health professions faculty to mentor research across disciplines. The goal is to create coordinated patient care that will ultimately enhance clinical outcomes. As one class participant summed it up: “Having early exposure to inter-professional communication taught me to be more knowledgeable about other professions.’



Occupational Therapy Program Expanding Partnerships
February 2017

The reach of Dominican’s Occupational Therapy continues to grow with its graduate students conducting fieldwork from Australia to Tanzania and completing placements at Stanford, UC San Diego, UCSF, Kaiser, the California Pacific Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

Nearly 50 Department of Occupational Therapy graduate students are involved in hands-on training and have multiple fieldwork assignments. They are benefiting from the program’s low ratio of students-to-supervisors.

One such example is the expanded partnership with the Schurig Center, in which student interns are working alongside a licensed occupational therapist treating brain injury recovery patients.

“The students can learn almost one-on-one with a seasoned Occupational Therapist,” says Dr. Kitsum Li, assistant professor in the OT Department. “Schurig’s OT is a unique and committed program that OT students in other schools will not be exposed to.”

In the past, with Dominican OT faculty supervision, OT students completed summer internships at Schurig Center. The new arrangement will allow more Dominican graduate students to participate year-round in the internship. In addition, by working side-by-side with a licensed professional OT therapist, students will have greater access working with patients who are not covered by Medicare or have exhausted medical coverage.

“We are providing community service at a cost that is affordable to those in need,” Dr. Li says. “This is a new model that’s going to attract a lot of patients.”



Tea With Scholar Dr. Karen McCarthy
January 2017

Karen McCarthy Scholar's Tea










Dr. Karen McCarthy was the invited guest to attend the Annual Event "Tea with a Scholar" held Friday, January 27, 2017 and hosted by St. Augustine University in San Marcos. Dr. McCarthy presented on her qualitative research titled "Exploring the Occupation of Dating for Young Women Living in Ireland". Her presentation emphasized the importance of continued research in occupational science as well as highlighting a potential role emerging field for occupational therapy practice: dating coaching.