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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Aug 26, 2016, 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!