September 20, 2017
Sherry Muir has been appointed program director of the new occupational therapy doctoral program developed as a joint offering by the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the College of Health Professions at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Fran Hagstrom, an assistant dean in the College of Education and Health Professions, has led the effort to establish the program with Douglas Murphy, dean of the College of Health Professions at UAMS, and Susan Long, associate dean for academic affairs for UAMS’ College of Health Professions. The collaboration between the two U of A system campuses represents the best of two worlds — academic and medical, both Hagstrom and Muir said.
“The collaboration will emphasize the importance of interprofessional education,” Muir said, “sharing resources and preparing new occupational therapists to be active members of strong treatment teams who work together to meet the needs of patients and communities.”
“This program addresses a real need that Northwest Arkansas has for occupational therapists,” Murphy said. “This collaboration between UAMS and the U of A really emphasizes both institutions’ commitment to meeting the educational and health-care needs of Arkansans.”
The U of A offers undergraduate programs in education and social sciences that meet prerequisite requirements for the clinical doctoral program, according to Hagstrom, and also has graduate programs in community health, communication disorders, counseling, rehabilitation research and education that can offer electives and research partnerships to the occupational therapy program. The U of A can also provide clinical facilities for fieldwork opportunities in special education, child development, and cognitive and behavioral treatment.
UAMS brings a health and medical approach to the program that is valuable for the students because so many occupational therapists will end up working in health settings, Murphy said. At UAMS, the occupational therapy students also have the advantage of being educated alongside their peers in physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy and medicine.
Both the U of A in Fayetteville and the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville are providing space for the new occupational therapy doctoral program. UAMS is Arkansas’ only academic health sciences university, and it operates a campus less than one mile from the U of A campus. UAMS is ranked in the top 18 percent of all U.S. colleges and universities in research funding from the federal government and has statewide reach with eight regional campuses and a comprehensive rural hospital program
The mission of the entry-level clinical doctoral degree is to use an occupation-centered perspective on human functioning to prepare future therapists for practice in both educational and medical settings, Hagstrom said.
“We are excited to be able to meet the challenge of offering this training to address needs identified in a Northwest Arkansas regional assessment,” Hagstrom said. “Our two institutions have several strengths that will help us build a strong program, and we are pleased to have Dr. Muir here in the director’s position.”
The assessment identified needs for occupational services for children from birth to 3, for school-aged children experiencing learning, mental health and behavioral challenges and for adults who experience sudden life-changing disability, chronic health conditions and reduced ability to manage activities of everyday life because of normal aging, Hagstrom said.
Muir has been an occupational therapist since 1991, and she began university teaching in 2003, moving to the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Doisy College of Health Sciences as Saint Louis University in 2006, where she also held an appointment in the School of Medicine.
Muir holds a doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University in Minneapolis, a Master of Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman’s University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Muir will hold tenured positions as an associate professor at the U of A and at UAMS.
Muir is nationally known for her work to establish occupational therapy in the primary care settings, a topic she has written about for a number of publications and been invited to speak about around the country. Muir hopes to bring her passion for authentic occupational therapy practice to this new occupational therapy doctoral program.
Muir envisions a program that prepares graduates to work at the top of their licenses, using their full skill sets to become innovative practitioners. These occupational therapists will have the abilities and confidence to assess the needs of their clinics and communities and to create treatments and programs to meet those needs, she said.
Her first task is to begin the accreditation process with the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, Muir said. She will work with UAMS to secure clinical sites for the program’s students, who will go through three levels of clinical practice before graduation. Additionally, she will begin the search for an academic fieldwork coordinator, who will be responsible for managing those clinical experiences and fieldwork sites.
Students are expected to be admitted to the program in 2019.
Murphy said he expects two locations offering the occupational therapy students clinical experiences will be the Fayetteville Outpatient Therapy Clinic and the student-led North Street Clinic, both located on UAMS’ Northwest Regional Campus.
The state has only two other occupational therapy clinical doctoral programs, one in the central part of the state at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and the other in the northeastern part of the state at the Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
The addition of the UA and UAMS clinical doctoral program in Fayetteville will provide statewide opportunities for higher education in occupational therapy and service to communities, said Hagstrom and Murphy.