OT Students, Faculty, Alum Attend AOTA Conference

Occupational therapy representatives from SHS participate in annual Chicago conference; faculty members win awards for research.

April 12, 2016
Touro OT representatives at the 2016 AOTA Conference in Chicago. From right to left: Elizabeth Chiariello (professor), Stephanie Jacob (OTS, Bay Shore campus), Bari Diamond (OTS, Manhattan), Gabriela Masotti (OTS, Manhattan), Frank Kronenberg (professor), Jordan Signorelli (OTS, Bay Shore), Jessica Buchberger (OTS, Bay Shore), Amanda Oppenheim (OTS, Bay Shore), and John Denny (OTS, Bay Shore).
Touro OT representatives at the 2016 AOTA Conference in Chicago. From right to left: Elizabeth Chiariello (professor), Stephanie Jacob (OTS, Bay Shore campus), Bari Diamond (OTS, Manhattan), Gabriela Masotti (OTS, Manhattan), Frank Kronenberg (professor), Jordan Signorelli (OTS, Bay Shore), Jessica Buchberger (OTS, Bay Shore), Amanda Oppenheim (OTS, Bay Shore), and John Denny (OTS, Bay Shore).

The conference brought together approximately 10,000 occupational therapy practitioners and students from across the world to participate in more than 1,000 OT-related educational sessions, including a presentation given by survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Touro’s SHS was well represented at the conference by more than 30 students, alumni and faculty. Ten faculty members, three of whom won awards, presented educational seminars. Assistant Professor Dr. Precin won a Recognition of Achievement from the American Occupational Therapy Association for her three-decades-long work as an OT in the area of mental health and administration; Assistant Professor Dr. Alexander Lopez won the Roster of Fellows Award for his innovative community-based programs addressing the needs of children with autism and youth at risk; and Dr. Rivka Molinsky, Associate Dean of Students and Innovation, was awarded a Service Commendation for her second three-year term as the Education Special Interest Section (EDSIS) Faculty Sub-Section Chair.

On the first evening of the conference, SHS alumni, including those who graduated from Touro Nevada’s OT program, reconnected at the alumni reunion and reception—an event planned by Dr. Stephanie Wong, SHS OT department chairperson. 

Current students Bari Diamond, SHS ’17 and Gabriela Masotti, SHS ‘17 said the conference was a great way to network with other OT professionals and connect with alumni.

“We networked with hundreds of OT-related exhibitors, collecting fun supplies and observing some of the most up-to-date therapeutic technology,” said Bari.

The lecture Bari enjoyed most was that of keynote speakers Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a couple who became amputees due to the Boston Marathon bombing. “These two inspirational folks praised the significance of occupational therapy in enabling them to become more resilient and independent participants of life, despite their overcoming a historic tragedy,” said Bari. “To be able to sit amongst my peers while listening to this optimistic and inspirational couple was truly a special, golden moment within my academic career that will never be forgotten.”

Professor Shifra Leiser, who spoke about her research on Gentle Enhancement® within the HANDLE® approach, presented for the first time at the AOTA conference. The experience was gratifying, she said.  “It makes every hour spent on research, preparation and client interviews more than well worth it. It made my clients' stories come alive, gave them a voice and added an additional layer of meaning and purpose to all they have gone through.” She also added that she was grateful for the solidarity and support given to her by the OT administration and her students.  “There is no greater feeling of support than to see your own Master's students take time out of their busy conference schedule to attend your workshop and take a front row seat.”

Many SHS faculty members from both the New York and Nevada programs are active members of AOTA subgroups—including AOTPAC, Community of Practice on Transition, Special Interest Section Council, and Multicultural Networking Groups. During the conference, our faculty members took the opportunity to attend their respective meetings throughout the conference and raise their opinions on pertinent issues.

To accommodate the large number of Orthodox Jewish participants of the conference, including members who attended from as far away as Israel, a Shabbos program was organized by the Orthodox Jewish Occupational Therapy Chavrusa (OJOTC)—one of AOTA’s Multicultural Networking Groups—which works with professional OT organizations in meeting the religious needs of its members. The program was located at the conference hotel to minimize the challenge of travel on Shabbos.  

“While ensuring that our Orthodox members can attend without compromising their religious values, the program also provides all Jews a chance to network and socialize over Shabbos meals,” said Dr. Rivka Molinsky and fellow OT Peggy Gurock, co-chairs of the OJOTC. All three Shabbos meals this year were sponsored by the School of Health Sciences’ own Dean Louis Primavera.

Gabriella Masotti, SHS ’17, said her favorite part of attending the conference was the opportunity to be surrounded by “all the great minds that have shaped our field.”