Post-Professional OTD Program Begins

September 18, 2020
Photo of PP-OTD class
AOTA President Dr. Wendy Hildenbrand (top left grid) spoke to the inaugural cohort in the PP-OTD program and OT faculty members.

The first cohort of the new MGH Institute of Health Professions post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program begins this fall with 10 occupational therapists who will be pursuing the profession’s highest degree.

Students in the program will collaborate interprofessionally and implement innovative solutions to advance health care delivery. Each course of the online program will expand the knowledge and skills of practicing occupational therapists, going well beyond improving how they currently treat patients, according to Sarah McKinnon, the program’s director.

“This program is a way for occupational therapists to understand the process of identifying problems, developing solutions, and implementing quality improvements that can truly make a difference where they work to improve patient care,” said Dr. McKinnon, who in addition to her role at the Institute, serves on the board of directors for the American Occupational Therapy Association Political Action Committee and is the government representative for the Massachusetts Association for Occupational Therapy. “It’s much more than learning how to become a better occupational therapist.”

At a virtual inaugural meeting of faculty and students, Dr. Wendy Hildenbrand, the president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, said, “Simply being part of this inaugural cohort says so much about you as a professional and as a group of people who are committed, courageous, and will be part of a change movement.”

Students will be individually mentored by a faculty-led team of peers. They each will work on and complete an innovation project during the five-semester curriculum, resulting in tangible solutions that can directly impact problems in practice and where they work. McKinnon said projects could range from reducing the time it takes for a patient in the emergency room to be seen by an OT to creating more effective teaching methods.

McKinnon, who previously worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in a clinical role, noted the program will incorporate the Institute’s innovative interprofessional education model, making it the only post-professional curriculum to include team-building skills in every course. In addition, it’s the first post-professional OTD program to offer core coursework addressing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for health professionals.

“As a former online post-professional student, I know firsthand the importance of linking new learning to clinical practice,” she said. “When these students graduate, they’ll be prepared to be exceptional interprofessional leaders.”

Applications for the next two start dates, in the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 semesters, are currently being accepted.