Category Archives: alumni

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

Call for nominations for Alumni Achievement Awards!

Nominations are now open for the University of Toronto Occupational Therapy Alumni Achievement Award.

Please consider nominating a U of T OT alumni who exemplifies excellence in education, practice, scholarly activity and/or service. Nominees will be considered for the following categories:

  • Early Career (10 years or less since graduation from the U of T Occupational Therapy program)
  • Mid Career (11-29 years since graduation from the U of T Occupational Therapy program)
  • Legacy (30 years or more since graduation from the U of T Occupational Therapy program)
The award recipient will be announced and celebrated at the OS&OT Graduate Research Day and Thelma Cardwell Lecture on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

To nominate a member of your alumni community for this prestigious award, OT Alumni Award Nomination Form to complete the online nomination form and upload the nominee’s abbreviated CV/resume (5 pages maximum).

You do not have to be a graduate of the program to nominate, so please share this call widely with those in your network.

The deadline for submission is June 3, 2024. For more information, visit the award page or contact Mary Forhan at mary.forhan@utoronto.ca

Thank you for contributing to this process and for acknowledging the achievements of our alumni. We look forward to celebrating this year’s winner with you.

Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Pezzutto (Class of 2022)

image of Elizabeth Pezzutto

What inspired you to pursue a career in occupational therapy? 

I was attracted to how occupational therapists recognize the importance of considering all domains of health in the promotion of health and well-being. I previously worked in clinical settings as an assistant and my favourite part was watching patients improve and eventually meet their goals to participate in activities that were meaningful to them. I knew that this was the essence of occupational therapy, and this inspired me to work in a profession that directly and meaningfully impacts people.  

 

What have you been doing since graduation?  

I am currently working in acute care as an occupational therapist at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario. I work on various units including medicine, surgery, stroke and the emergency department. I have also continued to work on my graduate research project. My project is a sub-study under a national study which explores the roles that occupational therapists can play in advance care planning conversations.  

 

What were some of the most valuable skills and knowledge that you gained during the program, and how have you applied them in your work? 

The program helped me to further develop two valuable skills; problem-solving and critical thinking. There is no one-size-fits all solution for the clients I work with. In order to enable my clients to achieve their goals, I need to figure out strategies that are unique to each patient’s characteristics, needs and circumstances. 

 

What will you remember most about your time in the program? 

A major highlight of my journey was meeting so many wonderful, like-minded people who are passionate about positively impacting the lives of people. This includes my peers and the other health professionals I had the opportunity to work with on my placements. I learned a great deal from them and I am grateful for the lifelong friends I’ve made throughout my time in the program.   

 

What advice do you have for incoming students? 

There are so many avenues you can take as an occupational therapist. You can work in hospitals, schools, insurance, government, non-profit organizations, mental health, community settings, technology and so many more! Do not limit yourself to only thinking that occupational therapists work in traditional clinical settings. There are so many ways you can apply the skills and knowledge you gain throughout the program to positively impact individuals, communities and populations.   

 

Photo credit: Julia Soudat

Photo of Tina Singh

OS&OT alum creates helmet for Sikh kids

OS&OT alumna Tina Singh draws on her graduate studies to create helmet for Sikh kids

For years, occupational therapist Tina Singh felt frustrated when trying to find helmets that would fit her three active young sons – they wear a patka, or cloth head covering, that is smaller than a turban but still covers their long hair – as they began to ride bicycles and play team sports such as hockey.

“As an occupational therapist, of course it was important that my kids had to have a helmet,” Singh says. “But when I tried to put helmets on them and they didn’t fit, my husband and I tried to tie their hair a different way – we tried a bunch of things and still nothing quite fit right.”

Photo of Sikh child with specialized bike helmetAn occupational therapist whose work focused on patients with acquired brain injuries, Singh dove into the process of designing a proper helmet that includes a small domed section on the top to accommodate a child’s hair – and found herself thinking back to her master’s studies in the department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy. She says the program’s holistic, comprehensive approach made her realize she could use her skills in many different ways.

“I felt there was a lot of practical application in everything we were studying,” Singh says from her home in Brampton, Ont. “Occupational therapy is such a broad area and we got a little taste of everything in the program. I knew that I would always have the opportunity to do different things within the field, such as universal design, product development and business – all of which I ended up doing for my current project.”

