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College Spotlight: College of Health Professions’ Educational Agenda Extends Beyond the Classroom

Occupational Therapy students in the College of Health Professions spread the word about Occupational Therapy Month. (Photo provided by: Occupational Therapy students)

The College of Health Professions (COHP) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is committed to creating educational programs that extend beyond the classroom and into the community.

“Students in allied health professions, as in other health care disciplines, recognize that they have responsibilities that go beyond academic instruction,” said Lori Gonzalez, PhD, vice chancellor of Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs who currently serves as interim dean for the college. “They are being educated to understand that they are responsible for serving their communities, and for paying it forward to those in need.”

Lori Gonzalez, PhD, vice chancellor of Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs and interim dean of the College of Health Professions (Photo provided by Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs)

Founded in 1972 as the College of Community and Allied Health, the name was changed to the College of Allied Health Sciences in 1985. It was renamed the College of Health Professions in 2014. The college is home to five specialties — Audiology and Speech Pathology, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Health Informatics and Information Management, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy. Education programs are available at bachelor, master and doctoral levels.

In the last year, the College of Health Professions has launched two initiatives that speak boldly to notion of serving the community — GoBabyGo! Memphis and the Rachel Kay Stevens Occupational Therapy Center.

GoBabyGo! is a national program started at the University of Delaware in 2006 to help children with mobility issues move, play, socialize and have fun like their peers by being able to ride in and operate toy cars. The cars are modified to accommodate each child’s special needs.

COHP faculty and students brought the event to Memphis. It was designed to give physical therapy students early experience in collaborative planning and in working with children with mobility issues and providing services to them. The students worked with engineering students from the University of Memphis for the event, which was held September 16, at UTHSC. A dozen children from the Memphis area were given specially outfitted cars to improve their mobility and to allow for more environmental exploration.

The Rachel Kay Stevens Occupational Therapy Center opened its doors in February 2016 and is dedicated to the memory of a deceased occupational therapy student. Located in Room 417 of the UT-Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities at 711 Jefferson Avenue, it is the only pro bono, pediatric clinic in the country that provides occupational therapy services to children and their families, who are uninsured or underinsured. The facility is managed and staffed by students, who are supervised by faculty.

“Initiatives such as these are what sets COHP apart,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “The students are not simply learning a skill and venturing into the workforce. They are utilizing the tools to engage the community and improve the quality of life for those they serve. Additionally, these activities support the push for interprofessional collaboration. Our students must be prepared to function in health care teams.”

As the college moves forward, the administration remains committed to expanding the educational and public service agendas beyond the expected activities of a health professions student. “If students are considering enrolling in the College of Health Professions, they should know that they are being given a great opportunity to not only work with esteemed and dedicated faculty, but most of all, they will be provided opportunities to improve the lives of the citizens in this community,” said Dr. Gonzalez.