Student Profiles

The Program is proud of the accomplishments of our 20 graduates of the OTD for post-professional students degree program. Eight alumni hold faculty positions, five perform a blend of practice and research, four are advanced practitioners, two are rehabilitation managers and one is completing a postdoctoral fellowship.


Mary Hildebrand, OTD ’07

Before coming to Washington University School of Medicine, Mary Hildebrand earned a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University in Houston. “I was a school-based occupational therapist for ten years in New Mexico. While there, I became interested in pursuing my clinical doctorate in occupational therapy to enhance my knowledge and skills in health promotion with children and adults with chronic conditions,” Hildebrand says.

She chose the Program in Occupational Therapy because of its strong reputation, excellent faculty and the opportunity to pursue research in health promotion with experts in the field. “The clinical doctorate degree helped launch my academic career. Currently, I am an associate professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the MGH Institute of Health Professionals in Boston, Mass. In addition to teaching, I have worked on grants and research projects to enhance the self-management of persons who have had a stroke, prevent depression in older adults after a disabling event, and help farmers with injuries or chronic conditions continue to work on their farms,” she says.

Monica Perlmutter, OTD ’12, OTR/L, SCLV

Monica Perlmutter chose to pursue the OTD degree to achieve greater independence in her research efforts and mentoring of students, and to gain further depth of knowledge and experience with older adults, low vision, community-based practice and measurement development. “The clinical doctorate degree further qualified me for other teaching roles, and I also enjoyed being in school and loved the sense of personal accomplishment! I learned so much and grew during the process – even at my 50-something age!” Perlmutter says.

A long-time faculty member of the Program in Occupational Therapy, Perlmutter’s career goals included teaching and mentoring master’s and doctoral students, expanding research efforts and becoming more involved on the national level regarding issues related to low vision practice. “I’m working toward this by serving on the committee that is revamping AOTA’s specialty certification process,” she says.

Juan Pablo Saa, OTD ’16

Juan Pablo Saa earned his professional degree in occupational therapy at the University of Chile before attending Washington University School of Medicine. “During my last two years in Chile, I completed 600 hours of clinical work, taught private lessons and learned English to become more fluent,” Saa says. “I chose the Program in Occupational Therapy for my clinical doctorate degree because it is one of the top occupational therapy programs in the U.S. The field of occupational therapy began in this country and the Program excels at educating occupational therapy leaders, researchers and clinicians.”

Saa plans to practice in the U.S. at a facility where being bilingual will be an asset. “I would like to continue my research work in cognition after stroke. After gaining work experience, I would like to pursue a PhD, become a postdoctoral scholar or return to Chile to help other occupational therapists there continue to develop the profession,” he says. “Long term, I would like to combine my interest in public health and occupational therapy in a way that impacts national, or even international policy-making efforts, so that people who are in need of better rehabilitation services can access them more easily.”

Divya Sood, OTD ’07

After completing a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Manipal University in India, Divya Sood worked as an occupational therapy practitioner in a special school for children with disabilities for two years. “I was looking for an OTD program that could prepare me to be an evidence-based practitioner, enhance my knowledge and skills related to clinical research and prepare me to be an effective clinician,” Sood says. “The Program in Occupational Therapy offered a perfect blend of research, practice and education so that the students learn to be innovators in the field of occupational therapy.”

Sood is an assistant professor and coordinator of research at Governors State University in Illinois, and teaches in both the Master of Occupational Therapy and Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs. “My research focuses on developing intervention models to enhance the quality of life of families of children with disabilities using the collaborative coaching approach,’ she adds. Click here to read full article on Sood.

Claire Yang, OTD ’07

Claire Yang graduated from National Taiwan University with a bachelor’s of science in occupational therapy. She then started working as a full time occupational therapist at the Center of Assistive Technology in National Taiwan University Hospital. “I chose the Program in Occupational Therapy for my clinical doctorate degree because of its top notch research teams, faculty members and curriculum,” Yang says. “I am using my OTD degree for conducting research related to environmental impact on participation in home, work and community settings. The degree makes me feel competent in my research skills and knowledge needed at my job.”

Chaya Zingerevich, OTD ‘07

Chaya Zingerevich earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the Hebrew University in Israel. “I owned a pediatric private practice, where I managed a team of seven occupational therapists, provided occupational therapy services, and consulted for families and teachers. In addition, I taught a couple courses to teachers at a local college,” Zingerevich says. “I chose the Program in Occupational Therapy because of its reputation as a one of the best occupational therapy programs in the U.S. The OTD degree has enabled me to conduct more research and better manage occupational therapy departments.”

Current Students

Duana Russell-Thomas, OTD/S ’16, MSOT, OTR/L

A clinical specialist in the Program in Occupational Therapy’s Community Practice, Duana Russell-Thomas interacts with doctoral level occupational therapists, both academically and clinically. “I noticed a distinct difference in their engagement of evidence and their capacity to create new models of care. As I started to explore emerging areas of community occupational therapy, I sensed there was more knowledge that I needed that could not be fulfilled through continuing education and experience alone. I feel the clinical doctorate degree will assist in bridging the gap,” Russell-Thomas says.

Her ultimate goal is to increase occupational therapy community leadership roles and presence in local and national settings as it relates to public health and health disparities. “With the knowledge gained so far in this program, I am well on my way,” she says.

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