By Andrew Waite
With five new members and a new president, it made sense to begin the AOTA Board of Directors meeting on October 17 with a team building exercise. During the activity, the group of 15 went around the conference room at AOTA headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and detailed their past experiences and goals for AOTA’s future.
The perspectives and backgrounds of AOTA’s leaders were diverse, but the commitment to strengthening the profession of occupational therapy as it moves toward the Centennial Vision was the common sentiment, according to several Board members.
“It was a great first meeting because the Board continues to be so focused on moving down the same path, which is membership and reaching our Centennial Vision,” said Brent Braveman, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, the Board’s new secretary. “We discussed becoming widely recognized as a profession, we talked about diversity and inclusion, and we are discussing the recommendations of various ad hoc committees such as the modes of entry into the profession.”
In addition to Braveman, other AOTA Board members who began their terms July 1 are: Mollie Michelle Verdier, COTA/L, AAS; Kristina Finnel, MSW, APSW, who is the Board’s Consumer Advisor; Timothy J. Wolf, OTD, MSCI, OTR/L; and Mary Frances Baxter, PhD, OT, FAOTA, the RA speaker. The Board’s public advisor, Susan B. Parker, MSW/MSP, began her second term.
Meanwhile Ginny Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, AOTA’s president elect for the past year, took over as president.
At the meeting, Board members discussed topics that support the Association’s strategic priorities, including diversity, the future of occupational therapy education, AOTA’s collaborative work with the American Occupational Therapy Foundation to build research capacity within the profession, and occupational therapy’s role in in emerging models of care delivery including primary care.
“Being able to cover those topics with some depth as well as tackle the rest of the Board’s business was just fantastic,” Stoffel said.
The new Board members bring to the table a range of experience and expertise.
Braveman is currently the director of Rehabilitation at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Finnel is the president and chief executive officer of Mental Health America of Wisconsin and has held various roles there since 2006. Stoffel is an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Technology at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) and an affiliated scientist with UWM Center for Applied Behavioral Health Research. Verdier is owner of Therapals.com, a certified occupational therapy assistant for the Madison-Champaign County Educational Service Center, and a member of the Champaign County Autism Team. Wolf is an assistant professor in the Program in Occupational Therapy and Department of Neurology at Washington University in St. Louis–School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Performance, Participation, and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory in the Program in Occupational Therapy. Baxter is an associate professor at Texas Woman’s University.
Each new member’s background should positively shape the chemistry of the Board.
“I am a career scientist. I think I bring a different perspective to the Board in that arena,” Wolf said. “Building capacity for research within our profession, talking about evidence-based practice, I feel like I have something to offer in terms of those strategic initiatives throughout my term.”
“I hope I bring reflective, thoughtful ideas to the Board, and I hope my creative side can contribute to the work of the Board and AOTA,” Baxter said.
Many of AOTA’s new Board members are not new to the Association. Wolf was a member of the Assembly of Student Delegates Steering Committee when the Centennial Vision was being developed. Braveman served as AOTA’s RA speaker. Verdier participated in AOTA’s Emerging Leaders program.
Their familiarity with each other and the Association should help the Board collaborate successfully.
“I think we work really well together,” Wolf said. “I have worked with most members on the Board before, and we already have that level of trust.”
The meeting minutes will be available after they have been approved.
Andrew Waite is the associate editor of OT Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.