Future Leader: Haley Kaplan, OTD/S '24

Name: Haley Kaplan, OTD/S ‘24
Hometown: Denver, CO
Undergraduate degree: BA in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan
Leadership: WU-COTAD Community Outreach Co-Chair; Inaugural Graduate Fellow at Washington University Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity; Graduate Research Assistant

What are your meaningful occupations?
Occupations that bring meaning, joy and energy to my day-to-day life include spending time with my friends and family, exercising, cooking, making playlists and Pinterest boards, volunteering, traveling and learning.

What is your definition of OT?
Occupational therapy (OT) is a uniquely valuable health profession. We understand, educate and advocate that daily engagement in meaningful occupations is a human right. Led by knowledge from evidence, research, theory and clinical reasoning, we utilize our OT lens to view the factors and contexts that contribute to overall health, quality of life and well-being for a diverse range of clientele. We are only able to realize the transformative power of occupation when we practice in combination with empathy and client-centeredness. The crux of the uniqueness of OT is that, at our core, when collaborating with our clients, we search for what matters to them rather than what is the matter with them.

Why did you choose the OTD degree?
I decided to pursue the OTD degree because of the additional coursework on leadership, research and advocacy skills and the community engagement opportunities to apply those skills. Through my OTD mentorship with Dr. Connor and fellowship with the WashU Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity, I will have the opportunities to develop the skills and practice to be a reflective changemaker in OT.

What are your career goals?
I want to dedicate my career to focusing on occupational injustice and systemic issues in policy. I aim to start as a registered and licensed occupational therapist in an innovative, cutting-edge neurorehabilitation clinic. Long term, I strive to one day hold a position within the American Occupational Therapy Association Federal Affairs Team. By purposefully beginning in a clinic, I will do my best to understand the everyday challenges people are facing from the people themselves, while showing every day that I care by advocating with and for them.

What WashU experience stands out to you?
My experiences with WU-COTAD have been a meaningful way for me to live out my values. During our annual sticker sale, we raised $765 for Saint Louis Crisis Nursery. It was impactful to organize a visit to a nursery and give a virtual presentation. Learning from WU-COTAD leaders on how to conduct a needs assessment with a strengths-based approach allowed us to collaborate inclusively and begin to build community trust.

Anything else you would like us to know?
Thank you to my family, friends and the OT Program faculty. Last, I want to acknowledge each person in my cohort. I’m grateful to be here with and supporting you all. You are all shaping me into the best occupational therapist I can be. I’m eager to see the joy, excellence and resilience that I know everyone will bring to OT.


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