School of Health Professions

A look at Department of Occupational Therapy faculty activities in 2023

Department of Occupational Therapy 2023 Faculty Highlights 

Assistant Professor Angela Benfield, PhD, OTR, co-authored three chapters on professional reasoning (Chapter 25: Professional Reasoning in Practice in Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, 14th edition, and two chapters in Schell and Schell, Professional Reasoning in Occupational Therapy (Chapter 7: Scientific Reasoning and Evidence in Practice and Chapter 24: Development of Professional Reasoning). She continues to work on the Measure of Evidence-Informed Professional Thinking and will present the second iteration at ACRM National Conference in Atlanta, GA. She is currently working on extending the scales of the measure and adding three additional scales on self-regulated learning, numeracy and development of interprofessional competencies.

Assistant Professor Michael Bermudez, EdD, OTR, is a reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. He gave three presentations on coding and other technology use, sickle cell anemia and early childhood intervention in Uganda at the European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education Annual Meeting, Oviedo, Spain in October 2023. He is also scheduled to present a technology-based workshop at the American Occupational Therapy Association INSPIRE 2024 Annual Conference & Expo, Orlando, Fla., on March 21-23, 2024. Bermudez was the recipient of the Fulbright US Scholar Teaching and Research Fellowship for 2022-23 to Uganda and is currently advising professors, students and other professionals from the US and Uganda in applying for Fulbright Scholarships. He is also mentoring current Fulbright scholars to Uganda. He is currently analyzing his data for his research — “Perceptions of Makerspace Learning in Uganda: A Qualitative Study”— which is about creating assistive devices for people with disabilities using 3D printers, circuit boards, and simple coding. Bermudez is also currently collaborating with Ms. Elizabeth Rwabu, an educator for children with special needs in Uganda, on a poster presentation regarding using technology to create assistive technology for children with special needs in Uganda at the International Society for Technology Conference. 

Associate Professor/Clinical Autumn Clegg, EdD, OTR, co-authored two published articles related to doctoral capstones: “A Snapshot of How Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Programs Collect and Use Doctoral Capstone Outcomes” (Rivera et al., 2022) and “An Exploration of the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Capstone: Perspectives from Capstone Coordinators, Graduates, and Site Mentors.” (Kiraly- Alvarez et al, 2022). Clegg was part of a team that received a grant through UT Health San Antonio’s Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC) for “Enhancing Perceived Confidence, Communication, and Teamwork Collaboration of Allied Health and Nursing Students Using Interprofessional Critical Care Simulation Experience”. Looking ahead to 2023-2024, Clegg continues to focus on IPE collaboration and is part of an externally funded IPE project that is focused on facilitating conversations with people with aphasia.

Assistant Professor Mei-Ling Lin, PhD, OTR, achieved significant academic milestones this year, including three first-author peer-reviewed journal articles, two published abstracts, six conference presentations and two funded grants in which she serves as a co-investigator. She played an active role by applying her methodological and pediatric clinical expertise to support data collection, personnel training, as well as data management and analysis in both funded grants. Additionally, Lin contributed to a training grant submission titled “Project ASPIRE: Advancing Successful Preparation of Interprofessional Related Services in Education Settings” to the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Notably, Lin assisted in crafting proposals for two elective courses, DIRFloorTime Basic Certificate and Practicum courses, both of which were successfully launched in the summer and fall of 2023 respectively. In 2023-2024, Lin is committed to maintaining her collaborative efforts with both internal and external research teams. Her primary focus will include manuscript writing for peer-reviewed journals and actively seeking out appropriate funding agencies for grant proposal submissions. 

Professor and Chair Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, PhD, OTR, FAOTA, had several publications this year, including a co-authored article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The article focuses on an interprofessional project at UT Health San Antonio in which a graphic novel was created as a teaching and learning tool to help students understand the needs of family caregivers of older adults. Piernik-Yoder began her term in July 2023 as the Chair of the AOTA Special Interest Section Council. She also serves on the leadership team of the AOTA Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Mentoring Program and Institute. Piernik-Yoder was also elected and the President-elect of University of Texas Kenneth I Shine Academy, which serves the University of Texas System (UTS) through the support and promotion of excellence in all aspects of health science education, including educational research, scholarship, and leadership. Piernik-Yoder is part of a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration funded project entitled, TAKE on HIV, which focuses on increasing knowledge of health science students about HIV.

Associate Professor Chinyu Wu, PhD, OTR, had a great first year with the OT Department at UT Health San Antonio. She submitted a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant titled “Sonrisas": Training Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners and Occupational Therapy Students to Address Behavioral Health Needs for Children, Adolescents and Young Adults in Underserved Communities.  She is funded by the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) to conduct a community engaged research project titled Addressing Employment Needs for People with Lived Experience of Mental Illness in Bexar County of Texas. The community partner of this project is Prosumers International, a peer-operated organization homegrown in San Antonio for people with lived experience of mental illness. Wu completed the Clinical Trials Scholars Program this year and is partnering with Associate Professor Bradley Tragord, DSc, DPT, PT, of the Department of Physical Therapy to provide diabetes lifestyle intervention at the Integrated Care Clinic at Haven for Hope for people with serious mental illness (SMI). Wu also completed the certification requirements as a trainer of the Cognitive Adaptation Training (CAT) for people with serious mental illness. This fall, Wu has taught the mental health process course in the OTD curriculum by using the problem-based learning (PBL) pedagogy.

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