Global Perspectives: OT Students Study Rehabilitation in Israel

This year, Associate Professors Yael Goverover and Gerry Voelbel from NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy traveled to Israel with students to participate in a course entitled “Disability in a Global Context.”

Taking place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and surrounding communities, the class focused on the services available to individuals with disabilities living in Israel through an exploration of local schools, hospitals, markets, museums, and other spaces.

By incorporating this international study into their coursework, students had the opportunity to compare and contrast the rehabilitation programs available to children and adults with disabilities in Israel with those offered in the United States.

Professors standing in the desert with arms outstretched.
Professors Goverover and Voelbel, who taught Disability in a Global Context during the 2019 January Intersession.

In particular, the course investigated the impact of Israel’s unique cultural, political, and historical context in shaping the rehabilitation services offered throughout the country.

The course also enabled students to interact first-hand with state-of-the-art occupational therapy technology available in Israel. At Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, students experienced the intersection of virtual reality and rehabilitative therapy and learned how computerized technology, sensors, and video analysis can help speed patient recovery.

A student on a treadmill in front of a TV screen.
A student trying a virtual reality therapy technique available at The Virtual Reality Training Facility at Sheba Medical Center..

Between lectures, hands-on field visits, and interviews, students also had time to partake in quintessential Israeli activities, such as swimming in the Dead Sea, hiking in the Negev Desert, and tasting local cuisine.

Throughout these experiences, students benefited from Professor Goverover’s nuanced knowledge of Israeli culture and customs as a native of the country.

A group photo of the class standing in the sea.
The class swimming in the Dead Sea and enjoying the area’s mineral-rich mud.

Next year, students will have the opportunity to study with OT faculty in London and Shanghai as well — check out NYU Steinhardt Global Affairs for future application dates.

Class Notes Spring 2019

Emily L. Amaral (MS ’15) is a registered adaptive riding instructor now — and also provides OT integrating hippotherapy into patients’ plans of care while aspiring towards HPCS certification.

Connie Charney (MA ’80) is the Founder of Food for Thoughts Cards, greeting cards that give back and feed the hungry. While commuting to NYU when she was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of OT for twelve years, Connie packed PB&J’s to give to the homeless. She’s taken that sandwich-giving up a notch through Food for Thoughts Cards. 40,000 PB&J sandwiches have been donated to feed individuals in need.

Rhoda Scherer Cohen (BS ’49, MA ’76) is 91 years old and has been a working OT for 70 years and a patient with degenerative polyneuropathy for almost 5 years. She recently published an article in AOTA’s April 2019 OT Practice Magazine on helping clients transition to living with a disability.

Diane Powers-Foltz Dirette (MA ’93, PhD ’97) and Sharon Gutman (PhD ’98) are the new editors of the textbook Occupational Therapy for Physical Dysfunction, 8th Edition. This essential OT textbook was formerly edited by Radomski and Trombly. The new edition will be available soon!    

Mary V. Donohue (MA ’73, PhD ’85) has published an art book on the work of her second cousin, Marion Greenwood, in which the artist depicts occupational therapy activities for men returning for rehabilitation at the end of World War II. Ms. Greenwood was hired by the United States Army to record this historical intervention for wounded veterans carried out at a hospital on the beach in Atlantic City, NJ. Dr. Donohue has contributed a copy of the book to the Occupational Therapy Departmental Library.

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Griffin Lannigan (PhD ’04) is the co-author of AOTA’s 2019 Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness. Liz is currently the chair of the AOTA Mental Health Special Interest Section. Currently, Liz is adjunct faculty at the University of New Hampshire.

Carolyn Russo-Azer (MA ’85) has worked the past 34 years in Pediatrics/Early Intervention and is currently the Director for Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey’s Early Intervention Program.

Anna Sampsonidis (MA ’89) has lived in Greece since 1993. She is Head of the Occupational Therapy Department of Metropolitan College in Thessaloniki, Greece. Anna is co-owner of two pediatric therapy centers and the organizer of a certification program in Sensory Integration in collaboration with the University of Southern California. A leading expert in pediatric practice in Greece, she teaches and presents within the country as well as Cyprus and other European countries.  

