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.
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.
Occupational Therapy Association of California float commemorates 100-year anniversary of profession’s founding
On the morning of Jan. 2, 2017, five USC Trojans will be floating high above the streets of Pasadena, Calif., during the world-famous Tournament of Roses® Rose Parade.
The Trojans will be riding on board Celebrating a Century of Occupational Therapy, the parade float sponsored by the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) (PDF). The float commemorates the 1917 founding of the profession of occupational therapy and launches OTAC’s year-long public education campaign to highlight the impact of occupational therapy services upon individuals and society.
The riders with USC connections — current and former faculty members and alumni — include USC Chan associate dean and chair Florence Clark, adjunct clinical instructor Lisa Deshaies, OTAC president Heather Kitching MA ‘02, OTD ‘10, former faculty member Lela Llorens and Jesus David Vidana BS ‘01, a U.S. Marine Corps reservist who sustained a severe brain injury in the line of duty.
The parade caps more than five years of fundraising and organizing efforts led by associate clinical professor Sarah Bream, who has served as chair of OTAC’s Centennial Float Committee.
“The opportunity to work with such a visionary Board of Directors and dedicated committee as well as to interact with the profession around the country has been an extremely rewarding experience; beyond what I could have imagined,” Bream said in an OTAC press release.
The Rose Parade, which dates back to its inaugural running in 1890, includes floats covered in flowers and other organic botanical materials, marching bands and equestrian units and is followed later in the day by the Rose Bowl college football game, the 2017 edition of which features the USC Trojans football team. The parade is viewed in person by hundreds of thousands of spectators on the parade route and is broadcast on multiple television networks in the United States and more than 100 international territories and countries.
USC Chan faculty members Cermak and Clark among all-time notables
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 ’48
- Wendy Wood MA ’88, PhD ’95
- Elizabeth J. Yerxa BS ’52, MA ’53, emerita faculty member
- Ruth Zemke, emerita faculty member
An esteemed USC alumna and occupational therapy leader passed away on Nov. 5, 2016, at the age of 94
By John Hobbs MA ‘14
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.”
Florence Clark to receive rarefied AOTA-AOTF Presidents’ Commendation
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.