Category Archives: alumni

All news posts relevant to the Clinical Community & Alumni section of the website.

Class Of '97 Reunion

Class of ’97 Reunion

On November 4, 2017, a reunion was held for the Class of 1997. The first class to graduate in the fall, the students were in what was called the “2+2+ program” (two years undergrad plus 2 years plus in OT). It was a way of restructuring the program in preparation for the MScOT which was phased in a few years later.

Nominations for Alumni Achievement Awards

Nominations are now open for the University of Toronto PT & OT 2018 Alumni Achievement Awards.

The Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Alumni Achievement Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding alumni who have made exceptional contributions in their professions. The awards will be presented by the PT & OT Alumni Association at Alumni Reunion in June.

Nominations are due by 12:00 pm on March 15, 2018.

Download the nomination package to learn more about the awards, process and documentation required for submissions.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful contributions.
Additional information >>

Linda Petty and Sarah Ko

Alumnus Receives Funding to Review AT Interventions

Congratulations to Linda Petty (BScOT ’80, MScOT candidate) and co-investigator Sarah Ko, recipients of the 2017 OSOT Research Fund Occupational Therapy Research Grant for their study “Assistive technology accommodations for post-secondary students with mental health disabilities: A scoping review.” This review will map the literature regarding AT interventions to support young adults with mental health disabilities in post-secondary institutions such as universities and colleges. The investigators anticipate that results will identify gaps for future research, demonstrate the value and feasibility of undertaking a full systematic review and encourage more occupational therapists to assume innovative and leadership roles as subject matter expert professionals in prescribing and recommending AT accommodations to young adults with mental health disabilities.
Petty, the Assistive Technology Consultant at UTSC’s Accessibility Services, is from the first cohort set to graduate from our MScOT Advanced Standing Program this November. Sarah Ko (MScOT, Queens University) is the Practicum and Professional Development Officer in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto.

Jade and Mallory Ryan

Dance Ability Movement Helps Fulfill Kids’ Dreams

The Ryan Sisters are truly inspirational! OS&OT Alumni, they have used their occupational therapy expertise and passion for dance to develop Dance Ability Movement which provides inclusive dance programs for all children.
It is the dream of many young children to learn to dance, and children’s dance classes are immensely popular. However, children with disabilities often face barriers to participation in dance. This is why the work that the Ryan Sisters do through The Dance Ability Movement is truly inspirational. They use their passion for dance and their skills and knowledge as occupational therapists to develop safe, inclusive dance classes for children of all abilities. The Ryan sisters and The Dance Ability Movement were recently profiled by CTV Toronto.

Mallory and Jade have danced all of their lives and both shared the dream that they could combine their enthusiasm for dance with their chosen careers in occupational therapy (OT). They recognized the limited opportunities for children with different abilities to participate in dance classes in their home community so they formed Dance Ability, a dance program tailored for children of all abilities. The first class commenced in 2010 at a local studio in Milton, Ontario with a team of volunteers providing 1:1 support and assistance for a small group of children with various needs. With growing demands and recognition of their services, Mallory and Jade officially launched their own business, The Dance Ability Movement, with the goal of “sharing the opportunity to dance with dancers of all abilities on a large scale and continuing to promote inclusivity and participation in the community for people with different needs”. The program is currently active in six host studios in the Greater Toronto Area, and more studios are being considered. The Ryan Sisters have no difficulty in recruiting volunteers, many of whom are dancers themselves who wish to share their love of dance with young aspiring dancers.

Aside from providing opportunities to participate in dance classes, The Dance Ability Movement offers summer programs to address various OT goals. For example, Set the Stage Camp combines a handwriting program with music and dance to assist pre-school and primary age children to develop their school readiness and specific motor skills. Art Expressions Camp provides participants a safe space to explore dance styles as well as other art forms and means of self-expression.

Mallory and Jade are currently pursuing various goals and future initiatives including the following:

  • Supporting schools in Toronto to include Dance Ability Movement dancers in their arts nights and talent shows, plus encouraging schools to offer more movement and dance opportunities for these students as part of their curriculum.
  • Exploring the role of dance as more than just a leisure occupation, but as a potential vocation for some of the dancers with disabilities who participate in The Dance Ability Movement programs who have the talent and passion to pursue dance further.
  • Providing more programming and support systems to keep youth with different needs engaged as active members in their communities.

