Category Archives: alumni

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

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!

Dr. Judith Friedland

CAOT Leadership in OT Award Presented to Dr. Judith Friedland

Congratulations to Dr. Judith Friedland on receiving the 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Leadership in Occupational Therapy Award. The award is given in recognition of her leadership in educational, administrative, research, and mentorship roles.

As stated on the CAOT website, Judy’s “powerful scholarly contributions are those that have focused on the early history of occupational therapy in Canada, giving today’s OTs a strengthened identity based on an awareness of their past.”

We could not agree more!

Click to read the CAOT announcement.

Gail Teachman

Alumna’s Research Featured in Globe and Mail

The research of Dr. Gail Teachman, an alumna and lecturer at OS&OT, has been featured in an article published in The Globe and Mail.

Dr. Teachman’s groundbreaking research examines the experiences of young people with disabilities in inclusive classrooms and programs. Earlier this year, Dr. Teachman was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal Award for her work.

Read the article in the Globe and Mail >>

Read more about Dr. Teachman >>

Krupa and Kirsh

New Textbook Reflects Broad International Perspective

Drs. Terry Krupa and Bonnie Kirsh, both esteemed alumna, are primary editors for the recently published fourth edition of the classic and renowned textbook, Bruce & Borg’s Psychosocial Frames of Reference: Theories, Models, and Approaches for Occupation-Based Practice. One of their goals was to produce a book that offers a broad range of international applications of knowledge and practice developments in psychosocial occupation-based practice. Authors who contributed to this work are from Canada, USA, Australia, and the UK. Another goal was to present models and practice approaches that are applicable across a wide range of practice areas in occupational therapy. It is Dr. Krupa and Dr. Kirsh’s belief that psychosocial health is a fundamental element of all human health and well-being. They wanted to create a resource that would enable all occupational therapists to better address the breadth of psychosocial factors that influence their clients’ daily lives. In addition, they have highlighted the relevance of specific models to practice for people with mental illnesses, particularly where the issues experienced by this group have historically been poorly addressed.
The original editors of this textbook, Bruce and Borg, wrote, “This book has a successful history as a resource for planning psychosocial occupational therapy intervention. This exceptional new edition continues to provide a comprehensive description of occupational therapy and relevant psychological, social, and cognitive theories, plus “real-life” examples that contribute to the reader’s understanding of the person and his or her mental health concerns as they influence the ability to engage in meaningful occupation.”
We congratulate Dr Krupa, Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University, and our own, Dr. Kirsh, Associate Professor in the department on this noteworthy achievement. Your leadership and vision for the psychosocial aspects of occupational therapy has the potential to make significant and lasting changes in how occupational therapists around the globe conduct their practice.
Learn more about this new book.