Occupational therapy chairman appointed

Gale Haradon, PhD, new chairman of the department of occupational therapy, says she is excited about her new job, but it will be hard to forget her previous one.

Dr. Haradon had been involved for two years in the Western relief effort to help Romania's thousands of neglected orphans. Their plight became known after the ouster and execution of communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

"I had never seen such conditions in my life when I first lived in Romania in 1990," said Dr. Haradon.

The government housed children with physical or mental disabilities in poorly supervised orphanages and provided little food, medical care or human attention. Some youngsters as old as 5 did not know how to speak or walk, and many children ages 2 to 5 still looked to be 6 to 8 months old, she said.

"Babies would spend just about every day in a crib. They would be fed, changed and cleaned, but that was it. Older children with disabilities were warehoused with no form of education, interaction or services beyond the basics," Dr. Haradon said.

Dr. Haradon joined World Vision, an international aid and development agency, in 1990 after receiving her doctorate in human communication from the University of Denver. She later worked with the private Brooke Foundation. Dr. Haradon first arrived in Iasi, a city north of the capital of Bucharest, in October 1990, about 10 months after Ceausescu was killed.

Dr. Haradon has completed two-year follow-up studies on the initial group of children she saw at the orphanage. "The changes are remarkable," she said. Children with disabilities now receive developmental programs and the ratio of supervisors to children has dropped from 25-1 to 4-1 with the assistance of Romanian caregivers hired and trained by Brooke Foundation professionals, Dr. Haradon said.

Dr. Haradon previously was graduate director and associate professor in the occupational therapy department at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky.

As for her new job, Dr. Haradon said: "I'm supporting the plans of the faculty and what they would like to develop. We have a very strong faculty." She praised the faculty's role in the recent department accreditation that lasts until the year 2000. She also said the department would be exploring possibilities of graduate programs, adding emphasis on research and starting initiatives of an international scope.