University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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About Us
About Us

Meet Our Trojan Family

Heidi McHugh Pendleton PhD ‘98, OTR/L, FAOTA

Heidi McHugh Pendleton PhD ‘98, OTR/L, FAOTA

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Program: PhD, Class of 1998

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Dr. Marian Diamond, my Anatomy professor at the University of California Berkeley, said she thought I would make a good occupational therapist. Having never heard of OT and given my admiration for Dr. Diamond, I researched the profession, met with Doris Cutting, the Chair of OT at San Jose State University, and upon graduation from Cal, earned my Certificate in OT at SJSU.

Why did you decide to pursue your PhD in Occupational Science?
While working at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center, I enrolled in the MA program in OT at USC, taking one evening class a semester until I completed my degree. I loved the faculty and the program and when Florence Clark called and asked if I wanted to be in the first group of PhD students in OS, I was thrilled! I was one of the original 7 students who began the program in the fall of 1989. The fact that I had moved back to the Bay Area and had just started teaching at SJSU did not deter me. The Chair at SJSU, Dr. Lela Llorens, scheduled me to teach all of my classes Monday through Wednesday and Dr. Clark arranged for all of the Ph.D classes to be on Thursdays and Fridays. I would fly to LA every Wednesday evening and fly back home on Fridays – I had an incredible support system to make all of this work and was able to complete my classes in 3 years. The dissertation took longer, but all of us in the original 7 were successful in earning our degrees.

What was the most rewarding part of being in the PhD program?
I received a fabulous education and an even deeper love and understanding for my profession from my studies in occupational science. My dissertation earned me the prestigious Yerxa Award, named for one of my most admired professors and occupational therapists: Elizabeth Yerxa.

What are you are doing now?

  • Enjoying a long (26 years+) and rewarding career in academia – teaching occupational therapy at San Jose State University.
  • Tenured full professor teaching classes in Physical Disabilities, Professional Development, History and Theory in OT, Independent Living Skills, Research and Assessments etc.
  • Former Chair of the Department having completed a 4-year term in Fall 2012.
  • Co-editor of a major OT textbook: Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy: Practice Skills for Physical Dysfunction, authored numerous publications, and presented at local, state and national conferences throughout the clinical and academic phases of my career trajectory.
  • Awarded Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association; received the Award of Excellence (2003); 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC). Named Honored Lecturer at the 1999 California Foundation for Occupational Therapy (CFOT) Annual Research Symposium.
  • Awarded Teacher Scholar 2000-2001 at SJSU; serving as Chair of the University Accommodations Review Board at SJSU.  Since 2000, on the Board of Directors for CFOT as Co-Chair of the Research Advisory Board.