After having an engineer produce renderings of her design, Singh found a manufacturer to produce a prototype that could be tested. A few iterations later, the helmet – which is designed for kids aged five and up and can be used for skateboarding, kick-scootering or rollerblading – passed the required safety testing and is now available for pre-orders in Canada.

Singh, who worked as a rehab coach during her undergraduate years, says she chose to do a master’s degree at U of T after deciding to become an occupational therapist. “The program really felt like the ideal fit. It’s the foundational skills I still find useful to this day, such as looking at the whole person and how we look at everyday life. That way of thinking just sticks with you – and it doesn’t just apply to your work, but to everything around you,” she says.

The program really felt like the ideal fit. It’s the foundational skills I still find useful to this day, such as looking at the whole person and how we look at everyday life. That way of thinking just sticks with you – and it doesn’t just apply to your work, but to everything around you.
The teachings and encouragement of one professor in particular has stayed with Singh many years after graduation.

Andrea Duncan really helped guide me and it felt like I always had someone to look to when I needed advice on how to move forward. I feel like even if I saw her today, I could have those same open conversations with her about my career.”

Duncan, an assistant professor in the department of occupational science and occupational therapy, says she’s delighted to have made an impact on one of her former students – and to hear how Singh used her learnings in the program to innovate.

“Tina took my professional practice course, which is dedicated to developing systems thinking and business skills for occupational therapy students. Tina definitely stood out amongst her peers, and I am not surprised that she has gone on to become an ‘OTpreneur,’” Duncan says. “We are very proud of her and all her endeavours.”

Photo of Sikh child sitting on bicycle wearing helmet

Excerpt of story by Tabassum Siddiqui, U of T News, published February 6, 2023. Read the full story

Photo of Robin Mazumder

MScOT Alumni in the News

Two grads from the Class of 2019 made news in recent months, highlighting the role occupational therapists play across diverse practice settings.

Adaptive dance classes at Steffen Dance Studio in Mount Pearl, NL are spearheaded by Hilary Walsh. Walsh brings her experience as both an OT and a longtime dance teacher to create an inclusive environment for students across age groups and  ability. Walsh explains:

Mainly the difference is that I structure it so that dancers can feel success with kind of everything that they do. So it might mean, for some groups, making things very step by step. For some it might be using a visual schedule, for others it might be doing the dance seated.

“The best place to be is here, dancing, and it’s so much fun, dancing with all my friends and having a really good time. And of course Miss Hilary is the most awesomest teacher ever, and we love her to the moon and back,” says dance student Michael Robson.

Read the full story from CBC News (December 18, 2019)

Faith Gallant is a member of the ED One Team at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. This  multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals – including a social worker, geriatric emergency medicine nurse, physiotherapist, and community care coordinator among others – are tackling “hallway medicine” by reducing emergency department admission rates among seniors.

“The team helps patients who come to the emergency room avoid being admitted to the hospital by ensuring adequate supports are available for them at home or in the community.  Its target group is those aged 70 and older who don’t need to be admitted, but who can’t otherwise go home safely straight from the emergency room,” reports CBC News’ Mike Crawley.

States Gallant:

We’re able to see patients in the evening and facilitate a safe discharge home instead of having these patients stay overnight.

Read the full story from CBC News (February 13, 2020)


Robin Mazumder (MScOT ’11) was featured on CBC’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright on February 14: It’s a fundamental human right to be able to access your city, says researcher.

Photo of Robin Mazumder

City life can be hard on the nerves — the noise, the lights, the bustle, the endless miles of glass and concrete. And the traffic — just crossing the street can be a terrifying experience with hulking vehicles hurtling down thoroughfares. Robin Mazumder is a PhD student in cognitive neuroscience, and he researches the toll that bad urban design takes on human psychology — and how urban spaces could be made into sources of delight and solace instead of stress.

Mazumber is currently a doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, where he is studying the connection between urban design and mental well-being.

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 students from Physical and Occupational Therapy Program, graduating 1967

POT Class of ’67 Funds a Landmark Bench

Leading up to the 50th anniversary of their graduation from U of T’s physical and occupational therapy program, several members of the class of 1967 proposed coming together in support of a Landmark Project bench. The Landmark Project, the most significant landscape project of the past century, will revitalize the University’s historic core by creating dynamic, open spaces for the university and wider communities to come together. Read the full story at http://uoft.me/POTlandmark.

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.
 
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