Student Profile

Students in our Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate (PPOTD) represent a wide range of practice areas. Through their doctoral studies, students are able to focus on areas of personal interest and specialized practice.

• Pie chart showing areas of practice by these categories: older adults/LTC, 11%; school system, 21%; Acute care, inpatient rehab, 21%; adult, 5%; mental health/community, 21%; outpatient care, 10%, home health, 11%

Capstone Projects

Individualized projects allow students to gain knowledge and translate evidence for clinical practice relative to their area of expertise.

(2023) Radiatou Boucar, OTD, OTR/L

Implications of the Use of Bed Rails in Nursing Homes: A Needs Assessment of Risk, Benefits To Promote Engagement in Occupation of Choice

Nursing home (NH) residents face a wide range of age-related physical and mental disorders, functional deficits, and behavioral challenges in an institutional caregiving environment that has long been associated with significant quality of care and quality of life challenges. Infringements on resident rights leading to reduced autonomy, quality of life, neglect, and abuse are common. Under the supervision of Dr. H. Wayne Nelson, Radia’s focus was to assess the lack of direct caregiver awareness regarding the risks of injury, death, and psychological harm associated with the misuse of bed rails as a falsely protective means to prevent residents from falling out of bed. Radia developed an educational intervention to increase direct NH caregiver awareness of the potential harm caused by elevated bed rails, as well as some potential benefit for mentally capable residents. A mixed method needs assessment of NH nursing staff (n = 61) in two facilities (Chapel Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation in Randallstown, Maryland; and Woodhaven Nursing Alzheimer’s and Rehabilitation Care Center in Lumberton, North Carolina) collected both qualitative and quantitative data about the staff’s perceptions of the risks and benefits of bed rail use as well as their practical knowledge about applicable state and federal bed rail guidelines. Results indicated that the improper use of bed rails was widespread due to a lack of knowledge about applicable laws and regulations, safety protocols, resident rights (informed consent) and about the dangers of death and injury that bedrails pose to mentally incapable residents. Some staff were aware of the the potential benefits of bedrails as an aid to mobility for mentally capable residents who choose to use them. These findings supported the need and informed the content of Radia’s five module restraint Free training program which was designed to educate NH staff on appropriate bedrail use to promote occupational engagement and reduce occupational injustice.

(2022) Tamerill Faison, OTD, OTR/L  

Trauma-Informed Care and the Perceived Competence of the Fieldwork Student 

Trauma can result in adverse effects on functioning and mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Training future occupational therapists to recognize and respond to trauma is paramount and can help to foster the development of a trauma-informed lens that can then be solidified during clinical internships. Tamerill’s project, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Demchick, addressed occupational therapy students’ ability to engage with and respond to individuals who have experienced trauma by developing a trauma-informed care training program that was presented to (n=11) OT and OTA Level II fieldwork students at community mental health day programs. The training program included four interactive didactic sessions focusing on recognizing the health risk behaviors associated with trauma and the benefits of being trauma-informed, as well as distinguishing the dos and don’ts to prevent re-traumatization and applying OT interventions using case studies and clinical scenarios. The post-training survey results showed an increase in the level of perceived competence after the completion of the training program, compared to the pre-training results. Project findings illustrate that trauma-informed care training can improve trauma knowledge in clinical practice; however, additional training is needed to support skills and competence. 

(2022) Kathryn Baier, OTD, OTR/L  

Creating a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Loan Closet Within a Hospital System 

Adults 65 and older, those of minority backgrounds, and those of lower socioeconomic status often struggle to obtain necessary durable medical equipment (DME), and many Baltimore City residents are members of these groups. Residents in this city also struggle with transportation, making it difficult to travel to receive needed equipment. Owning the proper DME can be hugely beneficial to individuals, resulting in decreased falls, increased occupational engagement, and overall decreased healthcare spending. Kathryn’s project, under the supervision of Dr. Sonia Lawson, followed a logic model for program development to assess for need, engage stakeholders, and determine the feasibility of creating a DME loan closet at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore City. After consulting with experts in the field, a partnership was established with the Maryland Department of Aging’s Equipment Re-Use Program to decrease the burden placed on hospital staff for equipment management and to ensure that the DME made available to patients and community members were held to the highest standards of sanitization and inspection. This project required persistence, direct communication, and creativity to implement, but ultimately advanced the goal to provide DME that will increase individuals’ safety and occupational engagement.  

