Message from OS&OT Chair Susan Rappolt

Dr. Susan Rappolt

This year the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is joyfully celebrating the centenary of occupational therapy education at the University of Toronto. We began our festivities with our Centenary Breakfast  on the 100th anniversary of the first morning of classes for the Ward Aides program. Our second event on May 9th is our Thelma Cardwell Lecture that will feature Professor Heidi Cramm’s scholarship on how trauma has shaped occupational therapy practice. Our third celebration will focus on occupational interventions for student mental health this fall. More details to follow!

We are very excited to be launching a second campus for our MScOT program at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)  this September, where we will enroll 40 students in addition to our usual 90 students at the St. George campus. Expanding our enrollment should help to improve access to services, given that the number of occupational therapists per capita in Ontario is lower than everywhere else in Canada except Saskatchewan and the Territories. An unprecedented number of very highly qualified applicants, the expertise and ingenuity of our faculty and staff, and our truly amazing clinical and community partners have made it possible for us to address the increasing demand for occupational therapy services, particularly in Peel (including Mississauga and Brampton), one of the fastest growing regions in Canada. We’ve had tremendous support in planning this new venture from the Faculty of Medicine and UTM, and particularly from our new partners, the Mississauga Academy of Medicine. As the second health profession with an academic program at UTM, we are happy to be sharing space at the beautiful Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Centre with the medical students. Mindful of evidence on the social determinants of health, and the origins of the profession in promoting health, well-being and productivity in the community, we have been enriching our academic and fieldwork courses with a greater focus on preventative services in primary care and in our work with social agencies. We also focusing on how best to support patients’ successful transitions from hospitals back into their families and communities.

Based on feedback from previous students’ experiences of unprecedented professional development through role emerging, role enhancing, private practice and international placement opportunities, our outstanding Fieldwork Team will be expanding our fieldwork offerings in these areas in the coming year. Unfortunately, many of our students who would like to go to one of our excellent international fieldwork placements in low and middle-income countries are unable to finance their travel on their own. We are therefore committing your generous gifts to the OT Alumni Trust to assist these students with their travel expenses to distant fieldwork destinations, so that each of our students will have equitable opportunities to advance their professional development.

On the academic side of the program, our dedicated curriculum leaders have updated the MScOT’s Educational Conceptual Framework. While each of our MScOT courses evolves annually with new research evidence and models of practice, our Professional Curriculum Committee is leading innovations across the curriculum to take advantage of new educational technologies, infuse strategies to promote professional leadership, and build synergies across courses.

Speaking of leadership, I hope you will take the opportunity to read about the outstanding contributions that our Alumni are making across Canada. Please do send in your stories to share on our website and social media, so that others can learn from, and be inspired by, your work. Our profiled Alumni are making real differences in the health and well-being of Canadians, and setting new standards for the profession.