An innovative course within the UNM School of Medicine Occupational Therapy Program is benefiting Albuquerque community programs while teaching students how to gain knowledge of community-based health issues and develop skills in advocacy, leadership and communication.

Since 1997, 121 students have given their expertise and time to 36 different community programs in the Greater Albuquerque area while taking the Community Health course, said Terry K. Crowe, Ph.D., OTR/L, professor. Community programs in which the Occupational Therapy Program has partnered with include All Faiths Receiving Home, Albuquerque Partnership, Career Works, Catholic Social Services, Cuidando Los Ninos, Juvenile Justice Center, Healthcare for the Homeless, Resources Inc., Pathways, and VSA. Over the semester students spend at least 40 hours completing their community project.

Projects have included writing a grant for a day program for people who are homeless, developing program evaluation procedures, writing and publishing a coloring book for children focusing on safety, developing and modeling ergonomic evaluation systems, developing a resource directory to increase access to services for low-income families, and following legislative bills which impact communities. Students work in pairs or alone depending upon the magnitude of the project.

At the completion of the semester, they present their project outcomes to faculty and peers using a PowerPoint presentation. Because of the high quality of the occupational therapy community projects, many agencies have requested that additional occupational therapy students work with their agency during the next year.

"While giving back to the community, the students learn specific competencies such as organizational skills, working collaboratively with others towards an end goal, writing grants and evaluating outcomes of projects," said Crowe. "In addition, the students interact with individuals with life challenges including legal problems, homelessness, mental and behavioral health concerns and poverty."

The Occupational Therapy Program enrolled their first students in the summer of 1993. In 2000, they transitioned from an undergraduate program to an entry-level Masters program.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322