Alligator Staff

UF will soon be the first public Florida institution to offer a doctorate degree in occupational therapy.

The UF College of Public Health and Health Professions will offer the degree in Fall 2018, replacing the college’s current occupational therapy Master’s program.

“Health care systems are becoming increasingly complex, and there is a significant need for practitioners who have the knowledge and skills to provide cost-effective, evidence-based services while serving as leaders and innovators,” said Christine Myers, the director of the occupational therapy Master’s program.

She said the new program will be more expensive since it will take more time. The Master’s program took about 2 1/2 years, but the doctorate program will take about 3 1/2 years.

“This will allow us to move beyond the Master’s degree by providing not only a high-quality clinical education, but also by providing students with education in leadership and advocacy, interprofessional communication and program development and evaluation,” Myers said.

The new program will also require students to complete a clinical capstone, which will provide them with more real-life experience, she said.

“Students will have the opportunity to refine their clinical skills while engaging in a project that is designed to advance clinical practice,” Myers said. “In addition to entering clinical practice, students who graduate from the OTD program will have opportunities to take on leadership roles, work as occupational therapy educators or engage in research activities.”

Sherrilene Classen, the chair of UF’s Department of Occupational Therapy, said students will learn skills such as how to utilize and apply research and how to make data-driven decisions.

“The students will be classified as highly-qualified personnel once they have their degree,” she said.