Author Archives: comm

Prof. Emily Nalder Examines Role of Resiliency in Students’ Mental Health

Research done by one of University of Toronto’s newest Canada Research Chairs is looking at how to foster resiliency in university students navigating mental health issues and help them to resolve issues that crop up in their daily lives.

Emily Nalder, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Resiliency and Rehabilitation in April 2019.

Resiliency can help explain how people return to their roles and activities in everyday life after unexpected events.

“Resiliency is about doing well and how you adapt to life challenges, the idea that good things or positive things can come about through adversity or challenge,” says Nalder, who is also the inaugural March of Dimes Paul J.J. Martin Early Career Professor. “It’s important because all of us go through challenges in life and have to adapt or negotiate that in some way.”

The Tier 2 award provides $100,000 annually over a five-year term to support Nalder’s work, which focuses on community integration for people with brain injury or mental health challenges.

Read the full story by Faculty of Medicine writer Gabrielle Giroday, Faculty of Medicine Communications, August 13 2019.

OT student Janany Jeyasundaram

2019 Cressy Award Recipient: On Leadership

Year 2 OT student Janany Jeyasundaram is a recipient of the 2019 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award. This award, established in 1994, recognizes students’ outstanding extracurricular contributions while at the University of Toronto. Janany spoke with me about her perspectives on leadership and her leadership activities as an occupational therapy student.

What motivates you to take on leadership roles?

As the daughter of refugees, I have a strong sense of being between two worlds — the world of my parents in their homeland, which I have imbibed and internalized, and the world I was born into, where I do not fully belong. I have witnessed legacies of trauma both in my personal circles and in my role as an occupational therapy student. My identities and experiences have shaped my perspectives on how humans experience occupations within the opportunities and constraints of social and cultural circumstances. Throughout my occupational therapy education, I actively sought leadership opportunities to further my understanding of equity and move the profession towards greater inclusion of vulnerable populations.

Tell me about the leadership role(s) you are most proud of, and why.

This year, I established the Student Inclusion Diversity Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee, which is a student-led group with the vision to move towards a more equitable learning environment for OS & OT learners. To actualize this vision, we leverage our collective experiences and knowledge to plan and implement equity initiatives that foster new learning and personal growth. For example, in partnership with experts, the Student IDEA Committee was able to host the department’s first ever Black Futures Month event in February of 2019. The two-part workshop addressed the specific role occupational therapists can play to identify disparities and better meet the needs of Black populations. This leadership role has been the most rewarding for me because it allowed me the opportunity to learn from and contribute to our collective development as change agents—a core competency needed in work with vulnerable populations.

What advice or support can you give to students who would like to be active leaders but are unsure how to get started?

My advice would be to make use of the opportunities and supports available to you. It is easy to get stuck on the next assignment or test, but if you take the time to actively participate in existing student initiatives or seek out your own non-traditional opportunities, you will be a better clinician for it. Your involvement will likely challenge you to think critically about social norms that shape individual experiences, power relations between clients and therapists, and biases within our profession and professional education. During my involvement with the Diversity and Inclusion Curriculum Theme Committee, I recognized the opportunity to establish placement opportunities with a sociocultural focus for OS & OT students, in collaboration with the department’s fieldwork coordinators. The support I received in pursuing this endeavor enabled my personal and professional growth, and increased my comfort to interrogate assumptions and create ways for everyone to participate.

Do you have any role models who supported and encouraged your leadership capabilities, and if so, what did they do to support you?

The key to my growth as a leader was being in an environment filled with teachers and peers that truly wanted me to thrive. One such individual is Dr. Barry Trentham, who exemplified the importance of acting from a foundation of compassion and respect. He valued a process that involved ongoing dialogue and active listening, which minimized power differentials between faculty and students. While working on various committees and research projects with Dr. Trentham, I felt that I could affect meaningful change, which was powerful to experience as a student. The compassion and respect modeled by Dr. Trentham in his work with faculty and students alike encouraged my own leadership capabilities and informed my leadership approach.

How did it feel to be nominated for this award, and to be a recipient?

I feel grateful for the opportunities I have had in this program to do meaningful work alongside inspiring people. This nomination has instilled a confidence and motivation in me to continue to do this work and advance the profession towards greater equity and inclusion.

Sandra Sokoloff
June 25, 2019

Occupational Therapy Alumna Gives Back, Supporting Research in Workplace Mental Health

For Emily Geldsaler Grant (Dip OT ’47), using her occupational therapy training from the University of Toronto to help soldiers returning from World War II to adjust to life was a privilege she recalls to this day.

“I met people who could no longer be in the army, active and doing their job. But as an occupational therapist, I was able to make them feel that they could still do their part for their country, for themselves and their families, to be ready to face their future,” says Grant.

