Category Archives: news

Current news in OS & OT

Harjot Kaur Shoker receives U of T Student Leadership Award

Harjot Kaur Shoker

Congratulations to second-year MScOT student Harjot Kaur Shoker on receiving a Student Leadership Award from the University of Toronto! 

During her time in the program, Harjot has played a pivotal role in enhancing the student experience for her peers as a member of the Student Affairs Committee. 

Harjot has generously volunteered her time to attend and present at our open house for new students where she enthusiastically welcomed incoming students and shared her experience in the MScOT program at the Mississauga campus.  

“Harjot is an outstanding student leader as demonstrated by how she engages students throughout the university,” says Priya Sivathason, the program manager in the department of occupational science and occupational therapy who has worked closely with Harjot at information sessions and orientation events. “Throughout her time in the program, Harjot has been a passionate advocate for academic excellence, embodying the qualities that make her an outstanding candidate for this award.” 

We are grateful for all of Harjot’s contributions to our department and Temerty Faculty of Medicine.  

Congratulations, Harjot, on this wonderful achievement! 

About the Award 

The University of Toronto Student Leadership Award (UTSLA) continues the spirit of the retired Cressy Award. Recipients of the UTSLA join the distinguished community of past Cressy Award recipients in being honoured for their exemplary leadership and volunteer service to U of T. 

Congratulations to Armineh Babikian, Yani Hamdani and Janet Parsons

collage photos of Armineh Babikian, Yani Hamdani and Janet Parsons

Congratulations to Armineh Babikian, Yani Hamdani and Janet Parsons on being the global recipients of the Thelma Cardwell Foundation Award for Research 2024 from the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. 

Armineh Babikian is an occupational therapist and PhD candidate in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto, specializing in global health. Under the supervision of Yani Hamdani, an assistant professor in the department of occupational science and occupational therapy, Armineh will conduct research for her project titled, “Leave No One Behind: Centering People with Disabilities in Armenian Occupational Therapy Development.” 

By centering lived experience and the perspectives of people with disabilities, Armineh aims to better understand how disability is understood and addressed in Armenian rehabilitation, and how occupational therapists can prioritize the human rights of people with disabilities. 

Armineh will be leading focus group discussions with adults and caregivers of people with disabilities who use Armenian rehabilitation services and working alongside a community advisory committee of Armenian disability advocates, making this the first disability-inclusive research project in Armenian rehabilitation.    

Janet Parsons, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and Garry Aslanyan, adjunct professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, are on Armineh’s supervisory committee. 

Assistant Professor, Tenure Stream Opportunity in OS&OT

Assistant Professor – Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

The Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, invites applications for a full-time tenure stream position in the field of occupational science or occupational therapy. The appointment will be at the rank of Assistant Professor with an anticipated start date of October 1, 2024.

The successful candidate will have a program of research and teaching experiences with a focus on critical current issues relating to occupational science or occupational therapy. The successful candidate’s scholarship will situate occupation as a key determinant of health and well-being across their program of research and creative professional activities.

The successful candidate must have a PhD in occupational science, occupational therapy, rehabilitation science or a related field and will have completed a minimum of one year of post-doctoral experience in the form of a fellowship or equivalent. In addition, a degree in occupational therapy from a World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) approved educational program is preferred. Applicants with a degree in occupational therapy will be required to register with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. The successful candidate will be expected to establish and pursue an innovative, independent and competitively funded program of research.

Visit the University of Toronto Careers website for the full job description and instructions to apply for Assistant Professor –  Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (Req. ID: 34065).

Diversity Statement
The University of Toronto embraces Diversity and is building a culture of belonging that increases our capacity to effectively address and serve the interests of our global community. We strongly encourage applications from Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized persons, women, persons with disabilities, and people of diverse sexual and gender identities. We value applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion and recognize that diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise are essential to strengthening our academic mission.