(2022) Angela Williams, OTD, OTR/L  

The Efficacy of Action Observation Treatment with Stroke Patients: A Pilot Study 

There is not an abundance of motor recovery treatments available for occupational therapists to administer to stroke patients, and they are often given little time to recover within the inpatient rehabilitation setting. Action observation treatment (AOT) is a newer rehabilitation approach that requires a patient to complete motor actions of various difficulty levels after observing the performance of each task. This project, under the direction of Dr. Sonia Lawson, aimed to evaluate the feasibility of AOT in inpatient rehabilitation by conducting a pilot study with purposive sampling (n=3). Participants completed a total of six sessions of AOT for 60 minutes. The occupational therapists completed the Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Patient Assessment Instrument (IRF-PAI) shortly after admission and the day before discharge. The investigator administered the Fugl Meyer Assessment–Upper Extremity (FMA-UE) and the Stroke Impact Scale 3.0 (SIS). During this pilot study, all participants demonstrated improvement after AOT. Improved scores were noted in self-care tasks (from the IRF-PAI), hand functioning (from the FMA-UE), and various quality of life measures from the SIS. Participants reported greater confidence using their upper extremity while performing functional tasks. Results suggest that AOT is a cost-efficient treatment option for occupational therapy practitioners to use in the inpatient rehabilitation setting with patients who have suffered an acute stroke. 

(2022) Audrey Combs, OTD, OTR/L  

Pretend: Standardized Patients in Occupational Therapy Curricula 


Standardized patients are real people trained to “act” as though they have a diagnosis or symptoms and are used by educators for teaching and assessing students’ interpersonal and clinical skills. Incorporating standardized patients into the curricula for occupational therapy students affords learners a safe environment for practicing the skills they will need as an occupational therapist before they work with actual clients and patients. Research indicates that students identify standardized patient interactions as valuable learning opportunities, particularly in terms of their benefits for students’ interpersonal and technical skill development. The literature suggests the benefits of standardized patient programs (SPP) in higher education; however, these programs are not being fully utilized in the occupational therapy program at Towson University. Audrey’s capstone project, under the supervision of Dr. Marcie Weinstein, included preparatory work toward and recommendations for establishing a SPP for dual purposes. The SPP would be used for improving students’ performance on fieldwork and preparedness for entry-level occupational therapy practice. Preparatory work included literature and curricula reviews, as well as participating in training courses and establishing memberships in professional organizations. Recommendations and deliverables include a template for creating standardized patient interactions, outcomes from a pilot standardized patient interaction, and detailed logistical considerations for the systematic incorporation of standardized patients and a standardized patient program at Towson University. 


(2022) Christine Greseth, OTD, OTR/L  

Life Skills Training and Community Functioning: An Evaluation of an Independent Living Program for Adults with Serious Mental Illness 


Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) are frequently disabled by significant cognitive and social impairments, demonstrate the most severe functional impairment, and have the greatest difficulty assimilating into the community environment. Individuals with SMI require a full complement of social supports to experience successful and meaningful occupational engagement, however, the scope of current mental health programming is inadequate and limited due to a variety of individual and systemic barriers. The purpose of Chris’ study, under the supervision of Dr. Beth Merryman, was to describe and evaluate the efficacy of a multidisciplinary life skills program designed for individuals with SMI and examine the characteristics of the occupation-based approach to skill acquisition for successful transition from supported housing to independent living. Program elements included weekly didactic learning in a classroom setting, staff supported homework in situ, and the addition of occupation-based activities structured around therapeutic group principles. Program participants were members of a residential rehabilitation program (RRP) with a recovery goal of transitioning from supported housing to independent living. Quantitative data was collected through archival documents identifying the number and characteristics of participants who successfully transitioned out of supported housing while qualitative data was collected through a focus group of occupational therapists who were actively involved in the program design, implementation, or progression. The occupation-based approach to skill acquisition was noted to be a valuable and unique element to program design, had a primary influence on member commitment and feelings of self-efficacy, and translated into improved skills in current housing, and greater community engagement over time. 

(2022) Brooke Reeves, OTD, OTR/L

Return to School for the Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Population Following Traumatic and Non-Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury


When a child acquires a spinal cord injury or disorder, they are faced with a sudden onset of changes. Engagement in education, play, and leisure are immediately impacted. Brooke’s capstone project, under the supervision of Dr. Barb Demchick, used survey methodology to examine the return to school for children from Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in grades kindergarten through fifth grade following SCI/D to better understand the barriers and supports they face when returning to school. Results indicated that children face barriers upon return to school related to school access, transportation, and educational support. Based on these results, an in-clinic outpatient return to school recommendation form was developed to bridge the gap between the medical model therapist and school staff that is specific to each child’s needs. Curriculum is being developed to support families and therapists in preparing a child to return to school following SCI/D and to educate families to advocate for their child in the school setting. In addition, development of advocacy tools for both parents and therapists will occur in order to promote the success of children with SCI/D in the school environment. Brooke’s future recommendations include further research regarding placement following SCI/D to better understand why children with SCI/D require educational support when they have not experienced cognitive impairments/shift.  

