Clinical Research Track Experiences: Tess Greene, OTD/S ‘15

Tess Greene, OTD/S ‘15
Clinical Research Track: Cognitive and Occupational Performance Laboratory

Why did you choose WUOT for your occupational therapy education?

I knew that I wanted to study occupational therapy by the end of college but I was unsure of which niche would best fit my strengths, interests, and personality.  When researching schools, WUOT stood out to me for its strong academics, emphasis on research, and wide variety of learning opportunities through the program and greater Washington University community.  I also was appreciative of the value that WUOT places on “real-world experience,” accepting students from many different backgrounds and past occupations. 

Why did you choose the clinical research track option for your degree?
I chose the clinical research track option for my degree because it offered a wide variety of research-related learning opportunities. I knew that I wanted to gain as much knowledge and hands-on experience possible in my three years at Washington University. Since starting the program, I have been involved in every step of the research process from study conception, design, recruitment, intervention, and data analysis.

Briefly describe the research lab you chose.

I chose to work in Dr. Foster’s Cognitive and Occupational Performance Laboratory. The lab primarily focuses on the everyday performance problems experienced by adults with Parkinson’s disease. There were a number of interesting studies going on when I joined including comparing brain images to work experience and examining how cognitive testing translates to occupational performance in adults with Parkinson’s disease. The lab is situated adjacent to the Movement Disorder Center at Barnes-Jewish HealthCare (BJC) so we have numerous opportunities to work alongside specialists and patients alike. The lab also has a great partnership with the St. Louis Chapter of American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA). As a whole, the lab is very well-connected and close-knit. 

What project/s are you involved with in your lab?

I helped to develop a study examining the effect of a generic self-management program on adults with Parkinson’s disease. We are investigating how the program affects self-efficacy, health outcomes, and participation in the short- and long-term. There is also a qualitative component exploring ways the program could be improved to better fit the needs of adults with Parkinson’s disease.

How does the clinical research experience contribute (beyond the rest of the set curriculum) to your overall skill and preparation as a generalist practitioner?

The research experience has taken my learning to the next level by challenging me to apply the skills learned in the classroom to the clinical world.  Also, it helps me to better understand the studies that we read in classes and will consult as future practitioners.   

What kind of guidance is provided by your faculty mentor?

Dr. Foster is always willing help her students. During the first semester in the lab, she guides students through a “journal club” exploring the current Parkinson’s disease and occupational therapy literature. After laying the foundation, she collaborates with students to determine the best project based on personal interests and lab opportunities. Throughout the rest of the program, Dr. Foster provides as much guidance as needed to meet individual and lab goals.  

How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in clinical research?

I would most definitely recommend incorporating research into your experience at WUOT, as it is a unique complement to what is taught in the classroom. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to begin working with clients from my very first year, even if it was in a research context. Not only did it increase my proficiency for interviewing clients, but it also allowed me to practice my therapeutic use of self and conversational skills. Of course, research also means sitting at a computer and doing data entry for long periods of time!

How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in clinical research?

I would say that I was incredibly lucky to have joined the lab that I did. It was the perfect challenge for me but was not so intensive that it interfered with other schoolwork and extracurricular activities. The level of mentorship was ideal for my learning style as well. I had deadlines and expectations, but they were fair and held me accountable. Perhaps best of all, I was able to work directly with adults with Parkinson’s disease and really grew to understand many of their occupational performance issues. .

How will this clinical research experience contribute to your career?

The clinical research experience has taught me a new systematic way of thinking. Because of the experience, I now analyze problems differently and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions through an OT lens. These tools will carry over into practice wherever I end up. Additionally, I would consider going into research later in my career.  

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