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

23 Trojans on AOTA centennial list of 100 most influential people

, in General News, Alumni News

USC Chan faculty members Cermak and Clark among all-time notables

By Mike McNulty

Twenty-three USC alumni and faculty members are among the 100 most influential people who have shaped the occupational therapy profession throughout its century-long history, according to a new list compiled by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

In preparation for the 100th anniversary celebration of the association’s 1917 founding, the AOTA commissioned an expert editorial board to select the 100 influential people — advocates, thought-leaders, scholars and trailblazers — whose legacies have indelibly shaped the profession.

Most notably, current USC Chan faculty members Sharon Cermak and Florence Clark join emerita faculty members Elizabeth Yerxa and Ruth Zemke on the list. USC Chan Board of Councilors members Linda Florey and Mary Foto also earned spots among the “who’s who” of occupational therapy, both past and present.

USC Trojans named to the list are:

  • Claudia K. Allen, former faculty member
  • A. Jean Ayres BS ’45, MA ’54, former faculty member
  • Esther Bell Cert. ‘53
  • Janice P. Burke MA ’75, former faculty member
  • Sharon A. Cermak, faculty member
  • Florence Clark PhD ’82, faculty member
  • Florence S. Cromwell MA ’52, former faculty member
  • Linda Florey MA ’68, PhD ’98, chairperson of USC Chan Board of Councilors
  • Mary Foto BS ’66, member of USC Chan Board of Councilors
  • Anne Henderson BS ’46
  • A. Joy Huss Cert. ’58
  • Gary Kielhofner MA ’75
  • Lorna Jean King MA ’50, former faculty member
  • Catherine Trombly Latham MA ’64
  • Lela Llorens, former faculty member
  • Mary Reilly BS ’51, former faculty member
  • Joan Rogers MA ’68
  • Margaret S. Rood, former faculty member
  • Carlotta Welles MA ’53
  • Wilma L. West MA ’46
  • Wendy Wood MA ’88, PhD ’95
  • Elizabeth J. Yerxa BS ’52, MA ’53, emerita faculty member
  • Ruth Zemke, emerita faculty member

Please note, every effort is made to accurately recognize the USC Trojan Family. If an omission or error has been made to the list below, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Remembering Florence Cromwell

, in General News, Alumni News

An esteemed USC alumna and occupational therapy leader passed away on Nov. 5, 2016, at the age of 94

By John Hobbs MA ‘14

Florence Cromwell 1922-2016. Photo undated.

Occupational therapy visionary, two-time AOTA president, and former faculty member Florence S. Cromwell MA ’52 died Nov. 5, 2016. She was 94.

The former faculty member was a USC alumna, an interim chair for two years before Elizabeth Yerxa ’52, MA ’53 took the chairship, and a member of the division’s Board of Councilors from 1996 to 2001.

Throughout her career, she loomed large over the occupational therapy landscape, making significant contributions on the national stage in areas of political advocacy, research, and education — all of which are still very much evident today.

A respected leader, Cromwell served two terms (1967-1973) as president of AOTA, the professional organization that represents the interests and concerns of occupational therapy practitioners and students across the nation.

During her second presidential term, Cromwell moved AOTA from its headquarters in New York City to Rockville, MD, to be near Washington, D.C. — a relocation meant to give AOTA greater opportunities to advocate on behalf of the burgeoning profession among the nation’s policymakers. 

Cromwell worked diligently to bring occupational therapy under the umbrella of health care by joining the Coalition of Independent Health Professions, a group of multi-disciplined health care professionals, giving occupational therapy much greater visibility among health care providers. She served as the group’s chair in 1974.

From early on, when she wrote Basic Skills Assessment about job assessments for people with disabilities, Cromwell was a champion for developing and refining the profession’s scientific literature. Throughout her career, she was a prolific researcher, writing several peer-reviewed journal articles and many textbooks, including Hand Rehabilitation in Occupational Therapy, The Changing Roles of Occupational Therapists in the 1980s and The Occupational Therapy Managers’ Survival Handbook: A Case Approach to Understanding the Basic Functions of Management.

