Tim Wolf, PhD Student

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Timothy J. Wolf, OTD, MSCI, OTR/L

PhD Student, Rehabilitation and Participation Science

Timothy Wolf, OTD, MSCI, OTR/L, epitomizes the spirit of kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous quality improvement. An assistant professor of occupational therapy and neurology at Washington University, Wolf currently heads the Program in Occupational Therapy’s Performance, Participation and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory. He also holds both a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) and a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI).

Last year, despite busy research and teaching schedules, Wolf decided to return to the classroom again as a student, this time to pursue a PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science. “I already was active in a research career; however, all of my training to date has been as a clinical investigator,” Wolf says. “While I don’t want to lose that focus, I did want to further develop my research skills and strengthen the theoretical base of my research. The PhD program is providing me with an opportunity to do that.”

Wolf, who grew up in central Illinois and the St. Louis area, came to Washington University specifically to pursue his doctorate in occupational therapy. When the MSCI program was established a year later, he was a member of its first graduating class. He joined the faculty of the Program in Occupational Therapy in 2007. His inquisitive mind is apparent in his laboratory, where he investigates the impact of mild neurological injury and how it relates to a person’s ability to return and participate in work or everyday life activities.

He takes particular interest in participation and engagement and says he was drawn to the field of occupational therapy following a major accident in his teens. “I had a hand injury when I was 14 and I accidentally cut off two of my fingers,” he recalls. “After they were reattached, a lot of healthcare professionals told me all the things I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. The occupational therapist was the only one who told me what I could do. She advocated on my behalf and worked with me until I regained almost the full use of my hand. I realized then that this was what I wanted to do.”

Wolf already was actively engaged in academics at Washington University when the Program in Occupational Therapy established the doctoral program in Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) in 2012. “Washington University is one of the top institutions in the world that is looking at participation,” he says. “The PhD courses have been challenging, in a good way. They push me to think critically about what I previously knew and/or believed, which better informs my research.”

In addition to core curriculum within the RAPS program, Wolf has taken elective courses related to healthcare policy, research design, statistics, and cognitive theory. He says it all enhances his skills and his methodical approach to research. He is the recipient of multiple grants related to participation and neurorehabilitation studies, including from the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Medical Rehabilitation and Research) and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

He is as passionate about his profession as he is in his specific research interests. A multiple recipient of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s Service Commendation Award, Wolf was elected a Director of the Board of Directors of the AOTA in 2013.

“With the Program in Occupational Therapy being situated in an academic medical research center, we have access to a wealth of resources that are instrumental to starting a research career,” Wolf says.


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