As part of your application, you will be asked to complete a brief Diversity Survey. This survey is voluntary. Any information directly related to you is confidential and cannot be accessed by search committees or human resources staff. Results will be aggregated for institutional planning purposes. For more information, please see

Accessibility Statement
The University strives to be an equitable and inclusive community, and proactively seeks to increase diversity among its community members. Our values regarding equity and diversity are linked with our unwavering commitment to excellence in the pursuit of our academic mission.

The University is committed to the principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). As such, we strive to make our recruitment, assessment and selection processes as accessible as possible and provide accommodations as required for applicants with disabilities.

Celebrating 106 years of occupational therapy at the University of Toronto

This week marks 106 years since the Occupational Therapy program was established at the University of Toronto. 

The department, as we know it today, has grown and evolved a lot since its early days. 

In 1918, during the first World War, the number of injured soldiers returning to Canada was increasing each day. More – and better trained ward aides were needed to help these soldiers on their long road to recovery and so the ward aides course at U of T was established. 

The ward aide course was established by Professor H.E.T. Haultain, a mining engineer in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, to help injured soldiers returning from the war. Haultain, who also served as the Vocational Officer for Ontario, organized the first courses and arranged for classes to be held in the Mining Building. 

The Mining and Chemistry Building on College Street circa 1906

The Mining and Chemistry Building on College Street circa 1906 

Credit: University of Toronto Archives 

On February 20, 1918, four students – Miss Stupart, Miss Trent, Miss Bruce and Miss Challis – commenced the ward aide course run by the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment. The initial course was just six weeks long, but there was an expectation that the students would return for additional instruction when the course had been further developed.  

Haultain with Senior Ward Aides (the Girls in Green) of the Military Hospitals of Ontario, June 1919

Haultain with Ward Aides (the Girls in Green) of the Military Hospitals of Ontario, June 1919 

Credit: University of Toronto Archives 

By March 21, 1918, the course had been extended to three months and the second class of ward aides began their studies – bringing the course enrolment to 24 ward aide students. 

In 1926, after much advocacy from the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapy (OSOT) and its members, U of T established a new two-year long diploma course described as for “young ladies who are anxious to be of service in the healing of the sick and maimed and convalescent” in an early promotional brochure. 

Class photo of the first occupational therapy diploma course in 1928

Class photo of the first occupational therapy diploma course in 1928 

Credit: Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto 

In 1946, the course was extended to three years, and in 1950, occupational therapy and physical therapy were combined into one program and brought into the Faculty of Medicine as part of the Division of Rehabilitation Medicine. 

Years later, the programs separated again to become individual degree programs, with the first students graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy degree in 1974.  

2001 was another year of transformation for the department. The department moved from its home at 256 McCaul St. to the Rehabilitation Sciences Building and the occupational therapy program was further developed into a graduate program. Today, the program admits 130 students each year – with 90 students enrolled at our St. George Campus, and 40 students enrolled at UTM’s Mississauga Academy of Medicine, which launched in 2018.  

Today, we continue to create leaders in occupational therapy through the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree program amid a growing demand for occupational therapists in Ontario. 

Note: Special thank you to Judith Friedland, professor emerita in the department of occupational science and occupational therapy, for her research on the history of the department, which is included in her book, Restoring the Spirit: The Beginnings of Occupational Therapy in Canada, 1890-1930, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2011. 

photo of Shlomit Rotenberg

Occupational therapy key to early dementia diagnosis and support

Dementia is a condition that affects nearly a million Canadians and their families – a number that is expected to double by 2030.

While there is no effective drug treatment for the progressive disease, much progress has been made over the last decade on interventions to prevent or delay dementia in people at risk. But what if we could recognize the symptoms earlier? 

This is the focus of research by Shlomit Rotenberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. Rotenberg studies those at risk of developing dementia and aims to help them stay engaged in meaningful activities that can improve their well-being here-and-now and support their cognitive health in the long term. 


Brain health through social and leisure activities: occupational therapy for dementia prevention

One of the early risk factors associated with dementia is subjective cognitive decline, which appears in otherwise healthy individuals who may begin noticing subtle changes in their daily functioning – like forgetting to pay a bill – but these symptoms are too mild to be detected in a cognitive screening test. 

