University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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Ruth Zemke PhD, FAOTA

Ruth Zemke

Emeritus Professor

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One of the things that I value most about occupational therapy as a professional field is the breadth of options it offers practitioners. As practitioners, we can become salaried service providers, entrepreneurs, consultants, administrators, and educators. And within these roles, we also have a big variety of directions in which we can provide service. In traditional hospital/rehabilitation settings, we may work with any age group from premature infants to aged adults. In community-based service, we emphasize wellness and prevention of occupational dysfunction.

Over the years, my own practice experience has included in-patient evaluation and treatment of children with mental health problems including childhood schizophrenia and autism. I have done home-based evaluation and community-based programming for persons with mental retardation. In addition, I have performed pre-vocational evaluations for persons with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses as well as helped to develop sheltered work programs for them. I participated in hospital-based in- and outpatient work on neurorehabilitation units, with a focus upon adults who have had stroke. I have been a daily living supervisor in a community home for adolescents with behavioral problems, a small general hospital therapist, an administrator, a consultant, a service provider for both psychiatric and physically disabled in- and outpatients, and a service provider to older adults in skilled nursing facilities.

In the last 35 years, as my life changed, with marriage, parenting, and moving between urban and rural environments in several states, I always knew that there would be an exciting opportunity in occupational therapy wherever I lived. I knew it would not only fit my needs but also provide the opportunity to meet the needs of others. I thrive in problem solving around helping diverse clients develop an appropriate balance of daily occupations in spite of disease, disability, or life changes.


Ruth Zemke is an internationally recognized leader in the development of occupational science. She received her B.S. degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin. Her M.S. degree as well as her Ph.D. degree are in Human Development from Iowa State University. As Co-Principal Investigator on the USC Well Elderly Project, she utilized her interest in applying concepts of occupational science to occupational therapy practice. Her basic focus remains on understanding the characteristics of occupation, especially the temporal and spatial ones. Recent awards include the USC International Student Assembly Faculty Appreciation Award and the Award of Excellence from the Occupational Therapy Association of California. She has served on the University-wide Faculty Committee on Appointment, Promotion and Tenure committee as well as on the Academic Senate Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee and has been a grant reviewer for the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. A national and international presenter, her articles have appeared in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, OTJR: Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, Allied Health and Behavioral Science, and Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics.

Selected Publications

Clark, F. A., Blanchard, J., Sleight, A., Cogan, A., Eallonardo, L., Florindez, L., . . . Zemke, R. (2015). Lifestyle redesign: The intervention tested in the USC Well Elderly Studies (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Zemke, R., & Clark, F. A. (1996). Occupational science: The evolving discipline. Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

Lifestyle Redesign: Implementing the Well Elderly StudyMandel, D. R., Jackson, J. M., Zemke, R., Nelson, L., & Clark, F. A. (1999). Lifestyle Redesign: Implementing the Well Elderly Program. Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.