Occupational therapy program moves forward

Huntington University is one step closer to opening its first doctoral program with the appointment of Dr. Ruth Ford to lead the program.

"The hiring of Dr. Ford brings national prominence to the initiation of our first university doctoral-level program," President Sherilyn Emberton said. "We are so grateful for the support of our board of trustees and special donors for helping provide a new health care workforce in the critical need area of occupational therapy ... for the people of Northeast Indiana, Southeast Michigan and Western Ohio."

Ford will act as a consultant for the program until she assumes the director role in January 2014.

Ford, who previously served as the associate dean of occupational therapy at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., comes to HU with 13 years in academia, including broad experience in the clinical and business aspects of the field. She has 37 clinical years of experience in management, acute care, rehabilitation, outpatient, long-term care and home health. She has managed more than 500 occupational and physical therapists and speech language pathologists and has opened multiple occupational therapy programs.

"What really inspired me was the overwhelming support for a new occupational therapy (OT) program," Ford said. "There are multiple areas within the university that tie directly to the doctoral work of OT such as prerequisites in the sciences, psychology, sociology and anthropology. Undergraduate degrees offered at Huntington and other local universities fit well for admission to OT."

The program is being developed in a unique collaboration with Trine University, Parkview Health and the City of Fort Wayne.

"Developing networks for student learning and giving back to the community are essential to making this an interactive system of win-win for all," she said. "Looking creatively at our resources and matching those together requires outreach and awareness. We need to use the talents given to us to make a difference in the world we live."

In the program, faculty will develop students spiritually as well as academically. Students will work in the field and gain skills in leadership and research to become effective clinicians after graduation.

"Dr. Ruth Ford is just the right person to be the founding director of our occupational therapy program," said Dr. Ann McPherren, senior vice president for strategy. "She brings a great mix of clinical, academic and administrative experience. New program starts are both exciting and challenging. Ruth is motivated by both. With the Lord's blessing and the accrediting bodies' go-ahead, we are looking forward with great anticipation to greeting Huntington University's first doctoral students next fall."

This doctoral program will be located within the Life Science Education and Research Consortium of Northeast Indiana at the Parkview Randallia campus in Fort Wayne. The program will build on Huntington's undergraduate degrees in psychology, nursing and exercise science. A bachelor's degree and certain prerequisite courses are required for this program.

The program also will extend services into the greater Fort Wayne area through community service requirements for all students as well as through research and residency projects. Students' projects in the community will strengthen the learning experience, according to Ford, but also will expand to networking opportunities and access to community experts.

"We want to prepare (students) for a career that will last them for decades," Ford said.

The university is currently seeking accreditation for the program through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

Ford will relocate to Huntington in January to begin full-time work.