Not everyone who experiences subjective cognitive decline will develop full dementia, but some will continue this trajectory of cognitive and functional decline, which can make it challenging to complete basic activities and carry on with daily living. 

With an occupational therapy lens, Rotenberg explores everyday functioning in people with subjective cognitive decline in depth. Because the two key components of a dementia diagnosis are significant cognitive decline and decreased independence in everyday functioning, it is important that both aspects are explored in people at risk for dementia. 

Rotenberg’s latest study, a scoping review, finds that the body of research on everyday functioning in older adults with subjective cognitive decline is small and tends to focus on their ability to manage their finances and health, manage a household and use technology, while overlooking their participation in social and leisure activities. 

“While older adults with subjective cognitive decline are, by definition, independent, we found that they withdrew from many of their social and leisure activities. This is concerning because participation in social and leisure activities is linked with better cognition functioning, better physical health, and greater well-being, and may delay the onset of dementia,” says Rotenberg. “To be more effective in preventing dementia, we need to be proactive in asking older adults about their daily functioning, including social and leisure activities.”    Continue reading

Rhona Anderson Appointed Director of Clinical Education

photo of Rhona Anderson

The Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy is pleased to announce that Rhona Anderson is the successful candidate of the recent search for an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, and appointment as the Director of Clinical Education. 

Anderson joined our department more than 20 years ago as status-only faculty, as part of her full-time clinical position in an affiliated teaching organization. Since then, she has held a variety of roles, including teaching assistant, lab coordinator, sessional instructor, and Acting Director of Clinical Education while continuing education leadership roles within the clinical community. She became a part-time faculty member in 2021 while working on a doctoral degree.  

In this role, Anderson will continue to work with students and clinical education partners (including site fieldwork coordinators, preceptors, and education leadership) to guide the planning and implementation of high-quality teaching and learning experiences related to clinical education. 

“I’m excited and thrilled to be working with an incredible, skilled fieldwork team, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we will achieve together in the support of students’ practice learning,” she says. 

With this full-time appointment, she anticipates having more opportunities to work on research. Anderson’s research interests include student leadership development, particularly in collaborative interprofessional clinical contexts.  

Anderson is also currently collaborating with other faculty members on research related to the learning experiences of students who identify as having a disability, as well as research that uses an equity, diversity and inclusion lens to understand dialogue that occurs between preceptors and students. “Overall, student learning in the field, or during clinical education, is an understudied area and these areas of research will help to fill that gap,” she says. “And that is so important, given that student occupational therapists spend more than 1000 hours learning in the practice setting.” 

photo of Staff Impact Award ceremony

Sandra Sokoloff receives Staff Impact Award

The Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy is proud to announce that Sandra Sokoloff has received the Temerty Faculty of Medicine Staff Impact Award for Administrative Excellence. 

This award recognizes Sandra’s commitment to excellence in her role as the Executive Assistant to the Chair & Academic Appointments Coordinator in our department. 

photo of Sandra Sokoloff with award

Sandra began working at the University of Toronto in 2008 at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and was later hired by Angela Colantonio in 2009 to work in her research lab. She eventually joined our department in her current role in 2016. 

“Receiving this Staff Impact Award in Administrative Excellence is really special to me, not only that my contributions are deemed worthy of this recognition within Temerty Medicine, but that my colleagues in the department saw fit to nominate me,” says Sandra. 

While she spends most of her time on administrative support, she is known to go above and beyond to support our department – she is involved with several departmental and extra-departmental committees, helps with event planning and is our go-to person for updating our website. You may even spot her behind the camera at our next event as she acts as our unofficial department photographer! 

Christie Welch nominated Sandra for the award after watching her step in and take on additional roles in the past year. “Sandra is hard working, professional, and supportive. Her dedication to excellence and attention to detail benefit the department on a daily basis, and while she would be a contender for this award in any year, last year our department was in need of an Interim Program Manager and Sandra rose to the occasion. She took on many new tasks and responsibilities and carried our department through a challenging time,” she says. 

