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 aboard 2017 Rose Parade float

, in General News, Student News, Alumni News

Occupational Therapy Association of California float commemorates 100-year anniversary of profession’s founding

Float rendering courtesy of the Occupational Therapy Association of California/Fiesta Floats

Float rendering courtesy of the Occupational Therapy Association of California/Fiesta Floats

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.

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.”

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.”

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!

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.

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