Occupational Therapy Professors Earn National Recognition

Two San Jose State Occupational Therapy professors have received national recognition from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Assistant Professor Luis de Leon Arabit and Associate Professor Megan C. Chang have been named AOTA fellows, an honor that recognizes occupational therapists who have made significant contributions to the profession with a measured impact on the consumers of occupational therapy services and/or members of the Association. Arabit is recognized as an “occupational therapy expert clinician, leader and advocate,” while Chang is being honored for “supporting the profession through evidence-based research.”

Occupational Therapy Association Fellow, Luis de Leon Arabit.

SJSU Occupational Therapy faculty member Luis de Leon Arabit has been named an American Occupational Therapy Association Fellow. Photo courtesy of Luis Arabit.

Arabit says that occupational therapists are health professionals and experts who help improve and support people across the lifespan in their everyday activities or “occupations,” which includes self-care, work, leisure, play, physical activity, sleep and much more.

“When you participate in meaningful activities that occupy your time and your life, it stimulates and promotes your own physical and mental health,” says Arabit, who specializes in neurorehabilitation and physical rehabilitation. He holds numerous certifications in practice, including board certification in physical rehabilitation and neurorehabilitation as well as neuro-developmental treatment techniques.

Growing up in the Philippines, he was first introduced to the field after his grandfather suffered a stroke and was treated by an occupational therapist. A practitioner and clinician for many years, Arabit transitioned into academia because he has a passion for teaching and loves working with students who share his goal of helping clients live their healthiest lives. He is an advocate and leader of the occupational therapy profession, serving in volunteer leadership positions as a former vice president and chair of the Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee of the Occupational Therapy Association of California. He serves on the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee, where he is director of the western region states.

“If there is a piece of legislation that affects our practice or affects the way we deliver care for our clients, or if we are prevented or limited from providing certain treatments, then our clients suffer,” Arabit says. “That’s the reason I became an advocate for clients, as well as for the occupational therapy profession.”

Chang says that occupational therapists help people increase their quality of life by overcoming barriers that might impede daily activities. She worked in a hospital daycare in Taiwan where she collaborated with a psychiatrist and a music therapist to create a music therapy group for young adults living with intellectual disabilities, including those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Chang observed that many of the young adults exhibited sensory processing issues and wondered how occupational therapists could best support clients by assessing their senses. While pursuing her PhD at USC, she worked in the department of Public Health, where she developed research skills in biostatistics that later translated into her own academic pursuits. Her work revolves around “the three Ss: sleep, sensory processing and stress.”

Occupational Therapy Association Fellow, Megan Chang

Megan Chang is one of two SJSU faculty members to receive an AOTA fellowship. Photo courtesy of Megan Chang.

“Occupational therapists also help disease prevention,” says Chang. “We focus on mind and body interactions and adopt a holistic approach.”

Chang has collaborated with SJSU Lecturer Rochelle McLoughlin, ’00 MS Occupational Therapy, on the Mindfulness-Based Healthcare and Human Services (MBHH) Advanced Certificate Program, which is designed to help healthcare providers integrate mindfulness skills into their personal and professional lives. Chang has also recruited students to help her research how to assess sensory processing disorders in adults—a gap in OT research that she believes needs to be addressed. She wants to cultivate a love for research in her students, both for their growth and for the benefit of their future clients.

“My students are scholar-practitioners, which means they not only collaborate on research projects, but they can be research producers,” she says. “They can contribute to the field with clinical expertise. Students are our future and I am glad that that I get a chance to be a small part of their learning process and OT journey. I have learned a lot, not only from my mentors and colleagues, but also my students. They enrich my occupational experience and nourish my research soul.”

Arabit and Chang join Assistant Professor Deborah Bolding, Professor Heidi Pendleton, Associate Professor Gigi Smith and Department Chair Winifred Schultz-Krohn, current OT faculty who have also been honored with this prestigious award.

SJSU OT Students Raise Money and Awareness of Important Role of Research in Their Field

San Jose State Occupational Therapy students and Department Chair Wynn Schultz-Krohn, far right, were honored at the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference for raising the most money as part of the St. Catherine Challenge, which benefits professional research in the field.

San Jose State Occupational Therapy students and Department Chair Wynn Schultz-Krohn, far right, were honored at the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference for raising the most money as part of the St. Catherine Challenge, which benefits professional research in the field.

Members of San Jose State University’s American Occupational Therapy Foundation Student Honor Society, Phi Theta Epsilon (PTE) and the Student Occupational Therapy Association, outdid themselves this year during an annual fundraising event that supports professional research initiatives. The Spartan students raised more than $9,000, exceeding the efforts of any other PTE chapters in the nation.

“As a public institution, many of our students have significant financial aid needs so the typical top fundraisers are PTE groups from private institutions,” said faculty advisor and chair of Occupational Therapy Wynn Schultz-Krohn. “This is really an example of ‘paying it forward.’”

Chelsea Holsonbake, whose research group is working on a retrospective program evaluation of a multifactorial fall prevention program for older adults, said the students even got some clients involved in the fundraising efforts.

“Some worked on integrating affected limbs while making cotton candy while others worked on community reintegration and social skills while selling cotton candy,” she said.

