Alumni Promoting OT & PT in Ukraine

Natalie Zaraska and Renata Roman, alumni of the Rehabilitation Sciences Sector at U of T, are working in the Ukraine to assist in the development of Masters level curriculum and to promote best practices in occupational and physical therapy.

Natalie Zaraska (nee Talya Kalymon)
BScOT’91

Natalie Zaraska is working hard to promote and help rehabilitation practice in Ukraine to evolve and grow. She explained that “as a member of the diaspora in Canada, I have always wanted to assist in development projects in Ukraine.” In addition to her BScOT from UofT, Natalie completed a Master’s of Rehabilitation Science from Queen’s in 1997. Natalie has worked in the area of mental health and acquired brain injury. She now works at Zaraska Rehabilitation, a private practice, providing community-based rehabilitation services to individuals with acquired brain injuries.

Natalie embodies a client centered approach and is passionate about the essential role OTs offer in the rehabilitation spectrum of care. Natalie is an ardent advocate, promoting, educating, and helping to develop the role of occupational therapy in rehabilitation in Ukraine. Natalie volunteers as an International Educational Coordinator for School of Rehabilitation Medicine at Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) and is a founding member of the Ukrainian association of Occupational Therapy. Natalie also works with the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) to ensure Ukraine adopts recognized standards for education and the practice of occupational therapy.

Natalie believes U of T provided her with a strong academic background and inspired her to support high quality education programs in Ukraine. U of T helped Natalie become a leader and problem solver, and encouraged her to define and expand the role of occupational therapy in new areas.

Renata Roman
BScPT’84

Renata is a graduate of the U of T Physical Therapy program. She has worked in hospitals and clinics in Ontario and Quebec. She began her first private practice, Clarkson Sports & Physio, in Missisauga in 1991. Renata has been volunteering as a physiotherapist in sports medicine in Ukraine for 20 years and has worked with national teams and at the Winter Olympics. She has also given her time fundraising and advising the Children’s Rehab Centre in Lviv. The founder and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University asked Renata to help establish a western style rehabilitation program including physical and occupational therapy. This school was established within the university and she continues to sit on the Board of Governors.

Renata believes that U of T provided her with the education and tools to become an efficient problem solver when faced with a variety of complex patients. She is passionate about growing and evolving as a physiotherapist as well as helping countries with less established rehabilitation programs develop their professional standards and enhance their quality of care.

Advocacy & Innovation:

Renata and Natalie have combined their passion for rehabilitation to promote and enhance the role of physical and occupational therapy in Ukraine. Ukraine does not have the profession of occupational therapy, but Renata and Natalie believe in the integral role and value of OT to patients. Natalie is working alongside WFOT to promote OT to medical and government administrators.

Renata and Natalie are inspired to “raise the bar” for rehabilitation education and high quality patient care throughout Ukraine. They are assisting the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) to develop the curriculums for a Masters in PT and Masters in OT to be offered in September 2017. UCU is a forward thinking university working to exhibit the highest standards of education.

Renata and Natalie advise on the recruitment of potential rehabilitation students, and assist with the ongoing promotion of physical and occupational therapy. The UCU curriculum is being carefully developed with input from many international partners. Renata and Natalie have also created a working group of rehabilitation professionals in Toronto to provide consultation to UCU and future mentoring of students in the program. UCU hopes to stay closely connected to the faculty in the rehabilitation programs at U of T to support program development and implementation, and research initiatives for students and professors.

The classic pairing of physical and occupational therapy has proven once more to yield the best possible outcomes. Through their initiatives, Renata and Natalie are changing the rehabilitation landscape in Ukraine and Canada for students, practitioners, and patients.