Health Professions

Occupational therapy professor Kimatha Grice to retire

Dr. Kimatha Grice

 

By Kate Hunger

Associate Professor Kimatha Grice, OTD, OTR, CHT, found her future profession in the library stacks at Texas A&M University.

“I was researching schools for physical therapy, and I came across occupational therapy,” she said. “I started reading up on it, and I thought, ‘That sounds really interesting — it sounds more like me.’ That’s how I ended up in OT school, and I  never looked back.”

Grice, who earned a bachelor’s in community health, went on to enroll in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Texas Woman’s University. She eventually joined the faculty of the Department of Occupational Therapy at UT Health San Antonio in 1995. In August, Grice will retire after 27 years with the department.

“It’s not an easy thing, but I think it’s the right decision for me at this point,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I am going to miss the students and my colleagues.”

An avid knitter, quilter and embroiderer, Grice was drawn to what she describes as the “crafty” aspect of occupational therapy.

“Our (OT) origins were that we used a lot of crafts to rehabilitate people after World War I,” she said. “When I was in OT school, we did a whole semester of woodworking, weaving, ceramics and macrame.”

Grice gained years of clinical experience in various settings before she entered academia, including an adult inpatient psychiatric unit, and adult and pediatric inpatient settings before applying to work in a burn unit.

“I guess (working in the burn unit) what kind of started me on the path of hand therapy,” said Grice, who is a certified hand therapist. “Hand burns are really complicated. If you don’t have hand function, that’s going to limit you.”

In fact, Grice was in the first group of OTs to take the national hand therapy certification exam when it was first offered in 1991.

While working at the burn unit, Grice was part of the group that started the first camp in Texas for children with burns.

“We had it at a church encampment,” she said. “All of a sudden, this carload of clowns drove up. All of these clowns got out. They did balloons and face-painting with the kids. I was following them around thinking, ‘I want to do this.’”

The experience inspired Grice to take up clowning, performing as Tutti Frutti in a hospital visitation program and in other venues. After a hiatus during COVID-19, she is back to performing, now at outdoor events. Grice has even taught a class on clowning — and another on quilting — to OT students

Although she is retiring at the end of August, Grice will teach an applied biomechanics course as a contractor this fall. She says she will miss her colleagues in the School of Health Professions and in the OT department.

“We are shaping the future professions and the attitudes they will have comes a lot from the program they are in,” Grice said. “The OT faculty in all the years I’ve been here, we’ve always gotten along. We genuinely care about each other. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work.”

Grice’s clinical expertise, creativity and dedication have greatly benefitted the department during her tenure, said Department Chair and Associate Professor Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, PhD, OTR.

“She truly cares about the students and alumni and does everything possible to ensure they are prepared to be outstanding occupational therapy practitioners,” Piernik-Yoder said. “We have so much gratitude to her for all she has given to the OT program and School of Health Professions.”

The Kimatha Grice Scholarship for Hand Therapy is currently receiving donations with the goal of creating an endowed scholarship for third-year OT students with an interest in adult physical dysfunction. To support this effort, please visit https://makelivesbetter.uthscsa.edu/grice.

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