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Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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The Help Group and USC Form a New Partnership →

Mar 6, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News

The Help Group is pleased to announce an innovative partnership between The Help Group and the University of Southern California (USC) Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. The Help Group – USC Occupational Science Initiative is dedicated to developing evidence-based intervention programs for children with autism spectrum disorder through an interdisciplinary team of researchers, educators and clinicians.

The collaboration was established to better identify how animal-assisted intervention can be integrated into a curriculum that meets the educational and therapeutic needs of students in The Help Group’s five autism schools.

“With the success of our Paws and Pals program, we recognized the benefits of having volunteers and their therapy dogs visiting our classrooms and interacting with children across the autism spectrum,” said Dr. Barbara Firestone, president and chief executive officer of The Help Group, a national non-profit organization serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems. “The Initiative holds great promise as one of the first of its kind to demonstrate how therapy animals can be utilized to help to facilitate social behavior and communication in children and teens with autism.”

Leading the effort on behalf of USC is Dr. Olga Solomon, assistant professor at the USC Chan Division. Dr. Solomon, a 2014 Summit presenter, also led a Distinguished Lecture Series presentation at The Help Group on “Animal-Assisted Therapy in Classroom and Clinical Settings” to provide practical strategies for including therapy dogs in a school setting. Joining The Help Group, under the mentorship of Dr. Solomon, is occupational therapy doctoral resident Allie Ticktin.

A program development and evaluation project is already underway this academic year at The Help Group. Therapy dog/handler teams are working in coordination with therapists and educators to develop animal-assisted activities for five-to-seven-years-old students with mild cognitive delays and social and communicative challenges.

The Initiative is The Help Group’s third partnership with a leading research university. In 1999, The Help Group partnered with the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior to create The Help Group Neuropsychology program, and once again in 2007 to form the groundbreaking Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance.

“We are delighted to join with USC on this cutting-edge initiative to expand research into animal-assisted intervention,” said Firestone, “and look forward to a productive collaboration to foster growth and progress for young people with autism.”

USC Chan Students Go 3 For 3 in AOTA Elections →

Feb 27, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

All three USC Chan Division students running for elected positions to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Assembly of Student Delegates (ASD) won their respective races. Joseph Ungco MA ‘16 was elected chairperson, Ellen Wleklinski BS ‘14, MA ‘15 was elected vice chairperson and Elizabeth Peters MA ‘16 was elected secretary.

The ASD is the legislative body for student input and concerns into AOTA affairs. As a standing committee of the Representative Assembly (RA), the ASD Steering Committee serves the ASD membership by synthesizing student concerns to represent the student point of view to the Board of Directors, the Representative Assembly, the Commission on Practice, the Commission on Education and other AOTA bodies as needed.

In other election results, alumnus and Board of Councilors member Shawn Phipps BS ‘97 was elected AOTA Vice President and alumna Arameh Anvarizadeh BS ‘05, MA ‘06, OTD ‘07 won her race for California representative to the RA.

View all AOTA 2015 Election Results. Congratulations and Fight On!

Remembering Ann Neville-Jan →

Feb 2, 2015, by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), in General News

The longtime USC Chan Division faculty member, researcher and mentor passed away on Feb. 1, 2015, at the age of 64.

— — — — —

Ann Neville-Jan PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, associate chair of curriculum and faculty, and associate professor, died Feb. 1, after experiencing complications from surgery. She was 64.

Neville-Jan had been an integral member of the USC Chan Division for 25 years. Throughout her academic career at USC she taught research, theory and clinical courses across the undergraduate and graduate programs, was responsible for various administrative and curricular duties and chaired dissertation committees for many master’s and doctoral students.

After completing her undergraduate education in 1972 at Towson State University in Maryland, she earned a master of science degree in occupational therapy in 1974 from Columbia University.

During her early career, she practiced in mental health settings and held positions as director of occupational therapy at the Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center, rehabilitation coordinator for psychiatric services at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center and education coordinator at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration Medical Center.

In 1986, she earned her doctor of philosophy degree in occupational therapy from New York University, and was appointed a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) the same year. She joined the occupational therapy faculty at USC as an adjunct assistant professor in 1987 and became a full-time member in 1989.

