The Program in Occupational Therapy was established in 1918 in response to a need for the rehabilitation of World War I soldiers physically or mentally disabled by the rigors of the battlefield. Matt Dodson, OTD ’06, continues the work on which the Program was founded by focusing his practice on the occupational therapy needs of service members and veterans today.
Dodson has held four jobs since graduating in 2006. He was a staff therapist at a residential severe brain injury center in Texas before spending two years in the Program in Occupational Therapy’s community practice at the Occupational Performance Center and doing in-home evaluations of veterans. In 2009, he accepted a position at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to start outpatient Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) programming for the occupational therapy department there.
“In the four years I was in that position, I ended up starting mild TBI and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) programs at three different military treatment facilities in the Washington, D.C. area as part of my job,” Dodson says. “Recently, I accepted a position as a clinical policy and Knowledge Translation consultant with a D.C. firm, advising the Department of Defense as a Subject Matter Expert on brain injury and PTSD care in the military.”
In his current position, Dodson enjoys figuring out ways to utilize his clinical and program development experience in tackling the “big picture” issues facing the care of active duty and veteran service members. “I now have the opportunity to bring my ‘real world’ experience to the people who make the decisions. It’s a chance for me to make a positive difference on a larger scale, and contribute to the decision-making process in a way that has the best chance of filtering down through various contextual factors to real clinicians working with real clients,” Dodson says.
Looking ahead, Dodson foresees a huge growth opportunity for the field of occupational therapy in regards to the military, especially in addressing the needs of veterans. He credits the advancement of his career to the education, gifted mentorship and networking opportunities he received while attending the Program. “There’s a good chance I wouldn’t even be an occupational therapist without the education I received at Washington University School of Medicine and the preparation of the OTD program, because I wouldn’t have had the support to discover my unique niche of practice,” Dodson reflects. “If you’re committed to being an ‘agent of change’ or carving out a new area of occupational therapy practice, the value of an OTD degree is one of those things that becomes more clear as you gain distance, perspective, and professional experience.”
Working primarily with service members and veterans has left a lasting impact on Dodson and the way he approaches his practice.
“I was moved to tears on a near-weekly basis by the fortitude displayed by my patients, the trauma that permeated their day-to-day lives, and the trust they placed in me to help move them forward in their path to recovery. Likewise, I was consistently inspired by my colleagues and staff, both military and civilian, to ‘bring it’ every single day. I am – and always will be – honored to be an occupational therapist who has had the privilege to serve those who serve.”
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Current, future, and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.
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