University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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PhD in Occupational Science: Immersion Experiences

The hallmark of our PhD program is immersion for 20 hours per week in an interdisciplinary, extramurally funded research group during the first six semesters of study. Within these groups, doctoral students gain experience in interdisciplinary research and grantsmanship that include work related to publications, data collection, data analysis and theory building. An intensive immersion model can be thought of as a learner-centered research apprenticeship. We believe that the wide-ranging content of our research programs prepares our PhD students as career scientists who can confidently make a valued contribution to interdisciplinary research groups. It also places the student squarely at the center of translational research that is at the forefront of health-related research.

Immersion in the Brain and Creativity Institute

In this immersion, you will become part of the Neuroscience team at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute which is directed by world-renowned neurologists Hanna and Antonio Damasio. The mission of the Institute is “to make use of important new discoveries from the mind and brain sciences and confront pressing issues of our time.” You will be mentored by Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, whose work focuses on how neural pathways and systems can be used for higher cognitive processes such as language, thought, empathy and creativity. You will also have the opportunity to become an expert in state of the art research techniques used for brain imaging such as functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimuluation.

Immersion in the Pressure Ulcer Prevention Interdisciplinary Research Group

For nearly a decade, our Pressure Ulcer Prevention Study (PUPS) team has been building a translational research program that targets the prevention of medically serious pressure ulcers in people with spinal cord injury. The first PUPS was funded by the Department of Education and NIDRR and, through a qualitative research approach, uncovered the complexity of factors that came together in daily life circumstances to produce pressure ulcers in the participants. Study results were then translated into several products including an online consumer manual, a rehabilitation professionals’ manual and a Lifestyle Redesign® intervention for pressure ulcer prevention. Most recently, the PUPS team, led by Professors Florence Clark and Erna Blanche, have secured NIH (NCMRR) funding to conduct a randomized controlled trial to test the cost-effectiveness of this intervention approach. The intervention is particularly promising because it incorporates the full range of lifestyle issues that are relevant to pressure ulcer risk and ensconces preventive measures into individualized, sustainable routines. In this immersion, you will work closely with an investigative team led by occupational scientists that includes biostatisticians, clinical trial methodology experts, a nurse scientist, a plastic surgeon, social psychologists and a physiatrist. Further, you will be exposed to state-of-the-art knowledge on pressure ulcer prevention, clinical trials and health economic methodology, quality-of-life measurement, instrument development and validation and the translational research process.