The Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center (RKSTC) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, a student-run, pro-bono pediatric occupational therapy clinic, will host a ribbon cutting August 24 from 2-4 p.m. for its new clinical space on the 5th floor of the 920 Madison Building on the Memphis campus. The celebration is open to students, faculty, staff, and supporters of the clinic.
The center is named for Rachel Kay Stevens, an OT student who died shortly after beginning her training in the UTHSC College of Health Professions. She dreamed of working with children to help them live better lives. The clinic is staffed by OT students with faculty supervision and provides occupational therapy services at no cost to children of families that are uninsured or underinsured. Through this work, the center also offers OT students real-world experience and educational opportunities they otherwise would not have.
The new home of the RKSTC continues the caring legacy of its namesake. It includes a large observation room, where two students can be providing therapy while supervised by a licensed OT therapist. There is adjoining space for 12 students to observe from behind a large window.
The center opened at UTHSC in 2016 in the old Boling Center, which also housed the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities. That building has since been demolished. RKSTC shares its new space with the Center on Developmental Disabilities, which has two observation and testing rooms in the suite. The main offices for the Center on Developmental Disabilities are located on the 9th floor of the 920 Madison Building.
In setting up the original center, OT students, many of them Rachel’s friends and classmates, painted and decorated the walls. A centerpiece of the décor in the old location was a large tree painted on one wall. Handprints of Rachel’s classmates formed the leaves on the tree.
For the new space, the students copied the tree and used a projector to show it on one wall, so the old image could be authentically reproduced. That tree of love and friendship is now the focal point of the clinic, decorating one of its primary walls. New students also added their handprints.
Rachel’s parents, Randy and Katrina Stevens of Batesville, Arkansas, sent her signature, which was also projected on the wall and copied. Additional artwork from the original space was copied and painted on the walls of the new space.
Near the friendship tree, a photo of Rachel Kay is displayed on a commemorative plaque that hung in the original clinic. The walls of the new space are also adorned with brightly colored artwork from the art show and sale held annually to raise money for the clinic. Purchasers have bought the art done by students receiving OT treatment and donated it back to the clinic. This year’s sale runs August 25-27. Participants can bid at the auction website during those days. The show and auction has raised more than $20,000 toward occupational therapy services for children since its inception.
The center is in operation on the first and third Tuesday of every month from 3 to 6 p.m. In addition to working with children on fine motor skills and behavioral issues, the center provides education for families and teachers on how to help children with special needs.
“I am just excited to be able to carry on Rachel’s dream for pediatric OT therapy in this new space,” said Anne Zachry, PhD/OTR/L, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “I am thankful for UTHSC being committed to the clinic and providing the space.”
The RKSTC recently received a $25,000 commitment to help with its operation. The center also received a $25,000 grant from the Urban Child Institute for outreach and training in underserved schools in Memphis.
Since it opened, the center has served 1,119 children, trained 240 OT students, 225 teachers, and worked with approximately 250 parents.