UF launches doctoral degree in occupational therapy

UF launches doctoral degree in occupational therapy

By Jill Pease

UF occupational therapy students discuss career opportunities with local therapists and UF faculty during a networking event in May.

The College of Public Health and Health Professions has received approval from the Florida Board of Governors to offer a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree beginning in fall 2018. It will be the first such degree program offered by a Florida public institution.

The new degree will replace the current master’s degree in occupational therapy offered by the department of occupational therapy. The move toward offering the Doctor of Occupational Therapy as the entry-level degree for OT clinical practice follows a national trend among the top universities and is supported by professional organizations, including the American Occupational Therapy Association’s board of directors.

“The doctoral program will provide our students with a greater breadth and depth of knowledge that will enhance the care they provide to clients and will prepare them well for leadership roles in the health care arena,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., the college’s dean.

Employment for occupational therapists is expected to grow by 33 percent over the next several years as therapists meet the needs of clients across the lifespan. In particular, Florida leads the nation in a growing population of mature adults who will require integrated services to ensure they age in place and in the community, said Sherrilene Classen, Ph.D., M.P.H., OTR/L, a professor and chair of the department of occupational therapy.

“Students completing the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree will enter the workforce as highly qualified personnel ready to address complex care needs of aging populations and to positively affect the health care system,” Classen said. “We need clinicians who can excel at thinking and implementing best practices and research and who are able to adequately respond to the emerging health care needs of the 21st century.”

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy curriculum offers enhanced training in evidence-based practice, leadership and advocacy as well as interprofessional education and an advanced clinical capstone experience, said Christine T. Myers, Ph.D., OTR/L, a clinical associate professor in the department of occupational therapy and the director of the master’s program.

“Students will be trained to use data-driven decisions for client-centered occupational therapy, which will result in high-quality care and improved health outcomes,” Myers said.