Odochi Nwabara, OTD/S '15
Clinical Research Track: Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory
Why did you choose WUOT for your occupational therapy education?
I chose WUOT for my occupational therapy education due to the vast amount of opportunities that this institution has to offer – from volunteering to research opportunities. WUOT provides its students with creativity, innovation and evidence-based practice. With this, I felt that WUOT would offer me the best opportunity to become the most efficient and well-rounded occupational therapist that I can be.
Why did you choose the clinical research track option for your degree?
I chose the Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory to develop a better understanding of prematurity and early development. My involvement in this research track will help me develop a wider lens in this area of practice, which I can apply to my coursework and my future career.
Briefly describe the research lab you chose.
The NICU laboratory is part of a group of researchers called the Washington University Newborn and Developmental Research group. The team conducts research at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (Northwest Towers). The studies conducted involve the premature infant population hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The researchers investigate factors that can affect outcome, such as medical conditions, medical and therapy interventions, and the environment. They also study neurobehavioral outcomes and developmental outcomes among this vulnerable population.
What project/s are you involved with in your lab?
The project that I am involved in is investigating the associations between early therapy services and two-year developmental outcomes in preterm infants after discharge.
How does the clinical research experience contribute (beyond the rest of the set curriculum) to your overall skill and preparation as a generalist practitioner?
My research experience allows me to delve further into in a scope of OT practice that I am very interested in gaining deeper knowledge about. This experience will allow me to develop a strong foundation for the population (0 to 3 years old) that I plan to work with when I become an occupational therapist.
What kind of guidance is provided by your faculty mentor?
My mentor and I talked about NICU and related areas that I was interested in. From the beginning, I was very interested in early intervention. With this interest, my mentor, Dr. Bobbi Pineda, guided and helped me develop my research project related to early intervention. Over the past two years, she also has guided me with making important decisions, such as presenting at conferences and choosing fieldwork sites. Throughout the semesters, her guidance and advice has allowed me to grow as a student, a researcher and as a future occupational therapist.
How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in clinical research?
I would describe my research experience as a one-of-a–kind experience. In the research lab, there is the opportunity to be educated on topics related to preterm infants, NICU, terminology, NICU interventions and neurobehavioral assessments. Also, in this lab, there are opportunities to engage in hand-on experiences, such as contributing and participating in the on-going cohort studies.
How will this clinical research experience contribute to your career?
All the knowledge and experiences from this lab will help shape me into a successful occupational therapist. I can take everything that I learned and apply it into my career- whether it is from planning an intervention or using evidence-based practices.
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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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