She held positions within the AOTA and had been invited to participate on panels of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) and the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. She was a recent occupational therapy consultant to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR). In 2014, she received the Occupational Therapy Association of California Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her scholarship included chronic pain, depression and secondary conditions associated with disability.

She was an expert on spina bifida, both as a researcher and as someone with the developmental congenital disorder. She secured funded research grants from the NCMRR, the AOTF, the U.S. Department of Education and the American Cancer Society.

She was a member of the editorial board of the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal and her academic articles were published in the journals American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Disability & Society and Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.

“Ann was an outstanding scholar, mentor and educator, and most importantly, a dear friend to many. So many of the division’s successes can be directly attributed to her leadership and commitment,” wrote Associate Dean Florence Clark in an emailed statement to USC Chan faculty, staff and students. “Beyond this, as we all know, her special smile and positive spirit fueled all of us, and in every moment reminded us of the importance of caring.”

She is survived by her husband Darrell Jan, daughter Sara and son J.D.

The family suggests memorial contributions be directed to the USC Chan Division. To do so, visit, select your gift options and then click the “Next page” button at the bottom of the screen. On the following “Making a gift” page, click “Memorial or honorarium information” and please indicate Ann Neville-Jan.

Support services for students are available at the Eric Cohen Student Health Center of USC. For more information, go to or call (323) 442-5631.

Support services for staff and faculty are available at the Center for Work and Family Life of USC. For more information, go to or call (213) 821-0800.

Ann Neville-Jan

Assistant Clinical Professor Samia Rafeedie Tells U.S. News Why Occupational Therapy is a Best Job →

Jan 20, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News

When Samia Rafeedie was an undergrad at Ohio State University, she sought out the help of an academic advisor. She knew she wanted to work in health care, but she just didn’t know “where” in health care. Her advisor suggested occupational therapy. Rafeedie remembers thinking: “I don’t want to help people find jobs.” But she followed up her advisor’s recommendation with a visit to an open house in the School of Allied Medicine, where health care professionals from different fields described their work. She’ll never forget what an occupational therapist said there: “Physical therapy teaches people how to walk, and occupational therapy teaches them how to dance.”

Read the full article at U.S. News’ 100 Best Jobs of 2015.

In memoriam: Pat Plumtree, 73 →

Jan 19, 2015, by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), in General News Alumni News

Patricia “Pat” Volland Plumtree, a 12-year member of the USC Chan Division’s Board of Councilors, died Jan. 10, 2015, as a result of head injuries sustained from a fall. She was 73.

Pat was born March 2, 1939, in Los Angeles to Norman and Bernadette Browne Volland. In 1946, her family moved to Nebraska where she attended St. Cecilia grade and high school, graduating in 1957.

After briefly attending Rosary College in River Forest, Ill. and spending a summer working in New York City’s Garment District, Pat transferred to Denver University.

She entered the workforce as a merchandise buyer for Livingston Brothers in San Francisco, where she met her future husband, Jim Plumtree.

Soon thereafter, Pat began working for the J.C. Penney Company. In 1973, the Plumtrees relocated to Southern California where Jim earned his master’s degree in occupational therapy at USC in 1978. Upon his graduation, the Plumtrees moved to Boise, Idaho.

When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1982, Pat became increasingly involved in work for Alzheimer’s disease. In 1984, she founded the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association, a non-profit support group for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as well as their families.

Pat’s service work earned her numerous accolades, including the J.C. Penney Community Service Award, the Idaho Citizen of the Year Award, and the U.S. President’s Volunteer Action Award.

In 1988, she retired from retail merchandising to work full-time for the Alzheimer’s Association at the organization’s national level. In 2002, USC President Steven Sample appointed Jim and Pat to the Board of Councilors of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

In 2003, after more than 14 years of service with the Alzheimer’s Association, Pat retired from full-time work. A year later, the Plumtrees returned to Boise to begin retired life together, which included travel, opera, Shakespeare and volunteer work.

Pat was preceded in death by her husband, Jim, and is survived by her sister, Pamela Marie Volland R.G.S., a Sister of the Good Shepherd currently ministering in Beijing; sister-in-law, Kathleen Plumtree Henderson; niece, Renee Hugo; and nephew, Craig Henderson.

Jim and Pat Plumtree

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