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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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 ’48 (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.”

Nine Trojans publish in July/August AJOT

, in General News, Student News, Alumni News

By Mike McNulty

Nine members of the USC Trojan Family are cited as authors across three new research articles published in the July/August issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

Professor Sharon Cermak co-authored Atypical Sensory Modulation and Psychological Distress in the General Population. By examining a community-based sample of 204 adults who completed standardized assessments, Cermak and her co-author found the group with atypical sensory modulation — characterized by over- or underresponsiveness to sensory stimuli in one or more sensory systems — displayed considerably more psychological distress symptoms than that of the comparison group. The authors conclude that ASM may be a risk factor for developing other mental health concerns.

Seven USC Trojans — four faculty members, a staff member, an Occupational Science PhD student and an alumnus — authored Napping and Nighttime Sleep: Findings From an Occupation-Based Intervention. Authors include assistant professor Natalie Leland, alumnus Donald Fogelberg PhD ‘08, Occupational Science student Alix Sleight MA ‘12, OTD ‘13, PhD ‘18, research assistant professor Cheryl Vigen, staff member Jeanine Blanchard MA ‘99, PhD ‘10, research professor Mike Carlson, and associate dean, chair and professor Florence Clark.

Alarm Clock

The research team analyzed a sub-sample from the Lifestyle Redesign randomized controlled trial to describe sleeping behaviors and trends over time among an ethnically diverse group of community-living older adults. Of those participants who reported daytime napping at baseline, 36 percent no longer napped at follow-up. Among participants who stopped napping, those who received an occupation-based intervention replaced napping time with nighttime sleep, and those not receiving an intervention experienced a net loss of total sleeping hours.

Sleight also authored Toward a Broader Role for Occupational Therapy in Supportive Oncology Care with research assistant professor Leah I. Stein Duker MA ‘06, PhD ‘13, Postdoc ‘15.

Sleight and Duker advocate for an extended framework for those practitioners working in oncology beyond current conceptualizations of occupational therapy for cancer survivors that too often focuses solely on physical interventions. With a wider focus on function, the authors suggest that practitioners can better address the full spectrum of physical and psychosocial care for expanding the profession’s involvement in supportive oncology care.

AJOT publishes peer-reviewed research six times each year examining the effectiveness and efficiency of occupational therapy practice so that occupational therapy professionals can make informed, evidence-based decisions about best practice.

Commencement 2016: Graduates honor longtime associate dean during ceremony

, in General News, Student News, Alumni News

By Yasmine Pezeshkpour

Fariborz Maseeh ScD

Fariborz Maseeh ScD

Fariborz Maseeh ScD delivered the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy commencement speech on May 13.

Maseeh founded the Kids Institute for Development and Advancement (KiDA) in 2008 after his son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. Maseeh credited much of the success of KiDA to division students and the guidance of associate dean and chair Florence Clark PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA.

The class of 2016 consisted of 10 bachelor of science, 156 master of arts, 53 doctor of occupational therapy and one doctor of philosophy graduates.

During his commencement speech, Maseeh took a moment to recognize Clark for 28 years of leadership at USC Chan. Graduates and guests joined in with a standing ovation for Clark, who is set to step down as associate dean at the end of 2016.

USC Chan scientist using neuroimaging to advance autism research

, in General News, Alumni News

By Mike McNulty

Stefanie Bodison ’92, MA ’93, OTD ’10 is the latest in a long line of USC experts, stretching back more than 50 years to former USC faculty emeritus A. Jean Ayres ’45, MA ’54 and her landmark theory of sensory integration, seeking to better understand the relationships between sensory information and children’s neurological capacity for effectively using that sensory “input” for “output” movements and behaviors.

But unlike a previous generation, not only is Bodison armed with state-of-the-art neuroimaging technologies that provide measurable views of the brain and body at work, she also has grant funding to help her realize her mission.

Stefanie Bodison ’92, MA ’93, OTD ’10

Stefanie Bodison ’92, MA ’93, OTD ’10

A research assistant professor at the USC Chan Division, Bodison is using various brain imaging techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the structural and functional connectivity of sensorimotor integration — the term describing the brain’s ability to transform sensory information into a motor response — in both typically developing children and those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Because this complex process is dependent upon one’s ability to copy or imitate the movements of others, the latest phase of Bodison’s project, entitled “Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms of Sensorimotor Integration,” uses fMRI to examine the neural processes occurring during both hand gesture imitations and simple motor response tasks.

While positioned within the fMRI scanner, ten participants — 6-to-8-year-old, right-handed boys, six of whom have a diagnosis of ASD and four of whom are typically developing — were asked to imitate complex, meaningless hand gestures displayed on-screen and also to make either a simple “thumbs-up” sign or “number-one” sign with their hands in response to directional arrow cues displayed on-screen.

Even a “simple” motor task elicits not-so-simple activation of the neural pathways of a child with autism (left) as compared to those of a typically developing child (right)

The fMRI images from this small sample suggest that, for children with ASD, a simple motor task requires the same extensive degree of motor planning as does the imitation of a complex, meaningless gesture. This suggests that the sensorimotor integration pathways in the autistic brain may contribute to the difficulties demonstrated by children with autism when learning new tasks requiring imitation of others.

This pilot study also demonstrates a new paradigm for the capability of fMRI to measure the neural substrates of sensorimotor integration in the brain.

“Our research team has shown that we can successfully acquire MRI scans in six-to-nine-year-old children with autism,” said Bodison, “which is significant because most of the current MRI research in autism is happening with individuals who are 12 years and older.”

Bodison is supported by a KL2 Mentoring Research Career Development Award, the National Institute of Health’s grant program designed to jump-start the research careers of junior scientists. As part of the KL2 program, Bodison’s designated mentors including Elizabeth Sowell, professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Terence D. Sanger, provost associate professor of biomedical engineering, neurology and biokinesiology; Florence Clark, associate dean, chair and Mrs. T.H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the USC Chan Division; and Stewart Mostofsky, director of the Center for Neurodevelopmental Medicine and Research at Kennedy Krieger Institute located in Baltimore.

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