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College of Health Professions E-Newsletter

MUSC Represented in the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development Program

MUSC OT Adjunct Faculty Member and Alumni from the Class of 2006, Dr. Cristina Smith, OTD, OTR/L, recently completed the Emerging Leaders Development Program sponsored by the AOTA. This experience, which lasted from January thru December 2012, consisted of participation in a leadership workshop at AOTA Headquarters in Bethesda, MD with Dr. Ginny Stoffel, then AOTA Vice President, and Dr. Nancy Stanford-Blair, author of the book “Leading Coherently.”  In addition to the leadership training with the 17 other emerging leaders, Dr. Smith participated in a Hill Day experience where she was able to meet with healthcare liaisons for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Jim DeMint, and Representative Tim Scott.  Dr. Smith reported, “This experience was one that greatly enhanced my knowledge of the relationship of occupational therapy to national policy and the importance of everyday practitioners to educate decision-makers who typically have no idea why occupational therapy is so important and how we are distinctly different from other professions.”

After the experience in Bethesda, Dr. Smith began a 12 month formal mentorship relationship with AOTA International Staff Liaison Maria Elena Louch and AOTA Director of Education, Dr. Neil Harvison. Through this mentorship relationship, they engaged in monthly phone meetings to develop the policy and procedures manual for the upcoming AOTA Residency Program that is currently being piloted at five sites across the country. Dr. Smith also had the opportunity to engage with and observe her mentors at the 2012 AOTA National Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Through that experience, she had the opportunity to meet occupational therapy leaders from foreign countries, former presidents of the AOTA, and the WFOT International Liaison.  "I felt like Moses coming from the mountaintop and I realized that these were normal women and men with extraordinary commitment to the profession.  It was very inspiring. I was so shocked to learn that a leader from a foreign country had actually been subject to personal threats for the sake of the profession, but he still continued to lead.”

As a result of participation in the Emerging Leaders Program, Dr. Smith coordinated co-presentations with other ELDP program participants for a 3 hour workshop and Tech Day presentation at the 2013 AOTA conference in San Diego, CA (both presentations also involved MUSC OT students as co-presenters).  In addition, Dr. Smith was selected to co-present with AOTA Vice President Dr. Amy Lamb on an AOTA-sponsored “Centennial Vision in Action” presentation to discuss participation in the Emerging Leaders program at the same conference.  Lastly, Dr. Smith is coordinating an AOTA-sponsored presentation on “Diversity in the Workforce:  Perspectives from Emerging Leaders” that is scheduled to take place at the 2014 AOTA National Conference in Baltimore, MD. 

Dr. Smith is grateful for these experiences and for those who have mentored her before and throughout the process. She is excited to continue to share her knowledge and experiences from the program with OT students and other practitioners. She stated, "AOTA guaranteed certain expectations, but the actual experience was so much more than I had imagined or anticipated.  It really taught me to keep an open mind…that anything is possible.”


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