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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A dog among doctors: Health center’s newest staffer is man’s best friend

, in General News, Student News

Meet Professor Beauregard Tirebiter, the first full-time university facility dog in the country: He’s got office hours and everything

By Joanna Clay/USC News

USC recently added a new staff member. And you could easily say he’s the furriest.

Professor Beauregard Tirebiter — dubbed “Beau” for short — is a 2-year-old black Goldendoodle. He makes USC the first and only university in the United States with a full-time facility dog on staff, according to the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion at the USC Engemann Student Health Center.

A facility dog is similar to a therapy dog, but rather than being trained to work periodically with individuals, he’s trained to work with a multitude of people on a regular basis in a facility such as a hospital, school or nursing home.

Beau earned his credential after extensive training with the Canine Angels Service Teams in Oregon. At USC he’ll be called a “wellness dog” and he takes residence on the second floor at Engemann, where paw print signs lead students to his location.

He has office hours and business cards, but he has trouble handing out the latter.

A couple of years ago, the Trojan League of Los Angeles, an alumni group, donated funds toward student wellness. After some deliberation by Engemann officials, Beau seemed like the right choice.

“We had such a positive reception from students from the visiting therapy dogs and also looking at the literature and specifically the benefits of human-canine interaction,” said Amanda Vanni, his handler and a health promotion specialist at the center.


Beau Tirebiter

Professor Beauregard Tirebiter (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Calm and well-being

Research suggests that positive interactions with dogs can create a sense of calm and well-being, according to Olga Solomon, an assistant professor at the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Petting a therapy dog, for example, can increase serotonin, beta-endorphin and oxytocin – chemicals and hormones that make people happy – and decrease cortisol, a stress hormone.

Cate Dorr OTD ‘16, who researched facility dogs while studying for her doctorate in occupational therapy at USC, said the dog can also remove a barrier for students with qualms about accessing resources at the center.

“I think this is probably an area that is continuing to be pioneered, and it’s great USC is taking the lead,” Dorr said.

Beau has been on campus for a couple weeks now, so he’s used to visitors.

On a recent Thursday, Madeleine Fox, 19, got down on the floor to hang out with Beau, then stuck around to do some schoolwork.

“I really miss my dog from home, so it’s the best,” said Fox, a second-year student. “Dogs are the epitome of good and that just rubs off on us and makes us happier.”

Beau showed off a bit, shaking paws with onlookers.

“It’s great,” said freshman Jerome Ching. “I’ve just grown up around dogs my whole life.”

Canine and community

Paula Lee Swinford, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion, said Beau will help create a sense of community at USC.

“We wanted to do something that would change our culture,” she said. “What Beau brings is a consistent relationship for students. … He will remember them.”

Vanni, who takes Beau home with her every day, will be training him to get comfortable all over campus. She’s also teaching him some tricks.

“I’m teaching him how to do a ‘Fight on’ right now,” she said. “Obviously he can’t split his paw, but we’re working on a paw out in the air.”

2016 White Coat Ceremony Infographic

, in Student News

On August 26, 233 talented Trojan occupational therapy students begin or renew their commitment to the values and ideals of our noble profession as they enter (or re-enter) academia during our 2016 White Coat Ceremony. Here is a quick look at these stellar Trojans! Fight On!

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.

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.

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