While Sandra admits that taking on this new role was a bit overwhelming, she is grateful to have received help from colleagues who answered questions and were there to support her along the way. She notes, “It was a great experience to learn more about this role, and get to know our students more.”

“I am constantly rewarded in the work I do. Supporting faculty members as they succeed in their academic milestones gives me great pleasure and a great sense of accomplishment. Other moments of pride include supporting my administrative colleagues in the department and being considered a credible resource to my counterparts across the Rehabilitation Sciences Sector and in Temerty Medicine,” says Sandra. “I can’t imagine working with a better, more fun, kind and generous group of people.” 

The Award in Administrative Excellence is given out each year to honour an employee who has consistently shown exemplary dedication, exceptional performance, responsiveness and empathy, and have also made a significant impact on the success and growth of their department.

New Adjunct Lecturer Appointment Applications

The Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy will begin accepting applications for an INITIAL Adjunct Lecturer appointments starting January 5, 2024 until  February 15, 2024.

The academic goals of the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy and the Rehabilitation Sciences Sector cannot be met without the participation of talented people from many institutions and agencies outside of the university.  The aim of an Adjunct appointment is to recognize the participation of highly qualified and dedicated researchers, practitioners and members of the community in the academic and clinical education components of the programs.

Learn more about the criteria for an adjunct lecturer appointment and instructions to apply.

photo of Linna Tam-Seto presenting

In service of those who have served

When Canadian Veterans leave the military, they are leaving a health care system designed for them and their unique health needs. As they enter the civilian community, they enter the public health care system where they face long wait times and health care providers who often have little understanding of how military service can affect health and well-being. 

Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, Linna Tam-Seto is working to better understand what public health care providers need to know and do to provide culturally competent care to Canadian Veterans.

She recently presented at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research forum, which brought together more than 800 researchers, policymakers, veterans and active serving members from around the world.

Her research has found that increased awareness of military culture among health care providers has a positive impact on the quality of health care Canadian Veterans receive. 

Tam-Seto notes that many people, including health care providers with limited experience working with veterans, have an antiquated image of what a veteran looks like and what their needs may be. “A small-town physician is not going to know about Veterans Affairs. They’re not going to know about service acquired injuries. They’re likely going to assume that every Canadian Veteran has PTSD.” 

Occupational therapists can play an important role in assisting Canadian Veterans through the transition to public health care and life after service. “Occupational therapy does a really good job at understanding identity and changes and how we can support individuals and systems,” she says. “We understand the impact on functioning because of change, like an injury or illness acquired during service.” 

Tam-Seto hopes her research will lead to better resources and training for health care providers, and improved care for Canadian Veterans. She says, “The reason why I’m motivated to do this work is that I’m doing this in service of those who have served us. Veterans put their lives on the line in service for our country and this is my way to support them and give thanks for the work that they have done.” 

Congratulations, Class of 2023!

Congratulations to the Class of 2023 on completing your Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degrees! We celebrate your perseverance and dedication, which have led you to this momentous achievement, and we know you will have a great impact on the world as you enter the next chapter as occupational therapists.

Six of our graduating students from our UTM and St. George campuses reflect on two years in the program and what they have planned for the future.

Riya Shah, co-valedictorian, UTSG

image of Riya Shah

Seeing clients go from a vulnerable, guarded state to laughing and engaging in meaningful activities again that is the true beauty of occupational therapy and it’s what I love about this profession.  

In school, I was astounded by the need to collaborate with my interprofessional peers and to learn that occupational therapy can be used in all areas of life. Most importantly, I reflected on the need for more people of colour in the health care community, and I am happy to contribute in a meaningful way through occupational therapy. 

I have been inspired by so many occupational therapists, all in different areas of work, and have had opportunities to advocate for the profession and vulnerable communities with the help of my faculty and peers. It has been so inspiring to learn and grow with my peers over the past two years. 

I plan on continuing to advocate for my clients and marginalized communities, and engage in a variety of occupational therapy roles, both clinical and non-clinical, to demonstrate the true essence and need for occupational therapy in my community.  

