First cohort graduates from joint UAA-Creighton University occupational therapy program

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

A group of five occupational therapy students earned their doctoral degrees last month after completing a joint program between UAA and Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

Launched in 2008 as a pilot, the three-and-a-half year distance-learning program was developed to address shortages of health care professionals throughout Alaska as well as other rural and underserved areas in the United State and worldwide. The program is the brainchild of former UAA dean Dr. Cheryl Easley and Creighton University professor Dr. Al Bracciano, and it is the first program of its type.

Creighton University logoWith many of its occupational therapy courses already online, and an extensive technology infrastructure, Creighton was well positioned to develop this unique program, despite Anchorage being 3,300 miles away. Strong collaboration between administration and faculty at both universities was essential to the success of the program.

"Until now, there has not been an effective way to add to the occupational therapy workforce in Alaska," said Dr. Susan Kaplan, administrative dean for the UAA College of Health. "The vacancy rate for OTs throughout the state is typically around 30 percent and it is difficult to recruit therapists from the Lower 48. Now we have a way for students to become occupational therapists without having to leave the state. We are hoping to eventually use a similar model to provide physical therapy education as well."

The fully accredited program enrolls 10 students per year and currently has 32 students in three cohort groups. Admission to the program is competitive and applicants must be Alaska residents and have completed a bachelor's degree. Once in the program, students complete the bulk of the courses online and attended lab clinics at UAA, overseen by adjunct faculty and one full-time coordinator in Anchorage. The group's first visit to the program's home base in Omaha was on Saturday, Dec. 17, to accept their hoods and diplomas.

Read more about the cohort and their accomplishments in an article by the Omaha World Herald.

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