They also feel honored to have been recently selected as “Agents of Change for Community Health” through the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, and are currently pursuing various goals and future initiatives including the following:

  • Aligning their model with existing OT models and theories to better advocate for community leisure programs and the importance of addressing the environment and societal perspectives to meet everyone’s needs

Mallory and Jade also maintain close ties with the MScOT program at University of Toronto by participating in various labs and delivering guest lectures to educate and inspire future generations of OTs. Through The Dance Ability Movement, Mallory and Jade are making important contributions towards creating community environments where inclusion of children with varying abilities is the norm. Their programs provide opportunities to enable children to express themselves through dance and other art forms, and to realize their potential.

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)

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

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.

L&L Help to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

Laura Kalef and Lydia Beck (both from MScOT class of 2014) are passionate about improving mental health in the workplace. After they graduated they established L&L Consulting. They help workplaces become “mentally” healthy by raising awareness about mental health, by providing education, and by supporting mental health strategy development. They believe that the health and wellness of employees and the work environment are affected by a variety of interacting factors including workplace culture, perceived levels of support, the physical work space, and workers’ physical and mental health.

Laura recently gave an insightful interview for Best Health Magazine, about the factors that create a toxic work environment.

You can learn more about L&L Consulting by visiting their website.

Deb Stewart

Alumna Debra Stewart Awarded OSOT Life Membership


Debra Stewart (BScOT ’76), one of our illustrious alumni and an extraordinary occupational therapist, has spent the past four decades inspiring students and colleagues alike. Debra has made extensive contributions to both the academic and professional worlds, and the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists (OSOT) recently recognized these contributions by awarding Debra with their Honourary Life Membership Award. We congratulate Debra on receiving this great honour and on her exemplary career in occupational therapy.


As an associate professor and former assistant dean of the McMaster University Occupational Therapy program, Debra has been an inspiration in educational leadership. She has integrated her love of the profession, focus on evidence-based practice, and desire for knowledge translation to teach, supervise, and mentor countless OTs. Through clinical leadership roles, such as being a founding partner of REACH Therapy Services and Director of Occupational Therapy at ErinoakKids, Debra has also provided numerous OTs with the privilege of her expert tutelage.


Debra’s passion for improving the lives of youth with disabilities and their families has been the driving force behind her many research endeavors over the years. As a member of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, her innovative research has focused on best practices for the transition of youth with disabilities into adulthood, and has raised awareness about the impact of transitions on occupational engagement throughout the lifespan. Debra has also been involved with Partnering for Change, a research program aimed at transforming the way school-based services are provided in Ontario. In her role as project manager, Debra has liaised with CCACs and provincial Ministries to support systems and policy issues related to school-based OT services.


Debra has also shared her knowledge and expertise by authoring numerous publications. For example, she was editor of the book, Transition to Adulthood, and was a co-editor for two other important textbooks in occupational therapy. She has written countless book chapters, journal articles, and reports, and has given many scholarly presentations locally and around the world. Debra’s expertise is recognized both nationally and internationally, as she has been sought out as a speaker and consultant on multiple occasions.


Debra has been an active volunteer with OSOT throughout her years of practice and has taken on leadership roles as a member of the OSOT executive during a two-year term as vice-president. She also chaired the OSOT Task Force on Memo 81, which advocated for support services for students with disabilities in the Ontario school system. Debra then went on to help form and join OSOT’s new committee on Occupational Therapists in the School System, where she was able to share her knowledge and expertise for nearly a decade. Recently, this committee evolved into the OSOT School-based Occupational Therapy Committee, and Debra returned to help respond to recent governmental changes concerning OT service delivery in schools. She has also made invaluable contributions as an OT representative on the Special Needs Strategy Program Guidelines Task Group for Integrated Rehabilitation Services, under the direction of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
Debra has recently retired and can look back with pride on her outstanding career in occupational therapy and academics, and on the positive impact her work has had our profession and individuals with disabilities and their families. We wish her all the best as she moves forward into the next phase of her life!