Extraordinary occupational therapist Paula Szeto is remembered by the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy for her commitment to outstanding education, her consistent kindness, and her strong advocacy. Paula passed away on September 5, 2018.
After graduating from the occupational therapy program at the University of Toronto in 1997, Paula started her career at Community Occupational Therapy Associates (COTA) and later worked at St John’s Rehab. She joined Hillcrest Hospital in 1998, which merged with Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network (UHN)’s University Centre in 2013, and was a vibrant member of this team.
Paula was a superb educator in her program at UHN, and at the University of Toronto. She was a status-only lecturer for many years and brought warmth and energy to teaching and research. Her passion, teaching ability, and humour in the classroom made her a memorable instructor. She was active in many courses, always willing to participate when needed in classes, labs, workshops, and other learning activities.
Paula was a favourite mentor in the mentorship course, and dozens of students in her mentor groups benefited from their special connection with her. She welcomed students on fieldwork placements and always encouraged students to engage in excellent practice. She was an elected representative of the Council of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. The Interprofessional Education program was not exempt from her special contributions – she provided innovative ideas and education to students from many of the health disciplines at University of Toronto and other universities.
Paula won several awards as an educator, including her most recent award — the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Community Partners Award for Exceptional Fieldwork Teaching — that recognized her sustained excellence in fieldwork teaching for over 15 years. Paula also received a Fieldwork Supervision Recognition Award from the Department, and the 2018 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence, ‘to acknowledge the contribution of a practice educator who demonstrates exceptional performance in student practice teaching and in student mentoring in the workplace, and who represents a gold standard in inspiring students to passionately pursue professional practice’.
Paula will be remembered as someone who was always a pleasure to learn with, and to be with. She recognized the strengths in others and helped them, through encouragement and teaching, to develop to their fullest capacity. She will be remembered as a brilliant, compassionate, capable, effervescent personality who had a big smile and a wonderful sense of humour.
Paula will be sadly missed, and always remembered, by the Department’s faculty, staff, and students.