For more than 45 years, Kit Sinclair, OT ‘67, PhD, OTR, FWOT, FAOTA, has lived and worked throughout Asia, first as a Peace Corps volunteer and then as a practicing occupational therapist, educator and global advocate for the expansion of occupational therapy programs and services.
“I served in Korea in the Peace Corps for two years,” Sinclair says. “After six months working in public health in the countryside, I realized I was one of only two occupational therapists in the country.”
She moved to Seoul and began working with orphaned children with multiple disabilities. “Those were very interesting times in a country of all night curfews and skirmishes along the DMZ with North Korea,” she recalls. Early on, she pushed to expand the education and use of occupational therapists in Asia, becoming herself one of the founding occupational therapy faculty at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1978. From a pool of only 25 practicing occupational therapists in the country at the time, today Sinclair says there are more than 1,300 local occupational therapists, most of whom have been her former students.
“Occupational therapy practice differs from the U.S. in many ways here,” she says. “The most obvious is the hospital based nature of most services and thus dominance of a medical model, though this emphasis is now changing.”
Her advocacy efforts led to her active role in the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). She served as the organization’s treasurer for a decade before becoming President from 2002 to 2008. The global position enabled her to foster the development of occupational therapy programs and services in South America, Africa, and Asia. After a major tsunami struck the Indian Ocean region in 2004, Sinclair headed a project to investigate and promote the role of occupational therapists in post-disaster recoveries. That effort continues today. In the past 20 years, her passion has focused on advancing occupational therapy in the People’s Republic of China. Clearly embracing the growing use of the Internet, Sinclair has developed and taught numerous online and in-person occupational therapy courses to enhance what she calls “occupation-based, client-centered occupational therapy” at the university level.
She championed the translation of the WFOT Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists into Chinese for use in all rehabilitation programs, although she freely laughs that even as she teaches others, “my Mandarin has not overly improved,” but that she has devoted translators. “Even after all these years, I very much appreciate that my career started with the Program in Occupational Therapy. I have been fortunate that I have been allowed to develop and use the knowledge, skills and attitudes I learned there throughout my life.”
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