Anne Scott (BS ’69, MS ’82, PhD ’95) has spent 50 years in OT and going strong. She recently presented a paper at the NYSOTA Conference (11/2018) based on the chapter “Narrative Reasoning in Disability-Themed Films.” This was co-authored with her husband, Richard, and published in Global Perspectives in Professional Reasoning (Creek, J. & Cole, M., 2016, Slack).

Chaya Weinstein (MA ’92, PhD ’98) now has an NYC-based private practice in therapeutic coaching after 30 years as a proud occupational therapist working in the mental health field. She assists people with stress, anxiety, or mental health issues and is happy to speak with you or someone you know who might benefit from her services. She can be reached at ecweinstein@gmail.com or 646-902-5098.

Sheila Wilson (MA ’94) is working as a supervisor at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia PA. She completed her OTD in 2016 from AT Still University in AZ and was recently elected as the state representative to the AOTA Representative Assembly for Pennsylvania.

Diana Chen Wong (BS ’90) is currently a Senior Director of Rehab at ManorCare in NJ. She recently completed her OTD from Thomas Jefferson University in January 2019, with her Doctoral Capstone on implementing evidence-based research in practice for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and neurocognitive disorders. She continues to be on the adjunct faculty at NYU and for the OTA program at Rutgers University. She also is in private practice as a Certified Life Coach.

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Janet Njelesani Awarded National Academy of Education Spencer Fellowship

Photo of Janet Njelesani.

Janet Njelesani, an assistant professor of occupational therapy in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, was awarded a $70,000 grant from the National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the phenomenon of school violence in Lusaka, Zambia.

Njelesani’s project, “Generating and Preventing Violence: Schools’ Responses to School Violence Against Students with Disabilities in Zambia,” is investigating how social, cultural, and institutional practices influence inclusion, protection, and education for children with disabilities in Lusaka.

“Although some one million children are living with disabilities in Zambia and the country is committed to education for all children, little is known about children with disabilities’ school experiences, including the violence that may be perpetrated against them,” she said.

Alongside local partners like the Ministry of Education in Zambia, Njelesani is conducting interviews with teachers, school leadership, and students with disabilities to explore the relationships between educators’ attitudes and behaviors and their corresponding responses to school violence.

The findings of her project will provide direction for school violence prevention and intervention efforts, with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness of educator support and school protection policies.

Njelesani’s research will expand upon her previous pilot projects exploring violence against children with disabilities in Zambia — click here to read more about her work in the region.

Yael Goverover Inducted into the AOTF Academy of Research

The NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy is pleased to announce that Associate Professor Yael Goverover was inducted into the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Academy of Research.

The honor, which is the highest conferred by the AOTF, recognizes individuals who have made significant research contributions to the occupational therapy profession. The 2019 class of inductees was recently honored at the American Occupational Therapy Association conference held in New Orleans.

Dr. Goverover joins the ranks of an elite group of scientists and scholars advancing knowledge in the field of occupational therapy. Her scholarship is based upon the need for research studies in occupational therapy that help improve the lives of individuals with functional multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injuries, with a particular focus on enabling these individuals to perform everyday activities.

“I hope that my work (and others’) will improve the lives of persons with cognitive impairments,” she said. “I hope that the research we do will alleviate cognitive impairments and facilitate the transfer and generalization of treatment gains into their daily lives.”

Congratulations to Yael Goverover — click here to read more about her contributions to the field.

Third Annual Jim Hinojosa Distinguished Alumni Award Winner Announced

Photo of Gary Bedell.

We are pleased to announce the recipient of the third annual Jim Hinojosa Alumni Award, Dr. Gary Bedell. The award, named in honor of the late Dr. Jim Hinojosa’s immense impact on the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy and the entire OT field, recognizes outstanding NYU OT alumni making significant contributions to the profession.

