In May 2016, Timothy Wolf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, became the Program in Occupational Therapy’s first Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) PhD degree graduate. The accomplishment marks a new chapter in Wolf’s rehabilitation science research career which began when he came to Washington University as a clinical doctoral student in occupational therapy in 2003. When the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) program was established a year later, he was a member of its first graduating class. Wolf joined the faculty of the Program in Occupational Therapy in 2007.
Wolf is currently an associate professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri in Columbia. His Performance, Participation and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory is organized to generate knowledge to guide intervention to improve participation and work on community activities post-neurological injury.
“People with neurological injuries have chronic impairments that they carry with them indefinitely. My goal is to help them develop the skills to live their lives,” says Wolf, whose approach is, “Let’s get you back doing what you want to do with what you’ve got as opposed to continued only addressing the deficits from a remediation perspective. Engagement in activity is central to health is shared with Wolf’s RAPS PhD mentor, Carolyn Baum, PhD, OTR, FAOTA.
Wolf returned to the Program’s classroom as a RAPS PhD student in 2011, and credits the courses on environment and measurement as having the greatest impact on his skills and approach to research. “The core courses were very different than those in the clinical doctoral (OTD) program, and gave me firmer understanding of the evolution of how we view participation and how different health care professionals view it.” Since completing the RAPS PhD degree program, Wolf’s approach to forming research questions and pursuing them has changed. “As I develop new protocols, I am now taking a broader look at how we can get people engaged in the community and the environment,” he shares.
Wolf balances his scientific research with a commitment to the profession. A recipient of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s Roster of Fellows Award, Wolf was elected to AOTA's Board of Directors in 2013 and head of AOTA’s volunteer leadership committee in spring 2016. More recently, he has worked with AOTA and colleagues who study cognition to introduce the concepts of functional cognition to the Centers for Medicare – Medicaid Services.
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), Wolf anticipates having his PhD degree will have a positive effect as an investigator and on future funding. “I will be pursuing larger scale grants with greater confidence as I navigate through different mechanisms and review committees. I’m pleased with the trajectory my career is on and what I will be able contribute to the science and literature of occupational therapy.”
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