Occupational Therapy Research

Dr. Ben Atchison,  interim chair and  professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy is  a founding member of the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (CTAC), has been involved in research (2003-2008  SAMHSA funded grant in collaboration with the National Childrens Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) ) related to school based intervention models for children (SIP: School Intervention Project). A specific focus on sensory processing disorders led to the inclusion of sensory based approaches to classroom learning and behavioral management of children exposed to trauma. With the recent award of a second NIH-SAMHSA grant, he worked  with the CTAC team to develop a mix of online and on-campus education and training programs designed for interdisciplinary professional teams in Michigan to implement comprehensive trauma assessments and then to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. He an associate of the WMU  BRAIN Lab at CHHS (Brain Research and Interdisciplinary Neurosciences) which is  investigating brain-behavior connections with a variety of populations.

Dr. Ann Chapleau, is an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Her research interests include interventions for persons with mental illness and developing strategies for teaching and measuring student learning. Drs. Chapleau and Dirette recently published the results of a Tai Chi health promotion intervention for persons with mental illness, comparing pre- and post-cardiac and pulmonary function, and perceived quality of life. Dr. Chapleau is currently developing a program evaluation process for the Level I fieldwork clinics in the OT department, using Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS). The GAS will be used to assess both clinical outcomes and individual student academic goals. 

Dr. Carla Chase, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, is an occupational therapist and gerontologist whose work centers on meeting the needs of older adults in the community by researching the impact of environmental modifications on participation and safety. Dr. Chase is currently conducting a research study to explore the impact of home modifications on a client's fear of falling and overall activity level in and around the home.

Dr. Diane Dirette is a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Her area of expertise is in physical dysfunction and her main research interests are focused on people with acquired brain injuries who have cognitive deficits. She developed and published an intervention for self-awareness titled Self-awareness Enhancement through Learning and Function (SELF).   Dr. Dirette has collaborated with local clinicians to evaluate the effectiveness of SELF and to develop assessments to use with the approach. She is also investigating the differences in taught versus self-generated strategies for memory function and the impact of learning styles on the selected use of those strategies. In addition, she has collaborated with Dr. Ann Chapleau to investigate the effectiveness of a Tai Chi program for persons with severe mental illness.  

Dr. Kieran J. Fogarty is a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Doctoral program. His area of expertise is in interdiscipli-nary approaches to developing new applied research methods based on concepts that reflect the fundamental changes in U.S. health care delivery systems. For more information, link to the research summary on these pages.

Dr. Debra Lindstrom is a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Her current research interests include developing clinical reasoning, office ergonomics, creating livable communities to maximize older adults’ participation/active engagement in the community, and developing the profession of Occupational Therapy in Bangladesh. 

Dr. Maureen Mickus, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and a gerontologist, conducts research focusing on aging policy and supporting community-based care for elders. Along with her colleague George Erickcek, an economist at the Upjohn Institute, she is conducting a study funded by the Area Agency on Aging Association. This research study analyzes the fiscal impact of MiChoice, Michigan's Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver. Dr. Mickus is also working on intervention research designed to alleviate loneliness in high risk elder populations. Recently, she assembled a team of ten occupational therapy students for a project relating to older persons who attend congregate meal sites throughout Kalamazoo. The focus on the project was to determine the level of physical activity in the lives of these individuals and associated barriers related to exercise.  Data was collected for 115 participants at eleven sites. Findings from this project will be used to establish future student-led exercise programs at the congregate meal sites, whose participants are mostly underserved populations and older persons living alone.

Dr. Michelle Suarez, is an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Her research interests include autism, food selectivity in the pediatric population, sensory processing disorder, and child trauma. She is a member of the Brain Research and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (BRAIN) team which focuses on investigating brain-behavior connections.  Currently, she is studying the effectiveness of a holistic treatment protocol for treatment of food selectivity in the pediatric population.