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Four students with laptops sit at a table with a faculty member discussing research

Our faculty members are active in a number of research areas and regularly publish their findings in journals or present them at national conferences.

Laboratories:

Health Promotion and Occupational Participation

Lead Researcher: Dr. Whitney Lucas Molitor

Health promotion enables recipients of services to take control of their health, maximizing outcomes that reflect improved ability to engage in meaningful occupations. Health promoting interventions are designed and carried out with individuals, groups and communities which ensures programming fits within the context of daily living. In this lab health promotion is explored with a variety of service recipients, those with varied cultural background, ages, socioeconomic status and access to resources. The primary aim of the Health Promotion & Occupational Participation lab is to explore methods which promote health as well as expand opportunities for individuals at risk for decreased health outcomes. The premise of health, as a broad construct encompassing physical well-being, mental and psychosocial factors, occupational engagement, social participation, spirituality, environmental resources and others factors is foundational to this lab.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being

Lead Researcher: Dr. Moses Ikiugu

Mental health is a concern not only for those with diagnoses of mental illness, but for all people. In fact, mental health can be seen as a continuum, and we are at various points in this continuum according to our life circumstances. Therefore, all of us can do something to improve our mental wellbeing. In this lab, researchers explore ways of using occupation-based interventions to help all occupational therapy service recipients', irrespective of whether or not they have a diagnosis of mental illness, improve their emotional and overall psychosocial well-being.

Trauma Informed Care

Lead Researcher: Dr. Shana Cerny

In this lab, researchers recognize the multisystemic impact of trauma and use evidence based practice to support those with trauma experiences. Trauma informed occupational therapy interventions are used to support recovery and promote resiliency across practice settings and populations by using multi-tiered public health framework for addressing mental health.

Innovations in Practice

Lead Researcher: Dr. Ranelle Nissen

Innovative approaches keep occupational therapy practice relevant in a changing healthcare environment. In this lab, researchers explore methods to provide visionary practice approaches to maintain occupational therapy as a leader in healthcare.

Neurocognitive Basis of Occupational Participation

Lead Researcher: Dr. Jessica McHugh

The sensory systems help individuals engage with and learning about the environment. The brain must organize and understand information from the sensory systems in order for the body to respond appropriately. The Neurocognitive Lab seeks to expand scientific research in neurological and motor functioning ranging from working with children with poorly regulated sensory systems to adults experiencing difficulties with sensory functions.

Teaching and Learning

Lead Researcher: Dr. Allison Naber

Innovation in occupational therapy education is a critical aspect to advancing the profession, equipping future leaders and ensuring a strong evidence foundation for therapeutic interventions. The core of occupational therapy is the use of occupation as a means to promote meaning and performance. As such, didactic and clinical instruction should also emphasize occupation as a central premise to teaching and learning. This lab explores contemporary teaching and learning methods and contexts while also exploring learner characteristics and well-being, diversity, teaching technology and interprofessional education.

Theory Development, Validation, and Use

Lead Researcher: Dr. Moses Ikiugu

Theory helps us understand what we are doing as professionals by providing us with a cognitive framework to inform our understanding of the professional issues with which we are dealing. In other words, theoretical frameworks are tools that we use in practice. They provide us with strategies for evaluating our service recipients and developing a plan of intervention to address any issues that are revealed by the evaluation. Like any good tools, theory developers take time to build these theoretical frameworks meticulously and to test them to make sure that they work the way they are designed to work. In occupational therapy, these tools are referred to as theoretical conceptual practice models, frames of reference or theoretical approaches. In this lab, researchers focus on Type I applied inquiry to develop new or expand existing theoretical models, and to develop and validate theory-based assessments. They also investigate the best ways of using theory to guide practice and of instructing students to use theory effectively.