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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Where Did You Receive Your OT Training?

Published September 22, 2014 9:55 AM by Debra Karplus
I was doing some cleaning and organizing and stumbled upon a few of my old college textbooks.  I started thinking about some of my occupational therapy classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the mid-1970s, and about my professors there.  I clearly remember Miss Beatrice Wade, the Grande Dame of the program.  She seemed at least a million years old, but thanks to an Internet search, I discovered that when I was at UIC she was in her seventies, not at all old from where I sit right now.

I don't remember having Miss Wade as an instructor for any of my classes; she may have already been Professor Emeritus by then.  I was terrified of making any wrong turn in Miss Wade's presence so it is ironic that one morning while rushing to class, I sped around a hallway and knocked right into Miss Wade.  At that moment, I felt diminished into a naughty little three year old child.

Curious about Miss Wade, I looked online to learn more about her.  She lived from 1903 to December 1994 and had been born in Iowa.  She began an occupational therapy career in 1924.  In 1931, she was the Illinois consultant to the State Department of Mental Health.  In 1940, she relocated to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti to start an OT Program there.  In 1943, she came to Chicago to develop the OT curriculum at UI.  I know that Miss Wade was considered one of the founding mothers of our profession, and I somehow had the idea that UI had the first occupational therapy program.  But I discovered otherwise.

Wondering where the first OT school in the US existed, I again looked online, and nothing jumped out at me.  So I started searching with key words "history of occupational therapy in..." and plugged in the names of some states, first Illinois, then Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. According to their web site, Washington University in St. Louis was the first program west of the Mississippi, starting back in 1918, after World War I, when the profession was really starting to be taken seriously.  By the time I got to OT school at UI in the 1970s, there were about forty accredited universities offering bachelor's degrees in OT.

I chose to attend University of Illinois because I could get in-state tuition; a very large percentage of my high school class of approximately six hundred students, went to UI also.  As for becoming an OT, it was simply by some strange quirk of fate, a chance meeting with an occupational therapist, that I stumbled into the program, which turned out to be a wonderful career path for me.

Now I‘m curious and want to hear from readers how they chose to become OTs and what were there reasons for selecting the university where they OT degree.  I hope that you will take this as a genuine and sincere invitation to share your comments to this post.


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5 comments

Sorry that comment posted so manytimes.. I do not know how to erase it... if you know how.. please do.. how embarrassing... but also a problem in therapy today for the OTR... I had a phone interview and was regaling all of my OT skills about NMR and splinting and teaching students etc.. and said my one weak area was computers... obviously did not get the job because actually that is all they needed ... or wanted from me was a quick signature to bill Medicare ... OT skills are not required.. and especially if the game is to bring in big RUG levels... no questions asked... or tolerated... seen that too much in the last 15 years.. especially the last 10 years.. but if you can erase the comment that postedtoo many times.. I would be more than happy  :)

margaret morrison November 2, 2014 1:19 PM

Unfortunatley I agree... whenI started as an OTR/L   the uniform was navy slacks and a white top... like a lab coat or a uniform top... and the white nurses shoes that you mention in the article... and something you do not see any more... the OTR patch... I still have them in my drawer... and the PTs had the triangular patch... we had to have the OTR patch on the left upper sleeve of our uniform .. it was not an option... it was required... I still have my patches... might sew them onto my next uniform top... just out of  defiance... inhow the INDUSTRY turned into an industry... and not the profession it used tobe ... :(

margaret Morrison, SNFs - OTR/L, prm October 31, 2014 10:35 PM
east Central IL

So nice to recall the days when the OTR/L was not just just the needed license to bill Medicare... I have done it all ... from hand therapy with Eva McCormack at Loyola... where you might make three splints an hour... to Work Hardening to OP ortho to include shoulders and elbows as well as wrists and hands... to mostly geriatric rehab... I am very knowledgeable with Stroke Rehab... I might grade recovery by the Brunnstrum scale... but treat more with a Bobath approach..with some PNF techs tossed in there... say that to new grads and they have not even heard of Bobath or Brunnstrum... especially PTs... both PTAs and RPT/DPTs... whatever...  nice to recall the old days before RUGS changed my "career" forever ...

margaret morrison, SNFs - OTR/L, prn October 30, 2014 5:21 PM
Cullom IL

Thanks for reading and commenting, Margaret.

(East Peoria is just a hop from my current home & workplace in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.)

Debbie K, author

Debra Karplus October 27, 2014 3:05 PM

How interesting... I actually drove Beatrice Wade to a meeting I planned at Columbus Hospital... when I was Secretary of IOTA... back in my glory days... mention her name nowadays and no one knows who I am talking about... I graduated EMU in 1974... and she told me she started the Dept there... can't believe I am hearing about someone who actually knew her at Uof I... wow... I used to be Student Supervisor at Loyola 30 years ago... back in the good old days of OT... I am not happy with what has gone on in the nursing homes since the RUGS came in ... the OTR is the co-signing stooge in many homes... do not have anything to say about anything and just need our signature one hour per month... if even that ... have you worked in nursing homes lately .. it gets worse every day in my experience... but to hear someone actually talk about Beatrice Wade... how cool :)... Pt and OTs do not even know who Berta Bobath is... many PTs have never even heard her name... let alone Signe Brunnstrum...  or Doroty Voss... EEEEGADS  :(

Margaret Morrison, Geriatrics - OTR/L, PRN October 26, 2014 9:07 AM
east central illlinois IL

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