Since her days as a student, she has continued to give back to the place where her own helping journey started. Her most recent gift provides $1.5 million for the Emily Geldsaler Grant Early Career Professorship, an endowed professorship in workplace mental health in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Read the full story by the Faculty of Medicine’s Suzanne Bowness

photo: Emily Geldsaler Grant and her late husband, Eugene Grant, courtesy of the Grant Family

Photo of Alex Mihailidis

Prof. Alex Mihailidis appointed Associate VP, International Partnerships

Alex Mihailidis, a leading researcher in intelligent health systems and the use of technology to help older adults, has been appointed associate vice-president, international partnerships at the University of Toronto.

In his new role, Mihailidis will be tasked with nurturing alliances with academic and industry partners across the globe, as well as securing sponsored reserach, support for entrepreneurs and philanthropic support for the university’s academic and translation mandates from international sources. He will also promote Toronto’s thriving innovation ecosystem.

“Partnerships really strengthen the research that we’re doing here at U of T,” said Mihailidis, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering who is also cross-appointed to the department of computer science.

Read the full story from U of T News (May 9, 2019).

I.V. League of Occupational Therapists Leadership Workshop

On April 24, the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy hosted the inaugural I.V. League of Occupational Therapists Leadership Workshop for 2nd Year students in the MScOT program.
This full-day event was attended by 90 students. Using the LEADS Framework (Lead Self, Engage Others, Achieve Results, Develop Coalitions, Systems Transformation), 12 occupational therapists affiliated with the MScOT program facilitated a series of intensive group sessions aimed at guiding students in the development of skills and plans for their own leadership journey as practicing occupational therapists. The final event of the day featured an inspiring panel of new graduates who shared their leadership experiences in their nascent professional practice. All in all, the day was exciting, empowering and inspiring.
The Workshop was supported through a generous donation from Irene Vrckovnik (BScOT ’83, MScOT ‘17).

Click on a photo to view the full album

Photo of students in classroom
Photo of small group discussion
Photo of Irene Vrckovnik and Heidi Resnick with banner



Students get hands-on learning at Bridgepoint

Second year MScOT students received out-of-the-classroom hands-on training as Bridgepoint’s Occupational Therapy team and Seating Clinic – in collaboration with Bridgepoint’s Academic Office – hosted a hands-on learning session about mobility devices for older adults. This opportunity was part of the OCT1272 (Older Adults) lab.  Read more

Job Opportunities in the Dept. of OS&OT

We are pleased to announce postings for two faculty positions in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, one tenure stream and one teaching stream.  Both positions have a start date of July 1, 2019 or shortly thereafter.  Application deadline is April 4, 2019, 11:59pm.

The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from racialized persons / persons of colour, women, Indigenous / Aboriginal People of North America, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+ persons, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.

Visit our Job Opportunities page for details, including links to apply.

2019 OT2 Awards

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 OT2 awards, recognizing outstanding merit in the MScOT program. The awards were given on January 31.

Toronto Cathay Lions Club Scholarship in OT

This award recognizes the student who obtained the highest standing in the first year of the program. This year’s recipient is Martina Sykula.  

Image of Prof. Susan Rappolt, Martina Sykula, and Prof. Jill Stier

Isobel Robinson Award

This award recognizes Ms. Robinson’s (Director of OT Program, 1967-1981) contribution to U of T, and is presented to the student who obtains high academic standing in the first year of the program with strong fieldwork evaluations. This year’s recipient is Laura van DaeleImage of Prof. Susan Rappolt, Laura van Daele, and Prof. Jill Stier

Eleanor B. Krangle Award in Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy

This award will be given to a student in the Department who demonstrates socially conscious contributions to the University community. This year’s recipient is Janany Jeyasundaram.
Image of Prof. Susan Rappolt, Jenany Jeyasundaram, and Prof. Jill Stier

Peter Rappolt Family Scholarship in Occupational Performance and Wellbeing

This award supports new research in occupational science and occupational therapy, focused on mental health, developmental delay, caregiving, community integration, cognitive assessments and interventions, environmental adaptations, translating research evidence into practice, or examining how the health and social systems can meet complex needs. This year’s recipients are Amy Yang and Martina Sykula.

Image of Prof. Susan Rappolt, Amy Yang, Martina Sykula, and Prof. Jill Cameron


2019 Colleen Tate Memorial Bursary

On January 28, the Department honoured OT1 student Priscilla Leung, selected by her classmates for the Colleen Tate Memorial Bursary. Criteria were established by the family and friends of Colleen to award a first-year student who exemplifies the qualities for which Colleen was much admired:
  • Friendly, outgoing and caring
  • Supportive of others, and
  •  A good student

Each year, students in the first year of the MScOT program are asked to consider nominating  a classmate who exemplifies these qualities. Nominees are considered by faculty members, who select the recipient.

Priscilla’s name will be added to the award plaque in the OT Main Office at 500 University.

Pictured: Priscilla with Prof. Jill Stier, Graduate Coordinator; Priscilla with Mallory Cole, OT2 student and 2018 recipient.

Photo of Priscilla Leung and Mallory Cole