In the early 1900s, a number of institutions were using productive activities and daily living tasks as a very effective form of treatment for a variety of mental health problems. The involvement of the United States in World War I and the subsequent demand for workers to aid in the rehabilitation of soldiers physically or mentally disabled by the rigors of the battlefield spurred the founding of schools to train women in the skills and perspective of a new profession, occupational therapy.
The Program in Occupational Therapy was established in 1918 as the St. Louis Training School for Reconstruction Aides at the suggestion of G. Canby Robinson, MD, Dean of Washington University School of Medicine, and with the support of the Junior League of St. Louis.
The school was located in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, a building erected to house the British Museum during the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, located on the main campus of Washington University. The first class began on December 2, 1918 with Miss Alice H. Dean as Director. It was the first training center of its kind west of the Mississippi River. On December 14, 1918, the name was changed to the St. Louis School of Occupational Therapy.
In 1929, Washington University School of Medicine purchased the building located at 4567 Scott Avenue, and the St. Louis School of Occupational Therapy moved from the basement of the North Building of the School of Medicine to the second floor of the Scott Avenue Building.
During the 1930s the school was renamed the St. Louis School of Occupational and Recreational Therapy and began offering a three-year program leading to a diploma in occupational therapy and a four-year course leading to a Bachelor of Science in Education, awarded by Washington University in St. Louis. In 1938 Mrs. Elias Michael passed away and her bequest established the Elias Michael Director position for the Program of Occupational Therapy in the School of Medicine at Washington University.
In November 1945, the administration of the school was officially taken over by Washington University and in February 1946, the Department of Occupational Therapy was established in the Division of Auxiliary Medical Services of Washington University School of Medicine. A bachelor’s degree was required at that time for students to become qualified occupational therapists.
Occupational Therapy increases its involvement in work-related activity. In the 1960’s, the field made significant progress in rehabilitation interventions. The Program added prosthetics training, splint construction, daily living activities and treatment of persons with neurological and spinal cord disability to the curriculum.
The graduate program was developed in 1977 to provide advanced training in practice and research. A research-oriented faculty was recruited to further the quest for new knowledge within the profession. Treatment interventions were initiated in the area of pediatric occupational therapy.
Elias Michael Director Dr. Jerry Johnson established a post-professional graduate program. In addition, the 3-2 program was initiated with liberal arts colleges and universities. In 1987, the Program became an organized activity of the Medical School reporting to the Dean of Medicine. In 1988, Carolyn Baum became Elias Michael Executive Director.
1990s – 2000s
The program saw a shift to scientific, evidence-based research. Interdisciplinary collaborations became increasingly important in program development. The Program’s science evolved to offer three areas of graduate study: developmental neuroscience, work performance and occupational competence, and aging and performance. The Program admitted its last baccalaureate class in 1995, and the entry level program became a professional graduate school program awarding the degree of MSOT. An OTD program was added, and in 2011, a PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) was offered. The RAPS is an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare students to be productive in rehabilitation research and to pursue a career in academia. The program offers training to investigators who want to contribute knowledge in one of three core content areas: Neurorehabilitation, Performance, and Community Participation.
- Occupational Therapy in St. Louis
- Historical Facts about Washington University in St. Louis
- List of Past Directors: Alice Dean, 1918-1922; Geraldine Lermit, 1922-1945; Dorothy Flint, 1945-1947; Sue Hurt, 1947-1949; Erna Rozmarynowski Simek, 1949-1956; Martha Matthews, 1956-1975; Ellen Twining (Acting Director), 1975-1976, 1982-1983, 1987-1988; Jerry Johnson, 1976-1982, and AOTA President 1973-1978; Mary Ann Boyle, 1983-1987; Carolyn Baum, 1988-Present, and two-time AOTA Past-President, 1981-82, 2003-2007, and past-president of NBCOT 1986-1992).