AOTA Independent Study
By Andrew Waite
One visit led to another. And that sequence could lead to an even brighter future for occupational therapy.
The profession will continue to gain momentum if it can keep drawing students like Liz Edmonds and James Gillette, who visited AOTA headquarters December 15, 2011, as part of an independent study through Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Their visit came about after AOTA’s Chief Public Affairs Officer Christina Metzler guest lectured for a policy course at Thomas Jefferson. Following her talk on health care reform’s implications for occupational therapy, Metzler met Edmonds and Gillette, who expressed interest in learning more about the ins and outs of advocacy, policy, and AOTA as an association.
“Our professor encouraged the sense of responsibility that OT students need to be involved not just in our own curriculum, but to advocate for the profession as a whole,” Edmonds says.
||Photo left: Thomas Jefferson University student Liz Edmonds and Jennifer Bogenrief, AOTA manager of Reimbursement and Regulatory Policy.
So the school worked with AOTA to create an independent study that brought the students to AOTA to meet with some key Federal Affairs staff––including Chuck Willmarth, director of State Affairs and Reimbursement; Ralph Kohl, legislative representative; Jennifer Hitchon, regulatory counsel; Jennifer Bogenrief, manager of Reimbursement and Regulatory Policy; and Marcy Buckner, manager of State Affairs—and to visit legislators on Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of the profession.
AOTA previously coordinated a similar independent study with students from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.
“Independent studies are a way AOTA can capitalize on students’ energy and enthusiasm,” Metzler says. “It’s really a mentoring program to get students into policy.”
While Gillette is not interested in a career in policy, he says he wants to influence it. He someday hopes to open a clinic that incorporates occupational therapy in primary care, working in conjunction with physicians.
|Photo right: AOTA manager of State Affairs Chuck Willmarth and Thomas Jefferson University student James Gillette.
“I would like to provide the evidence to promote policy,” Gillette says. “I think there needs to be a bigger push by us as occupational therapists to make ourselves known and to make ourselves prevalent in the health care community.”
Andrew Waite is the associate editor of OT Practice. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs interested in coordinating their own independent studies with AOTA can contact Federal Affairs at FAD@aota.org.