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Empowering the Profession

Published April 11, 2016 1:53 PM by Dillon Stickle

This blog post was written by Kate Bortz, editorial assistant at ADVANCE and the on-site correspondent for AOTA 2016. 

The AOTA Annual Conference and Expo officially kicked of on Thursday night with a welcome address from AOTA President Ginny Stoffel. This address, which consisted of updates from AOTA, achievements earned by practitioners and students as well as occupational therapy's prominence in the world, was given to the largest gathering of occupational therapy practitioners in the world.

This year's theme, "Evidence and Outcomes: Empowering the Profession," was promised to be explored throughout the various sessions offered. 

At the Welcome Address, attention was brought to those who received IRG grants to support their research. The recipients include Mary Khetani, Mansha Mirza and Juleen Rodakowski the 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Elizabeth Skidmore has been honored for her research on promoting independence and community integration after stroke and brain injury. Never before has an occupational therapist been chosen for this award.

The AOTA's New Vision 2025 was also revealed, which states: "Occupational therapy maximizes health well-being and quality of life for app people populations and communication through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living." This statement was explored throughout the duration of the conference.

The address was followed by Keynote Speakers Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a couple who were victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and amputees. They recounted how their lives changed dramatically after they both lost their left legs. Kensky ultimately made the decision to voluntarily amputate her right leg.

"When it comes to being an able-bodied person, you don't think about how you transition from one part of your day to another," Downes said. "We miss that time desperately and wonder how many prosthetic legs it would take to do all of those things.

Both speakers commented on the positivity and confidence gained from their work with occupational therapists at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Therapists were included in the process of charting daily activities and associated pain levels, finding accommodating housing and discovering what clothing was appropriate to wear.

"You have given us a gift that words cannot fully capture. You gave us our independence back," said Downes.

"You instantly made us fall in love with you and your profession," Kensky said.

The couple remains as strong and active as ever, from seemingly small achievements like passing driving tests or navigating a grocery store to learning how to sit-ski and hand-cycling the last Boston Marathon.

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