Inaugural Community Partners Appreciation Event

The Program in Occupational Therapy held its inaugural Community Partners Appreciation Event on October 4. Organized by the Program’s Community Engagement Council, the event brought together and recognized organizations that provide research, educational and clinical experiences to our students. The program included networking, a presentation on ways we partner with the community and awards to three organizations that have developed and sustained a collaborative relationship with us: CHAMP Assistance Dogs, St. Louis Area Agency on Aging and the St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Since 2014, CHAMP Assistance Dogs has provided OT students with the opportunity to observe animal assisted therapy (AAT) in a wide variety of health-care settings including hospitals, rehabilitation and hospice centers, long-term care facilities, and schools. CHAMP leaders and trainers help educate students by lecturing in our assistive technology course, providing rich fieldwork and doctoral experiences, and collaborating on their clinical research projects. They were nominated by Regina Abel, PhD, a long-time CHAMP volunteer who mentors students interested in AAT.

The St. Louis Area Agency on Aging (SLAAA) collaborates and promotes community-based research, education initiatives and community programs to older adults in our area. SLAAA provides real-world opportunities for OT students to learn in context by helping seniors overcome the barriers to remaining independent and aging successfully in their homes. SLAAA has assisted nominator Susy Stark, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, and her laboratory in developing in-home occupational assessments, conducting efficacy studies of the impact of home modifications to increase independence and safety, and pilot testing a home hazard removal program. This valuable relationship allows us to gather new insights into the needs of older adults living in the St. Louis community.

The St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SLSBVI) provides a comprehensive range of services and supports at little or no cost to children, adults and older adults with low vision or blindness. During the past 15 years, SLSBVI administration, staff and participants have worked closely with nominator Monica Perlmutter, OTD, OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA, to develop the Living Life with Low Vision self-management program. With Perlmutter’s supervision, students help deliver this program to participants at SLSBVI’s facilities. SLSBVI is also a valuable community resource for our Community Practice clinicians to refer clients who need low-vision optometry, orientation and mobility training, support groups, classes and other services.

Pat Nellis, OTD, OTR/L, director of clinical operations, is the chair of the Community Engagement Council and served as emcee for the event. “Whether it’s working to educate students, gain new knowledge through research or deliver much needed care to those in our community, we as a Program recognize how positive relationships build stronger communities. We would not be able to achieve what we do without our partners,” Nellis says. “This Community Partners Appreciation Event is just one way we choose to honor those relationships and all the effort it takes to build a stronger region.”

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