Director Envisions Innovation in New Occupational Therapy Degree Offered by UA, UAMS

Sherry MuirSherry Muir, Ph.D., the newly hired director of the occupational therapy program, is determined to create an innovative program that recognizes the importance of interprofessional education.

The foundation is already laid.

The occupational therapy degree program is a joint offering from the UAMS College of Health Professions (CHP) and the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Working to establish the program are CHP Dean Douglas Murphy, Ph.D., and Susan Long, Ed.D., CHP’s associate dean for academic affairs and Fran Hagstrom, Ph.D., an assistant dean in the UA’s College of Education and Health Professions,

The collaboration between the two UA system campuses represents the best of two worlds – academic and medical.

“The collaboration will emphasize the importance of interprofessional education,” Muir said, “sharing resources and preparing new occupational therapists to be active members of strong treatment teams who work together to meet the needs of patients and communities.”

As part of that interprofessional education, the occupational therapy students will be educated alongside their peers in physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy and medicine, Murphy said.

“This program addresses a real need that northwest Arkansas has for occupational therapists,” Murphy said. “This collaboration between UAMS and UA really emphasizes both institutions’ commitment to meeting the educational and health care needs of Arkansans.”

The UA and the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, both in Fayetteville, are providing space for the new occupational therapy doctoral program. The two campuses are less than a mile apart.

“We are excited to be able to meet the challenge of offering this training to address needs identified in a northwest Arkansas regional assessment,” Hagstrom said. “Our two institutions have several strengths that will help us build a strong program, and we are pleased to have Dr. Muir here in the director’s position.”

The assessment identified needs for occupational services for children from birth to 3, for school-aged children experiencing learning, mental health and behavioral challenges and for adults who experience sudden life-changing disability, chronic health conditions and reduced ability to manage activities of everyday life because of normal aging, Hagstrom said.

Muir has been an occupational therapist since 1991, and she began university teaching in 2003, moving to the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Doisy College of Health Sciences at Saint Louis University in 2006, where she also held an appointment in the School of Medicine.

She holds a doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University in Minneapolis, a Master of Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman’s University, and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Muir, who will hold tenured positions as an associate professor at both UA schools, envisions a program that prepares graduates to work at the top of their licenses, using their full skill sets to become innovative practitioners. These occupational therapists will have the abilities and confidence to assess the needs of their clinics and communities and to create treatments and programs to meet those needs, she said.

Her first task is to begin the accreditation process with the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, Muir said. She will work with UAMS to secure clinical sites for the program’s students, who will go through three levels of clinical practice before graduation.

Murphy said he expects two locations offering the occupational therapy students clinical experiences will be the Fayetteville Outpatient Therapy Clinic and the student-led North Street Clinic, both located on UAMS’ Northwest Regional Campus.

Additionally, Muir will begin the search for an academic fieldwork coordinator, who will be responsible for managing those clinical experiences and fieldwork sites.

Students are expected to be admitted to the program in 2019.

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