Cromwell’s countless contributions to the occupational science and occupational therapy profession did not go unnoticed. 

In 1974, she was honored with the AOTA Award of Merit. In 1999, she was recognized with the rarely awarded AOTA/AOTF President’s Commendation in Honor of Wilma L. West. She was also named an inaugural AOTA fellow in 1973 and became the first occupational therapist to be elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Florence Cromwell was the AOTA President when I entered the profession in 1970,” remembered Florence Clark PhD ‘82, associate dean of USC Chan. “At that time, I revered her from a distance, and at 24 years of age, I was so pleased that there was a leader in the profession who not only had the name Florence (which was in rare use in the 1970s), but who also had the same first and last name initials – FC!”

Clark added, “I couldn’t believe that one day I would actually meet her face-to-face, which happened in 1976 when I first joined the USC faculty. After that, we had an ongoing relationship. Once I became chair, she was always there for me, helping me to develop the leadership skills required for my new position. She was one of the foremost leaders in the profession and a remarkable person.”

Five Trojans to take AOTA awards

, in General News, Alumni News

Florence Clark to receive rarefied AOTA-AOTF Presidents’ Commendation

By Mike McNulty

Five USC Trojans will win annual awards from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The recipients were revealed last week by AOTA and will be presented their awards during AOTA’s annual conference in April 2017, when the association will celebrate the 100-years anniversary of its 1917 founding.

Florence Clark PhD ’82, associate dean, chair and holder of the Mrs. T.H. Chan Professorship, will receive the American Occupational Therapy Association/American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Presidents’ Commendation Award in Honor of Wilma L. West. The governing Boards of both AOTA and AOTF jointly established this prestigious award, given only rarely, to honor a respected leader of the profession who has made sustained contributions to occupational therapy over a lifetime of service. More than one-third of all recipients of this prestigious award have been Trojans, including: Wilma L. West MA ’46 (1990), Carlotta Welles MA ’53 (1991), former faculty member Lela Llorens (1997), Florence Cromwell MA ’52 (1999), Joan C. Rogers MA ’68 (2010), and Mary Foto ’66 (2016).

Administrative manager Kiley Hanish MA ’02, OTD ’11 will be a recipient of the Emerging and Innovative Practice Award, a newly established award that recognizes occupational therapy practitioners who have developed non-traditional occupational therapy practices in visionary ways to achieve significant client outcomes. Hanish developed the Return to Zero Center for Healing, which has become a resource for outreach, education, and research for women who have experienced perinatal loss. Believed to be the first of its kind in the world, Hanish’s center hosts activity-based bereavement retreats for women seeking healing after their traumatic losses to provide an opportunity for grieving mothers to gather in a safe group of like-minded women and create meaning and community.

Assistant professor Natalie Leland will receive the Lindy Boggs Award in recognition of significant contributions by an occupational therapist toward promoting occupational therapy in political arenas such as federal or state legislation, regulations and policies or by increasing elected officials’ appreciation of the profession. Leland has worked in conjunction with AOTA for years to promote occupational therapy through leadership in Medicare policy, as her scholarship focuses on large administrative datasets, longitudinal data analysis and geographic variation in rehabilitation services including post-acute care and nursing home settings.

Assistant clinical professor Jenny Martínez BS ’09, MA ’10, OTD ’11 will receive the Gary Kielhofner Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes emerging leadership and extraordinary service early in an occupational therapist’s career. The award is named in memory of USC alumnus and former faculty member Gary Kielhofner MA ’75 who developed the Model of Human Occupation. During her six-year career in occupational therapy, Martínez has promoted occupational therapy workforce diversity and culturally responsive care for adults from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds through co-authoring four academic publications, participating in AOTA’s Emerging Leaders Development Program and, most recently, beginning her term as Chairperson of AOTA’s Gerontology Special Interest Section.

