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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Latest News

Practical tips for Brain Injury Awareness Month

, in General News

By Mike McNulty

More than 12 million Americans live with a brain injury caused by any number of non-hereditary or non-developmental reasons such as disease, oxygen deprivation or tumors. The scope of brain injuries ranges from mild to severe, and symptoms can exhibit as personality changes, trouble with memory, confusion or poor judgment.

To help educate the public about the incidence of brain injury and its impact upon individuals, their families and communities, the month of March is designated as Brain Injury Awareness Month.

As members of comprehensive care teams for people with brain injury — sometimes referred to as acquired brain injury, ABI, or traumatic brain injury, TBI — occupational therapists work with patients to maximize independence in meaningful activities that ultimately improve quality of life.

Samia Rafeedie, associate clinical professor of occupational therapy at USC Chan, is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist. In recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, she offered these useful tips to help friends and family members support a person with brain injury throughout the rehabilitation process:


1. When interacting with your loved one, keep the room quiet and calm; turn off or dim the lights, limit environmental stimuli and speak in short, simple phrases


2. Allow the person additional time to respond after you ask a question or need information; do not expect responses to be logical or sensible


3. Try to re-orient your loved one by letting them know who you are, where he or she is, what happened and why he or she is getting rehabilitation


4. Provide your loved one with familiar activities or meaningful occupations; these can be as simple as putting on lotion, combing hair or listening to favorite music


5. Do not force the person to do an activity or task that is not desired; facilitate participation in activities and occupations which are meaningful, familiar and safe

Learn more about Brain Injury Awareness Month at Brain Injury Association of America.

The people who make you look good are suffering

, in General News

By Monica Luhar/Vice’s

“For tattoo artists, hair stylists or anybody holding a device with the tendons contracted and potentially flexing or holding against resistance, that nerve might be getting compressed over time,” says Shawn Roll, assistant professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California. His research looks at causes of musculoskeletal discomfort when working, especially carpal tunnel syndrome and upper extremities disorder often caused by repetitive motions.

Read the full article, including Shawn C. Roll’s recommendations for improving workplace health, at Vice’s

Clinical professor Katie Jordan helps score profession-wide victory

, in General News, Alumni News

AOTA advocacy success: Evaluation payments expected to rise as CMS corrects error

Last week, clinical professor Katie Jordan met with representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to raise concerns on behalf of the American Occupational Therapy Association regarding what was believed to be an error resulting in decreased Medicare reimbursements for occupational therapy evaluations.

AOTA began investigating concerns raised by occupational therapy practitioners beginning in January about unexpected Medicare payment cuts. At the meeting, CMS explained that a technical error committed on CMS’ behalf sometime in 2016 was the root cause for the payment cuts, and that retroactive payments to providers will be forthcoming.

Jordan serves as the American Occupational Therapy Association’s alternate representative to the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, often referred to as “RUC.” In this role Jordan offers relative value recommendations for new and revised CPT payment codes on behalf of non-physician health professionals such as occupational therapists.

“We were elated to get a positive response from CMS made possible by AOTA staff and volunteers collaborating to take quick and direct action,” Dr. Jordan noted.

Read the full article at the American Occupational Therapy Association.

In 2016, 100 percent of new USC Chan graduates passed national certification exam

, in General News, Student News

By Mike McNulty

According to new data released by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy®, all 132 of USC’s new graduates successfully passed the Occupational Therapist Registered OTR® certification examination during the 2016 calendar year. This 100 percent passing rate was also accompanied by the highest average passing score of any Trojan cohort during the past three years on record.


The OTR certification examination — a four-hour test including three clinical simulations and 170 multiple choice items — is designed to validate a person’s essential knowledge for effective occupational therapy practice. NBCOT is the national certification organization for occupational therapy professionals in the United States which oversees the OTR examination. In California, OTR certification is a requirement for new clinicians to receive a license issued by the state in order to practice.

“Thank you to all of our faculty members whose diligent efforts ensure USC students are prepared for earning their national certification,” said USC Chan Associate Dean and Chair Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. “And congratulations to our 132 newest Trojan occupational therapists who will surely have long and successful careers ahead of them.”

USC alumni last achieved a collective 100 percent examination pass rate during the 2014 calendar year, when all 118 new graduates successfully earned their OTR certification.

USC Chan appoints new associate dean, chair

, in General News, Student News, Alumni News

Dr. Grace Baranek to lead USC’s occupational science and occupational therapy program

By John Hobbs MA ’14
Updated article was originally released on Aug. 23, 2016.

The USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy welcomes newly appointed associate dean and chair, Grace Baranek on Feb. 1.

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Baranek comes to USC from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she had been a faculty member for 20 years. She was most recently the associate chair for research in UNC’s Department of Allied Health Sciences and a professor in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

“There is no one better among those in the occupational science and occupational therapy community to lead our program into its next phase of excellence,” said Florence Clark, the division’s outgoing chair and associate dean who has served as its administrative leader since 1989. “I am excited to see what Dr. Baranek will create as we enter into the 100th anniversary of the occupational therapy profession and the 75th anniversary of occupational therapy at the University of Southern California. There is no doubt that her leadership will give USC Chan a very special luster and take it to new heights through its exceptional educational programs, innovative practice and scientific discovery.”

The August 2016 announcement of Baranek’s appointment came after an extensive nationwide search, led by Dr. Avishai Sadan MBA ’14, dean of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, after Clark announced her intention in 2015 to step down from administrative duties to focus on research and teaching.

“It has been an incredible honor to work shoulder to shoulder with Florence,” Sadan said. “She’s a force of nature, and I can confidently say the occupational science discipline and occupational therapy profession have taken quantum leaps because of Dr. Clark’s hard work and scholarship.”

The USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, like the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, is a division within USC’s dental school.

Focus on Autism

Baranek received a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Illinois at the Medical Center before pursuing her master’s and PhD degrees in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Her body of research is heavily geared toward autism and related development disorders — a key area of study for USC Chan.

Baranek is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in the field of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her research concentrations include early identification and intervention for children with ASD and related developmental disorders as well as understanding the impact of sensory experiences upon the lives of individuals with ASD.

In addition to publishing numerous research articles on autism — including one that won the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Cordelia Myers AJOT Best Article Award and another that earned her the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 2013 Editor’s Award — Baranek has added to the science behind autism by conducting interdisciplinary research.

She was co-director of the Program for Early Autism: Research, Leadership and Service, an interdisciplinary project at UNC Chapel Hill aiming to develop early assessment and intervention tools for ASD. She also served as the principal investigator of the Sensory Experiences Project, a 10-year research grant studying sensory features among children with autism spectrum disorder.

Baranek has been an AOTA Fellow since 2005, an AOTF Academy of Research member since 2008 and maintains active memberships with the American Occupational Therapy Association, the International Society for Autism Research and the International Society for Occupational Science.

While Baranek assumes her position on Feb. 1, she has already been involved with the division’s ongoing international initiatives. In October, alongside Clark and USC Provost Michael Quick, she welcomed a delegation from Peking University Health Science Center to USC to announce a new partnership that will create one of the first graduate program in occupational therapy in China.

Clark will take a year-long sabbatical before returning to focus on teaching, research and continuing to expand USC Chan’s global presence throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim.

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