Educational partnership with Harris-Stowe State University provides opportunities for cultural diversity

The Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St. Louis, one of the top occupational therapy programs in the nation, has established a partnership with Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU), an institution strongly committed to providing a quality higher education experience that is both affordable and accessible to the diverse populations within and beyond the metropolitan St. Louis region.

The partnership creates a Cooperative Degree-Conferring Program of Study, which allows students to earn a dual undergraduate and graduate degree by attending both institutions. Students enrolled in this program can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree from HSSU in three years, then continue their education at Washington University School of Medicine, where they can earn a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in two years or a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy in three years. The partnership with HSSU represents the commitment WUSM has made to building a culturally diverse community of faculty, students and staff and to maintaining a supportive, welcoming atmosphere.

In May 2015, HSSU announced that they would soon offer a master’s degree program. This prompted recruitment specialist Kathy Kniepmann, OTD, MPH, EdM, OTR/L, assistant professor of occupational therapy and of neurology in the Program in Occupational Therapy, to begin a dialogue with HSSU. Leadership from both institutions met in June and agreed that a partnership would be mutually beneficial and provide a national model in the discipline.  

“The Washington University/Harris-Stowe State University partnership presents excellent opportunities for both institutions to advance the occupational therapy profession. I am gratified that this partnership has been established,” said Dwyane Smith, PhD, provost and vice president for academic affairs at HSSU.

The Program in Occupational Therapy is dedicated to helping the occupational therapy profession and its future leaders become more culturally diverse by actively recruiting individuals who come from rural or inner-city areas and individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in the health care professions.

“The health care professions need to be educating a diverse workforce across many sectors — including public health, academia, community agencies and health care organizations,” said Carolyn M. Baum, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Elias Michael Executive Director of the Program in Occupational Therapy and professor of occupational therapy, of neurology and of social work. “In order to improve population health for all individuals in the future, we need a diverse and talented group of students to enter the field of occupational therapy now.”

The agreement was signed at HSSU on January 15. Baum represented the Program in Occupational Therapy; Smith and Dr. Lateef Adelani, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics represented Harris-Stowe State University. Also in attendance from Washington University School of Medicine were: David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean; Alison J. Whelan, MD, senior associate dean for education; Will R. Ross, MD, MPH, associate dean for diversity and professor of medicine; Steven D. Taff, PhD, OTR/L, associate director of professional education and academic affairs and assistant professor of occupational therapy; and Kniepmann.

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