Alumna Bonnie Nakasuji BS ’74, MA ’94, OTD ’08 will be a recipient of the International Service Award, a newly established award that recognizes sustained and outstanding commitment to international occupational therapy service to promote a globally connected community and address global health issues. For more than 10 years, Nakasuji has been traveling to the West African country of Ghana to provide occupational therapy services to various groups and communities, including Mephibosheth Training Center, a boarding school for “handicapped” children located in a village approximately two hours’ travel outside Ghana’s capital city of Accra. More than 250 USC occupational therapy students have traveled with Nakausji to Ghana as part of international externship experiences, where the USC students practice task analysis, graded therapeutic activities, adaptive equipment evaluation and pre-vocational recommendations with the Ghanaian students.

Inaugural class inducts new sensory integration continuing education

, in General News, Student News, Alumni News

By Mike McNulty


Clinical professor Erna Blanche and research assistant professor Stefanie Bodison review video of a SI treatment session. (Photo/Phil Channing)

Clinical professor Erna Blanche and research assistant professor Stefanie Bodison review video of a SI treatment session. (Photo/Phil Channing)

The inaugural cohort of participants has successfully completed the first of USC’s new sequential four-course Sensory Integration (SI) Continuing Education (CE) Certificate Program. The 29 participants, hailing from 5 states and Hong Kong, completed the 30-hour course, Theoretical Foundations of Sensory Integration: From Theory to Identification, in Los Angeles last month.

Taught by clinical professor Erna Blanche and research assistant professor Stefanie Bodison, the course is earning positive early reviews from students, an encouraging sign for a program that aims to make longstanding and valuable contributions to the global community of SI therapists.

“It is evident Dr. Blanche is passionate not only about the materials but also about ensuring the students have a good understanding of the content,” said one unidentified student.

“Dr. Bodison was able to clearly communicate the subject matter she was responsible for in a clear manner,” according to another student.  “It was easy to understand and was engaging throughout.”

The USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has a rich history of advanced training in sensory integration, going back to the initial hands-on supervised clinical course experiences originally taught by Dr. A. Jean Ayres beginning in 1977. Ayres was an occupational therapist and educational psychologist who developed a theoretical framework, a set of standardized tests and a clinical approach for the identification and remediation of sensory integration problems in children. Her publications on sensory integration span a 30-year period from the 1960s through the 1980s and include psychometric studies as well as clinical trials and single case series.

“As a former student myself of Dr. Ayres, I’m thrilled to be continuing her legacy at USC,” said Blanche. “It’s gratifying to see the enthusiasm of our students for learning this material.”

Through ongoing development and refinement of the content and materials during the past 35 years, the Chan Division remains committed to upholding the legacy of Ayres’ work in the science and clinical application of sensory integration by offering advanced training programs designed to meet the needs of the global community.

To that end, this new program includes both in-person and online learning options, awards a USC Certificate to its graduates, and offers “special consideration” for advanced standing — thereby reducing the required amount of study hours — to those participants who previously completed the USC/WPS Sensory Integration Certification Program, which will be discontinued at the end of this year.

“The span of experience of the participants was vast, ranging from 30-plus years of experience in sensory integration clinics to those who had only received SI training in their professional programs,” said Bodison. “It’s exciting to know that we’ve designed this course to meet the needs of this range of experience.”

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 beginning in 2017

By John Hobbs MA ’14

The USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy announced this week the appointment of Grace Baranek as associate dean and chair of the division.

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’s been a faculty member for 20 years. She is currently the associate chair for research in UNC’s Department of Allied Health Sciences, a professor in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and has a dual appointment with the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

“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 announcement comes 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 last fall her intention 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 features on the lives of individuals with ASD, according to her UNC biography.

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 is 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 North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association, the International Society for Autism Research and the International Society for Occupational Science.

Baranek assumes the chair and associate dean position on February 1, 2017. 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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