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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events
News and Events

Mary Foto BS ’66, 82
September 18, 2023

Foto was an alumna of the Class of 1966 and member of the division's Board of Councilors since 1997.


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Headshot photograph of Mary Foto

Mary Foto

It is with great sadness that the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) announces that Mary Foto, OT, FAOTA, CCM, AOTA Past President (1995–1998), passed away last week at her home in Colorado.

Few people have had such a significant impact on the practice and profession of occupational therapy as Mary Foto. For half a century she worked to ensure occupational therapy was considered a key health profession, both nationally and throughout the third-party payor industry. Her work led to the inclusion of occupational therapy as an essential service with Medicare and Medicaid, and her tireless advocacy led to the inclusion of occupational therapy reimbursement codes in the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)® Manual, an essential inclusion for payment of health care services.

Mary was an exceptional leader in occupational therapy and devoted leader to AOTA. For nearly thirty years, before and after her presidency, she became the face of the profession in the American Medical Association’s committees on defining and valuing the codes of the CPT® system. She worked on the first delegation of non-physician providers to the AMA process in the early 1990’s. She argued for and gained establishment of critical codes such as the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) code and the Therapeutic Activities code, which established the unique use of the process of occupational therapy.

Mary’s work and dedication established the principle that occupational therapy was not only achieving a goal around ADLs, but that ADLs were also the treatment. This key principle was highlighted in the revision to create three new occupational therapy evaluation codes in 2017. She was the chief architect of that groundbreaking description of the occupational therapy process; she thoughtfully and powerfully increased the recognition and comprehension of occupational therapy among the physicians in the AMA community, as well as payers of health care services nation-wide.

Her contributions to AOTA included holding many positions on work groups and committees, becoming a Fellow, as well as supporting many staff over the decades in their work to ensure a solid place for occupational therapy in federal and state policy. During her presidency she wrote many articles and speeches that reflected the health system challenges of the 1990s, examining emerging issues such as entrepreneurship, specialization, outcome studies, managed care, and technology. Mary was educated at the University of Southern California in occupational therapy. Two of her heroes were Wilma West and Elizabeth Yerxa for their emphasis on the human spirit, the primacy of the patient and effectiveness.

Read the full obituary from the American Occupational Therapy Association.