Current Job Title:
Director of the HFHS Center for Vision and Neuro Rehabilitation & Research; Program Coordinator and Instructor for the WMU Graduate Certificate Program in Low Vision Rehabilitation for OT
Henry Ford Health System; Western Michigan University
Describe your current job:
Henry Ford Health System's Center for Vision and Neuro Rehabilitation and Research: I am currently the director of one of the nation's largest hospital based, comprehensive outpatient vision rehabilitation program. We have an ophthalmologist, optometrist, several support staff, and seven occupational therapists who are all certified low vision specialists. One of the seven OTs is also a certified aging-in-place specialist. Our Centers offer comprehensive low vision exams, retinal mapping of remaining vision, evaluation of function at home and in the community, training in activities of daily living, including using remaining vision efficiently, glare, lighting and contrast, functional and community mobility training with a certified orientation and mobility specialist, driving evaluations and driving skills training. I personally supervise the staff and oversee the day-to-day activities in our three offices, including administrative program decisions, documentation and billing issues, program development and training, staffing issues, and arranging clinical visits of occupational therapy students, optometry interns and ophthalmology residents. Clinically, I continue to see patients as an occupational therapist, an orientation and mobility specialist, and participate actively in research studies. I also have opportunities to present information about vision rehabilitation at national and international conferences, and represent the professions on various boards. Western Michigan University: I am the program coordinator and an instructor in the graduate certificate program in Low Vision Rehabilitation for OT that has been developed within the WMU Department of Occupational Therapy. The majority of these courses are taught online, with 1-2 visits to campus for hands-on learning opportunities.
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
I love the interaction I have with my adult clients who have vision impairment, and my work to assist them in remaining independent with their daily activities. Everyday and every client is a little different which is fun and challenging. Working with students, keep me on my toes as well. As an instructor, students often ask questions about how or why something is done, which always causes a clinical professional to consider the clinical reasoning behind our decisions or treatment plans. Both positions have offered me opportunities to promote my professions nationally and internationally.
If you had a campus job or internship, how did they impact your career development?
As an occupational therapy student, I had an opportunity to volunteer at a Sports Education Camp for Visually Impaired students. It was part of a course I took between semesters to gain extra credits. This was an opportunity that allowed me to learn about children with vision impairments and meet the professionals who worked with individuals (of all ages) with vision impairments. Once I started to work as an occupational therapist in a hospital rehabilitation department, I realized that I was applying many of the same compensatory techniques I used with the athletes at camp with my older adults with vision impairments. I loved being an OT but felt I did not possess the skills to specialize. At the time, there were very few OTs working in the field of vision rehabilitation, so I began to look outside of the profession of occupational therapy for training. It is a good thing I met all of those professionals at the Sports Camp because I had a good knowledge base of the field and what training I needed. I was able to find a Master's degree that complemented my OT degree, and has allowed me to combine the degrees in a clinical practice setting for over 20 years!! On a side note, I volunteered at that camp for 10 consecutive years, and I can't wait to someday take my own children with me to volunteer!
What advice do you have for students looking for their career after college?
Take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. Each opportunity is an experience, whether positive or negative, that provides learning for you as a professional. You can build off of this learning for the rest of your career. For instance, during my undergraduate studies, I was a resident hall advisor. I learned valuable skills such as interview techniques, crisis management and conflict resolution. These skills can be applied day-to-day in my program director position. It may take years to achieve your dream job, but if you keep learning from each opportunity, it may happen sooner than you think.