In the August heat, Ann McDonald and her family said goodbye to Los Angeles and drove nearly 800 miles to Grand Junction, Colorado. McDonald’s work as an occupational therapist and her dedication to the future of the industry led her to a university that was equally committed to serving community health needs. She had been searching for a program, one that she could start from the ground up, and in 2018 she began the development of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program at Colorado Mesa University.
Occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that helps people across their lifespan to do every day activities. Occupational therapists are creative problem solvers and many people rely on them.
“We give people back the skills they may have lost or didn’t yet acquire,” said Colorado Mesa University Occupational Therapy Program Director Ann McDonald, PhD. “It could be a physical area of challenge or a mental health area of challenge. It’s a human-service field from birth through the life span.”
CMU will offer the first occupational therapy (OT) program in western Colorado, and there’s currently no other one like it in the state. Other OTD programs are labeled post-professional, which means they cater to individuals who already have OT experience and want to go back to school to earn their doctorate degree. CMU’s program is unique in that students can come in with a bachelor’s degree and work for three years to earn their doctorate.
“As a doctorate program, we have to show that we’re teaching students how to be entry-level therapists who will become leaders and advocates for multiple groups of people,” said McDonald.
CMU’s goal is that OTD graduates will stay in the area once they’ve completed the program and will service those in need throughout western Colorado. According to McDonald, she already has a growing list of students interested in joining the program.
“There’s no concern about getting students,” said McDonald, who is currently searching for qualified faculty members to be a part of the growing program. “We are looking for faculty — people who have passion, love teaching and want to share and pass on their knowledge to future generations."
If you are interested in being involved as a faculty member in this growing program, visit www.coloradomesa.edu/human-resources/employment.
The CMU entry-level occupational therapy doctoral (OTD) degree program has applied for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE's telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its Web address is www.acoteonline.org.
The program must be granted Candidacy Status, have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation, and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.
CMU has submitted a substantive change request to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for permission to offer the Occupational Therapy Doctorate. Until such permission is granted, students may not matriculate into the program