Tuesday, 23 August 2022
Written by Staff Report
As new students (freshmen and transfers) arrived on campus earlier this month for the 2022-23 academic year, Methodist University also announced that it is becoming one of the first universities in North Carolina to offer an accredited, Bachelor of Science Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. Starting in the fall of 2023, Methodist University’s four-year OTA program will welcome its first cohort of up to 24 students, eventually leading to the first graduating class in the spring of 2027.
“Expanding the University’s program offerings to include an OTA program will serve both our students and the local community,” said Dr. Meredith Gronski, the University’s Occupational Therapy Department chair and program director of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program. “OTAs partner with occupational therapists to provide services that help people return to their meaningful daily activities. Our OTA program will prepare students to serve as leaders in the profession and take on roles with the highest earning potential.”
This isn’t the first time MU has blazed a path in the area of occupational therapy. Starting in 2015, Gronski led the charge to build up the University’s OTD program — which eventually became the first doctoral-level program in Occupational Therapy in North Carolina in 2018.
Now, it is considered one of the strongest programs in the state, graduating approximately five dozen students the past two years.
Coinciding with the OTA program’s launch, Gronski also announced Melissa Gibson will take the reigns as program director.
Gibson is a licensed OTA with a dozen years of clinical experience. Most recently, Gibson worked as an academic fieldwork coordinator for another developing, baccalaureate-level OTA program.
“Gibson reflects the integrity, leadership, and energy that the department seeks to fill this critical position in the program,” said Gronski. “She demonstrates a commitment to student-centered learning, evidence-based practice, and the authentic role of the OTA that will align well with the program’s curriculum design. Her knowledge and expertise of all programmatic aspects will support her to successfully navigate our accreditation process and bring in the first cohort of students.”
Gibson earned a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Health and Rehab Sciences from California State University, an associate degree in OTA from Sacramento City College, and a Master of Science in Gero-Psychology. She is planning to earn a Doctor of Healthcare Administration later this month.
“As an OTA myself, I am excited to see the profession take this new step with a new degree level for OTA education,” Gibson added. “What makes having an OTA program at Methodist University unique is that students who would like to move on to become an occupational therapist afterwards will be able to do so through the University’s OTD program. This program will allow all of the health sciences programs to collaborate and learn together even more.”
Alisha Myers will serve as the OTA program’s academic fieldwork coordinator. Myers has been an occupational therapist for eight years and has worked in the local community since 2016. Myers recently served as a fieldwork educator for the OTD program and has mentored many OTD students at Cumberland County Schools.
Currently, there are nine fully accredited associate-level occupational therapy assistant programs across North Carolina; however, none of them offer an accredited baccalaureate-level program. By the time the program launches in the fall of 2023, Methodist University will be one of just three programs of its kind in the state.
The OTA program will provide a variety of career and educational opportunities once students graduate:
- Graduates can take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification exam and if they pass, they can practice as a Certified & Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L). Similar to a physician assistant’s partnership with a doctor, OTAs can deliver services under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
- Graduates may choose to pursue becoming an occupational therapist themselves by continuing their doctoral studies at Methodist University’s OTD program.
- Graduates can seek a graduate degree in another area of study including speech therapy, physical therapy, healthcare administration, or business administration.
The timing couldn’t be better, either. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of OTAs is projected to grow by 34% by 2030. Also, approximately 8,800 openings for OTAs are projected for each year over the next decade.
In the Fayetteville area specifically, some of the top employers for OTAs include the Cape Fear Valley System, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Cumberland County Schools.
Students may apply immediately online or if you have questions, reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, 23 August 2022
Written by Staff Report
With more than 6 million Americans and 180,000 North Carolinians living with Alzheimer's disease today, researchers are working tirelessly to advance science that will lead to earlier detection, preventions and additional new treatments for Alzheimer’s and all dementia.
In early August, more than 10,000 researchers attended the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2022 both in person and virtually to share the latest in Alzheimer’s and dementia science. Highlights included:
Another reason to move your body. Results are in from the longest-ever clinical trial of exercise in older adults with mild memory problems. After 12 months of regular physical activity — aerobic exercise or stretching — study participants experienced no significant cognitive decline.
Junk food might be hurting our brains. Researchers studied more than 10,000 people over eight years and found that high consumption of ultra-processed foods led to a 28% faster decline in cognitive function.
Racism’s impact on memory. In a study of nearly 1,000 adults, exposure to interpersonal and institutional racism was associated with lower memory scores, especially among Black individuals.
More long-term impacts of COVID-19. Researchers found that loss of smell due to COVID-19 infection may be a better predictor of long-term cognitive and functional impairment than severity of the illness.
Earning less money may increase dementia risk. Compared with workers earning higher wages, sustained low-wage earners experienced faster memory decline in older age.
“There is great progress in Alzheimer’s and dementia research,” said Lisa Roberts, executive director for the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, who attended the conference as virtual participant.
“This year at AAIC, we heard new ideas about what makes us at risk, as well as a diverse array of treatments and prevention methods for Alzheimer’s disease and all dementia. The work of the scientific community holds great promise for the future worldwide, and in our own back yard here in North Carolina.”
More than 80 scientific presentations from the conference were from N.C.-based researchers and investigators including: Duke University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, Wake Forest University and other research centers.
To learn more about the studies presented at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, go to alz.org/aaic.
The Alzheimer's Association is available with information and support for families as they navigate the disease and related research.
For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, visit the alz.org/nc or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.