Kimberly Erler, PhD, OTR/L

PhD '17

Associate Professor


What year did you start the program? 2014

Kimberly is Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at MGH Institute of Health Professions, and works as a clinical ethicist in acute care at Massachusetts General Hospital.


What are your prior degrees and at which institutions?
BS, Therapeutic Studies, Boston University, 2007
MS, Occupational Therapy, Boston University, 2009


What was your research setting during the PhD program?
Mentor: Joseph T. Giacino, PhD,  Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
Lab: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Neurorehabilitation Laboratory


What was your dissertation title?
Examining Participation after Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury


On what was your research focused?
For my dissertation, I examined social participation, which is often considered an indicator of successful functioning, after moderate to severe TBI using the TBI Model Systems National Database. The 3 research studies that comprised my dissertation ranged in topic from predicting the trajectory of participation over the first 5 years after TBI, examining the association of rehospitalization and participation after TBI, and investigating the relationship between driving and participation after TBI. My other research interests include neurorehabilitation, patient reported outcomes, and ethical decision-making in clinical practice.


What do you think is special about the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program here at the MGH Institute?
The PhD program at the IHP is unique because of the relationships it has with world-renowned research labs throughout Boston. As doctoral students, we benefit from these collaborations and have the opportunity to experience research outside of the IHP in our specific areas of interest. Additionally, the ability to maintain clinical practice in our disciplines enhances the course content and continues to promote on-going research questions. 


Why did you choose to come to this program rather than a doctoral research program in your specific profession?
The interdisciplinary structure of this program appealed to me because in clinical settings this is the reality. Each discipline looks at cases and research questions through a different lens and the level of discussion is heightened because of our different areas of clinical expertise.  I believe that in order to advance rehabilitation research and the use of evidence-based practice, and interdisciplinary approach is crucial.  


What are your goals for the future after you graduate?
I hope to continue to perform research that is relevant and meaningful to the rehabilitation disciplines and will lead to better patient outcomes.