(2021) Hannah Parsons Salomon, OTD, OTR/L

Use of Quality of Life Measures by Occupational Therapists

The number of adults over the age of 65 is the fastest growing population, however, this brings a number of chronic health conditions, reduced physical performance, and increased healthcare costs. All of these consequences potentially impact Quality of Life (QOL) and occupational therapists are one of the few professions whose scope of practice overlaps fully with the QOL domains. The purpose of Hannah’s research, under the supervision of Dr. Beth Merryman, was to understand the use of QOL measures by occupational therapists as they integrated them into daily practice. Five therapists currently working in adult physical rehabilitation participated in this qualitative study in which they adopted the use of the SF-12 in routine practice. The grounded theory approach revealed four themes: (1) use of a QOL measure increased depth of patient information received by the therapist, (2) opened conversations about mental health, (3) assisted in discovering the patient’s primary goal, and (4) changed the therapists’ approach to treatment and intervention. Therapist participants reported that with the use of the SF-12 to guide treatment, they became more client-centered, gained better rapport, and improved patients’ overall QOL. Hannah plans to disseminate findings to statewide and national therapy companies to encourage the adoption of QOL measures in routine practice. 

(2021) Mindy Gettier, OTD, OTR/L

Synthesizing Best Feeding Practices for Children and Parents in Early Intervention

The aim of Mindy’s project was to pilot a novel, evidence-based approach to guide feeding interventions and parent education in the home environment for young children who demonstrate problematic mealtime behaviors that restrict food intake and prolong meals over 30 minutes. The information gathered from the pilot program will help early intervention occupational therapy practitioners utilize a new approach to intervention with a combination of strategies that can be customized for each family, delivered in the home environment, embedded in the family’s naturally occurring routines, and combine parent education with development of the child’s occupational performance.  The pilot program development and conducted under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Crabtree established an evidence-based intervention for children and parent education. These findings will be disseminated to support therapists to help children efficiently consume a variety of foods so that they can participate in the family mealtime routines and occupations. 

(2021) Melanie Alevetsovitis, OTD, OTR/L

Structuring the Occupational Therapy Process During Remote Learning to Support the Participation of Students with Multiple and Severe Disabilities 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, occupational therapy practitioners had to dramatically change how they practiced with the transactional perspective on occupation recognizing that the occupational therapy process had to evolve to meet the situated needs of students within the remote context. Melanie’s capstone project, under the direction of Dr. Lisa Crabtree, focused upon program evaluation and was conducted to understand how school-based occupational therapy practitioners within the setting of a public separate day school should structure the therapy process to support the participation of students with multiple and severe disabilities in remote learning during an emergency/disaster. Quantitative information concerning the occupational therapy process within the remote context was collected via administration of an online survey to twelve teachers with then four teachers partaking in qualitative interviews. She also collected data to provide an understanding of the needs of this population of students, and found that the teachers positively viewed how services within the remote context addressed each of the three components of the occupational therapy process of evaluation, intervention, and outcomes. Meanwhile, qualitative data revealed the themes of (1) finding value in the use of evaluation as part of remote learning; (2) using creativity and innovation in adapting intervention approaches to support student outcomes in the remote context; and (3) collaboration as an essential part of the occupational therapy process in the remote context. These findings were then used to develop a flowchart to guide practitioner clinical reasoning in structuring the occupational therapy process as part of remote learning. 

(2021) Michelle Hannum, OTD, OTR/L

Maternal Health and Wellbeing: An Occupation-Based Program for New Moms

Occupational therapy has a role in preventive health care services and programs, and Michelle recognized a need for occupational therapy in postpartum maternal health and wellbeing in her region. The impact of postpartum occupational disruption on maternal health and wellbeing became the focus of Michelle’s capstone project.  Mentored by Dr. Kendra Heatwole Shank, Michelle developed the “Bee Well Momma” program, which is a holistic, occupation-based program for first-time mothers. This seven-session program focuses on areas of occupation that many new mothers struggle with, such as developing self-care habits, establishing routines that support sleep hygiene, and maintaining social relationships. Grounded in multidisciplinary research, this program offers education and resources, opportunities for discussion, and participation in activities that promote health and wellness. Bee Well Momma is holistic in that it encompasses not only the physical factors of health and wellbeing, but also the social, emotional and mental facets of motherhood. Michelle is eager to evaluate this program’s outcomes on maternal health and wellbeing through the implementation of a pilot study.   

