Professor Emeritus Helene Polatajko Receives Honorary Law Degree

Photo of Helene Polatajko

On Thursday, October 20, Professor Emeritus Helene Polatajko received a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD) from Western University. From Western: “Helene Polatajko is an internationally acclaimed occupational therapy researcher, educator, and practitioner. Her clinical experience is primarily in paediatrics, working with children with learning-based performance problems. Polatajko has received many national and international honours and awards during her career, including being elected to the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Academy of Research and being named as a Fellow to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. In 2021, she was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.”

Dr. Polatajko’s occupational therapy journey began at McGill University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, soon followed by an MEd and PhD in educational theory from OISE at the University of Toronto. She was one of the first Canadian occupational therapists to receive a PhD in 1982 and that same year became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Western University. After 18 years in that department, including nine as Chair, Dr. Polatajko was recruited to Chair the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto in 2000.

Dr. Polatajko has made substantive contributions to curricular development, nationally and internationally. At Western in 1989, she launched the first Canadian MSc focused specifically on developing occupational therapy researchers, a program that produced many current academics and program chairs. In 1998 at Western and in 2001 at the University of Toronto, Dr. Polatajko initiated the first two master’s professional entry-level occupational therapy programs in Canada, initiating the shift to professional master’s, nationally.

As Emeritus Professor, Dr. Polatajko remains involved in teaching and research, globally, prioritizing the building of a new generation of leaders through mentorship of students and academic and clinical occupational therapy colleagues. Her mentees, within and beyond occupational therapy, have gone on to hold prestigious positions, nationally and internationally, with many becoming faculty members, chairing university programs, and leading national research and health centres. Her legacy of occupation-based scholarship and the impact of her CO-OP approach on practice continue to be seen worldwide.

Congratulations, Dr. Polatajko!