Antonia Bellefleur, co-valedictorian, UTM

image of Antonia Bellefleur

I was inspired to pursue occupational therapy because I appreciate the value placed on holistic care and addressing the person factors when providing therapy. Our occupational therapy lens is what makes us unique. 

I’ve learned so much these past couple of years. I didn’t know I had ‘spare parts’ — hurray for palmaris longus! I remember nervously preparing for our first initial interview with a mock patient. It’s wonderful to reflect on how far we’ve come since then. 

Now that I’ve graduated, I am currently working as an occupational therapist in acute hand therapy at a hospital and am excited to continue my learning in this field. 

Zoë Avril Smith, UTSG

image of Zoe Avril Smith

I was inspired to pursue a career in occupational therapy after working alongside several fantastic occupational therapists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I loved how their work was so tangible, holistic, and client-centered. 

During my time in the program, I was surprised to learn how many settings an occupational therapist can work in and how the number of opportunities continues to grow. 

I completed one of my clinical placements at Amar Seva Sangam, a non-profit rehabilitation centre founded and run by people with disabilities in rural South India. My experience here was so memorable and enriching. 

Since completing the program, I have taken some time to travel and visit family in Scotland. I’ve recently started looking for a job in mental health. Most of my career has been within the mental health and social service sectors, and I am passionate about supporting individuals with mental health issues. 

Kaitlyn Wagner, UTM

image of Kaitlyn Wagner

I was several years into a different career when I learned about occupational therapy and I immediately knew that it was the career for me. I wanted to work with people and use my skills to empower them to do the things they need to and want to do in their daily lives. Since then, I’ve been surprised to learn about how broad the scope of occupational therapy is and how many different settings occupational therapists can work in.  

During the past two years, I was extremely fortunate to have a variety of placements including acute stroke, community paediatrics, forensic mental health and a geriatric outpatient clinic, where I had the privilege of meeting many different clients. There is no better feeling than working with a client to help them overcome barriers and reach their goals.  

I am currently working for FunctionAbility in the community with clients who have traumatic and acquired neurological injuries and severe orthopaedic injuries. I find this work to be extremely meaningful and I look forward to continuously improving my clinical skills in this role.  

Niki Odorico, UTSG

image of Niki Oderico

I was drawn to occupational therapy because it’s multifaceted; addressing the physical, mental, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of people’s lives. I appreciate the diversity within the field and the opportunities to work with people from various backgrounds and age groups. 

While occupational therapy is often associated with hospitals and rehabilitation settings, I have learned that occupational therapists are equally well-suited to work with individuals, businesses, and communities to create safe environments that enable people to participate in their meaningful activities. 

Some of the most memorable moments in the program have been my fieldwork placements. I worked in the emergency department in a level one trauma hospital, in medicine and oncology inpatient units, in a men’s prison, and in a children’s hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Each of these placements pushed me to apply what I had learned in our lectures in distinct and innovative ways. 

Currently, I am a first year PhD student in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute under the supervision of Nick Reed. Throughout my PhD studies, I am hoping to develop return-to-play concussion guidelines for children aged 3 to 12. Following my PhD, I would like to work as a clinician scientist and a professor in the field of occupational therapy. 

Kaila Jodoin, UTM

image of Kaila Jodoin

I have had the privilege of learning about occupational therapy from a young age as my mom has been an occupational therapist at my hometown hospital for over 30 years. I was inspired by her work growing up and the meaningful impact she has on her clients, so when it came to choosing my own career, becoming an occupational therapist was an easy choice to make.  

During the program, I have been able to work with amazing peers, many of whom I now call my closest friends. I will never forget the many hours spent working with my study group members throughout the program. These experiences have helped me to grow into the clinician I am today. 

The program, alongside Northern Ontario School of Medicine University, supported me in completing three fieldwork placements in my hometown in Northern Ontario. These opportunities allowed me to build connections in my home community and have led to my current job at my local hospital.  

My final fieldwork placement was a student-initiated Leadership, Emerging, Advocacy and Program Development (LEAP) placement at my local Community Paramedicine Program. Here I was able to create a new permanent occupational therapy role with hopes to expand this to other community paramedicine programs across the province.