Dr. Bedell is a two-time alumnus of the department, having earned his post-professional master’s degree at NYU in 1986 and his PhD in 1998. He is currently chair of Tufts University’s Department of Occupational Therapy and has dedicated his career to informing the development of interventions, programs, and policies designed to promote meaningful participation of children and youth with disabilities in real-life contexts.

He has authored or co-authored numerous widely-used tools for measuring and promoting participation, including the Child and Adolescent Scale of Participation (CASP), the Participation and Environment Measure for Children and Youth (PEM-CY), and Social Participation and Navigation (SPAN).

Read on for a Q&A with Dr. Bedell exploring his research, advice for future OTs, and what it was like to work with Dr. Hinojosa.

What inspired you to pursue the occupational therapy profession?

I always knew that I wanted to do something to help other people. I had experienced mental health issues in my high school years, but I was able to overcome them with the support of friends, family, and therapy. I knew I wanted to work with youth with mental health challenges, but I didn’t think that pursuing traditional talk therapy was “me.” Learning from my own experiences, I did some research and discovered the link between OT interventions and mental health. Although my interests ultimately changed as I went on in my field work, one of the nice things about OT is that there are often many available opportunities to explore during your career.

How do you think your education at NYU Steinhardt prepared you to become a leader in the field?

When I was a student, NYU was very pluralistic in terms of research design and purpose — I was able to take many research design courses which served me well in terms of my ability to conduct mixed-methods research in my career. It was emphasized that you have to know how to use the research methods that will best fit your research questions. My experience was also unique because I was an adjunct associate professor at NYU. I was teaching and getting other types of interdisciplinary research and educational opportunities that taught me to be a leader. All of my research and scholarship is interdisciplinary, and I attribute this to the opportunities made available to me at NYU.

You have worked extensively to develop measures and interventions to benefit those with traumatic and other acquired brain injuries. Can you tell us more?

I was awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship at Boston University that focused on children and youth with traumatic and other acquired brain injuries. When I say acquired brain injury, I mean acquired after birth — for example, strokes, brain tumors, seizure disorders, or brain infections. During this period, the international World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) was being developed, so a lot of relevant concepts were being discussed, particularly the concept of participation. Very generally, participation means involvement in life situations.

One of my first projects was to develop a survey to follow up with families on their children and adolescent youth discharged from inpatient rehabilitation. The survey included areas that weren’t necessarily being looked at, like their social environment, physical environment, attitudinal environment, and participation. The survey included measures that could be used on their own, such as the Child and Adolescent Scale of Participation (CASP), that is used with other populations and has been translated into multiple languages for use in many countries worldwide. Often one opportunity leads to another, so subsequently I was asked to participate in the development of additional participation measures (PEM-CY) and an app-based coaching intervention to promote social participation among teenagers with traumatic brain injuries called SPAN.

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment in the field?

My measurement and intervention work have had the most world-wide impact, but I feel like my most significant accomplishment was my outreach work and research related to HIV that I conducted during my time at NYU. The outreach focused on the needs of children and families affected by HIV/AIDS, and the research focused on how people with HIV/AIDS, particularly gay men, managed their daily lives and developed strategies based on the experience of living with their symptoms. There was a lot of stigma at the time and people were afraid to work with people with HIV. A lot of the time this fear comes from not knowing, so I think it’s a significant accomplishment that my work helped to raise awareness.

What was it like to work alongside Jim Hinojosa?

Jim really was my first true mentor in my career — I’m indebted to him. He allowed me to be me, had a great sense of humor, was very generous with his time, and offered me so many opportunities! He asked me to be part of a lot of interdisciplinary research collaborations with other faculty and saw something in me that gave me the confidence to be a part of those teams. He also encouraged me to enroll in NYU’s PhD program, encouraged me to publish early on before my PhD, and helped my research dissemination efforts, which exposed me to other local and national and opportunities.

What advice do you have for OTs beginning their careers?

It will all come together! It is important to be your authentic self and continue to develop knowledge and skills — a lifelong process — and seek out opportunities because it’s usually those opportunities that lead to other opportunities. There are so many options within the OT field. The key is to find a place where you feel valued and supported that does work that is important to you and those you serve.