(2021) Steffi Wilson, OTD, OTR/L

Understanding the Knowledge Translation Experience of Occupational Therapists

Steffis capstone project, under the supervision of Dr. Sonia Lawson, was a research study exploring how occupational therapists working with older adults describe their ability to engage in knowledge translation activities pertaining to advanced pain interventions. Using data collected during several focus groups, Steffi found that occupational therapists working with the geriatric population typically encounter more supports versus barriers in their ability to engage in knowledge translation activities related to advanced pain interventions. Despite this finding, many therapists in the local practice setting have not been able to consistently implement advanced pain interventions with their clients. Therapist motivation may play a role, and thus Steffi plans to investigate this further in a future study.  

(2021) Jennifer Silvestri, OTD, OTR/L

Chronic Shoulder Pain in Manual Wheelchair Users: The Lived Experience

Jennifer Silvestri conducted a research project for her capstone with guidance from Dr. Sonia Lawson. She explored the lived experience of chronic shoulder pain in individuals with spinal cord injury who utilize a manual wheelchair.  Her study explored the meaning of shoulder pain for the affected individuals and its implications on occupational engagement and quality of life.  The information gleaned from the study begins to fill a gap in the literature around personal experiences, and shows how factors such as resilience, a strong support network including peers with spinal cord injury, and successful, independent engagement in meaningful occupations led to increased occupational engagement and quality of life.  Jennifer has disseminated her research to her previous clinical programs and published her findings in OJOT. 

(2020) Adina Benyowitz, OTD, OTR/L

Fine Motor Screening and Intervention Tool: An RtI Tool for Kindergarten Students in the General Education Setting

A review of the literature found that a Response to Intervention screening tool is needed to screen kindergarten students' fine motor skills quickly and easily. Therefore, under the direction of Dr. Lisa Crabtree, Adina developed the Kindergarten Fine Motor Screening Tool and implemented it with public school students to screen kindergarten students' grasp, pre-writing, and cutting skills during COVID-19 virtual learning. The tool was found to be useful and appreciated by both families of kindergarten students, as well as occupational therapists who work in the school system. The tool relates to the health promotion model and offers a new and proactive approach to intervention in the school setting. Overall, the project's findings showed that this screening tool has the potential to provide necessary information regarding kindergarten students' fine motor skills for school occupational therapists to interpret and then provide specific feedback per each student. 

(2020) Nicole Biondo, OTD, OTR/L

The Quick Caregiver Infant Screen(QCIS): A Pilot Study

In reaction to the prevalence of children and families managing autism and other developmental delays in early childhood, Nicole engaged in opportunities to validate the observations and methods that can be used to identify a child’s needs for even earlier intervention services. Current standards of identifying delays and the typical methods used to quantify those delays may no longer be the best practice for managing developmental differences, including autism. Towson University’s commitment to early intervention through their "Teeny Tigers" Children’s Therapy Program, combined with their support for addressing autism needs across the lifespan, led Nicole to the TU post professional occupational therapy doctoral program. She worked with Dr. Barbara Demchick to establish the validity and reliability of an autism screening tool for children as young as 6 months, aiming to improve the standard of care for children and families at risk. 

(2019) Rachel Guilfoyle, OTD, OTR/L, SCLV

Understanding the Perceived Wellness Needs of Individuals with Parkinson's Disease

Rachel Guilfoyle recently completed her OTD working with her mentor Dr. Kendra Heatwole Shank, exploring the perceived wellness needs for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  Her research study addressed the specific needs of individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease to enhance health and promote engagement in occupation. Findings from her national survey about specific needs and current gaps advances the knowledge base about needs of individuals with Parkinson’s disease beyond the traditional care continuum to promote health and positive well-being. Using results of this capstone project, Rachel's efforts are now focused on establishing a community wellness center to engage individuals with Parkinson’s disease in health promoting behavior to improve their overall quality of life, to provide holistic information, and to support healthy living in the community and engagement in valued activities and life roles despite living with a chronic, progressive disease. Housed at Towson University’s Institute of Well-Being (IWB). 


PPOTD students disseminate their coursework and scholarship in local, state, and national presentations.  Funding opportunities and mentorship are available.

  • Kelley, Brooke. (2020). Current trends of employment for individuals with spinal cord injury. AOTA. Boston, MA.
  • Hannum, Michelle. (2020). Participation in occupations by new mothers and how it relates to perceived quality of life. Presented at the South Carolina Occupational Therapy Association (SCOTA) conference, Columbia, SC.
  • Piggott, D., & Yeager, J. (2019, October).  Psychosocial occupational therapy competency assessment (POT-CA).  Session presentation at the Maryland Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, Columbia, MD.
  • Piggott, D. (2019, April).  No man is an island: Meeting occupational needs of adult men on the autism spectrum through community-based programs.  Poster presented at the American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.
  • Piggott, D., & Yeager, J.  (2019, April).  Psychosocial occupational therapy competency assessment (POT-CA). Poster presented at the American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.