Clients to the on-campus OT clinic helped with the fundraising efforts through they worked on integrating affected limbs while making cotton candy while others worked on community reintegration and social skills while selling cotton candy.

Clients to the on-campus OT clinic helped with the fundraising efforts through they worked on integrating affected limbs while making cotton candy while others worked on community reintegration and social skills while selling cotton candy.

Research opportunities are key to the graduate student experience in OT, and at SJSU, students engage in three research classes and complete a final research project. During spring break nearly 40 students presented their research projects at the American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, a peer-reviewed professional conference.

“Research is so important in the field of OT because we want to know our interventions are best for our clients, not just from our own observations but also from research and replicable data,” said Millie Book, who anticipates completing her master’s in OT in fall 2019.

Her research on friendships and social participation among young adults with autism will prove useful after graduation when she hopes to work in a rehabilitative or pediatric setting helping individuals with sensory integration techniques.

Monica Ondriezek, who will also graduate in fall 2019, has been conducting a historical narrative analysis of the OT department chairs.

“Although this study is not directly client focused, it seeks to identify core values that continue to influence OT education and the profession as a whole,” she said. “It helps to develop future occupational therapists who are dedicated to their clients.”

Kimiko McNeill, who plans to graduate in fall 2019, is working on the same research team as Ondriezek on the history of the OT program.

“Historical inquiry allows researchers to examine past, current and future trends that impact the profession,” she said. “The results of my research will have an impact on the curriculum and education of OT programs throughout the country and will also highlight the enduring values that persist through time in the OT department at SJSU.”

Department chair Wynn Schultz-Krohn and OT students pose with their first-place award for raising the most money of any other student group in the St. Catherine's Challenge.

Department chair Wynn Schultz-Krohn and OT students pose with their first-place award for raising the most money of any other student group in the St. Catherine’s Challenge.

Katie Poisson, who plans to finish her master’s in fall 2020 said she was initially drawn to SJSU’s program for its location, faculty and the opportunity to study abroad.

“I am really excited that we raised the most money (in the fundraising competition) and spotlighted this incredible institution,” she said. “Research is important because it allows us to expand into more settings where our work could be really valuable.”

Serina Murphy, also an intended fall 2019 graduate, is involved in research aimed at understanding how simulations, in comparison to traditional didactic teaching, effects social problem solving to potentially enhance the occupational therapy curriculum.

“Social problem-solving skills are particularly important to occupational therapy practitioners as it contributes to critical thinking skills necessary to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and understand the patients’ needs while reducing errors,” she said. “We have been working collaboratively with the SJSU’s  Valley Foundation School of Nursing to use the simulation lab.”

Murphy noted that occupational therapists can work with clients across the lifespan and she is considering the possibility of working in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing all I can to build a strong foundation and become a successful occupational therapist,” she said.

Outstanding Professor Award: Winifred Schultz-Krohn

Photo: Thomas Sanders, '15 MFA Photography

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

The Outstanding Professor Award recognizes a faculty member for overall excellence in academic assignment. This year’s winner comes from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

She will be honored at the 15th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11, 2014. Tickets are available for purchase.

“Even as an undergraduate, I wanted to teach occupational therapy,” says SJSU Professor Winifred Schultz-Krohn, recipient of this year’s Outstanding Professor Award. “The idea of working with individuals to discover their aptitudes despite their limitations—what they can do, not what they can’t do—is very inspiring. I was so excited as a student, and I see that same excitement my students today.”

Schultz-Krohn generously shares that excitement—and a considerable amount of chocolate (yes, chocolate!)—with her colleagues and students. In fact, her passion for the sweet stuff is second only to her commitment to teaching and helping those in need.

“A woman came into the clinic,” Schultz-Krohn says, speaking of one of three occupational therapy clinics that double as a practicum sites for graduate occupational therapy students. “Due to a traumatic brain injury, she had lost her ability to swallow. The student asked me to help because I have expertise in swallowing. Turns out she was a huge chocolate pudding fan!” The woman was partnered with an OT student and, by the time their work was done, she had improved her ability to swallow. And she got her chocolate fix.

Schultz-Krohn shows her dedication in sugar-free ways, too. For more than a decade, Schultz-Krohn and her students have offered occupational therapy services —from job readiness to parenting—to families and children who live in a homeless shelter in San Jose. She recalls a woman who had returned to the shelter with a message for her: “You and your students made all the difference. I now have a job, an apartment and insurance. Thank you for believing in me.”

She also believes in her students. A mentor to more than 150 students, she helps students present their research at professional meetings, a key step in launching their careers. “Publishing and presenting research with my students is the most rewarding part of my job as an educator,” says Schultz-Krohn, who is a member of the Academic Senate and serves on many university and professional boards and committees. “I’ve had students present research at state, national, and international occupational therapy conferences. Several students presented their research in Chile. Standing up there at a podium, they just own it.”

“Dr. Wynn dreams big for her students,” wrote graduate student Colleen Norlander in her nomination. “And she gives of her own time, energy and passion to see these goals accomplished.”

Schultz-Krohn offers this advice to her students: “Uncover the real, authentic you in whatever you’re doing.”