UW-Madison OT Program - 2011 OT Matters - Alumni Updates

OT student doing research with child


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Occupational Therapy
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2012 Alumni Updates

Mary (Ebling) Guhl, BS 1955
On Oct. 5, 2012, Mary’s family dedicated the council ring and improvements, and also steps to the lake and additional viewing area, which have recently been built at the end of picnic Point. The dedication is to her mother, Elsie Helen Iwen Ebling. Mary is one of three trustees who have been working on this gift for about six years. October 5 was a big day for her family, as this gift completed three major gifts given to the University. (This list also includes the Ebling Library and the Ebling Symposium Center.) She and her family also have five scholarship funds. The money for these gifts comes from her brother, Paul, who died in 2001. He received his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School and was a doctor at the VA hospital.  He left a major portion of his estate to the University to honor the Ebling family. Mary wishes that when you walk out to Picnic Point and see the new addition, you can think of her, her brother and her family.

Susan Tenpas, BS 1967
Susan graduated in January 1967. More than half of her OT career was spent working part-time, but she did have a wide range of experiences: general hospital, nursing home, pain clinic, home health, schools, and finally head injury.  Susan did, however, work full time in head injury from 1987 to 2001. At that point, she reduced her time back to three days per week, job sharing a full time position.  For the last seven years she has worked a grueling work week of about five hours per week, split between a private patient and a morning at Willowbrook Rehabilitation in Brighton, Mich.  Occupational Therapy has been a wonderful profession for Susan, as it provided her with a job that she not only enjoyed (most of the time), but also one where she was genuinely able to improve the quality of life for many.  Besides that, she was able to work a schedule that also allowed time for her family and personal interests.

Linda Schwehr, BS 1968
After three years working for CCS as a CP therapist and 17 years working as an itinerant OT in schools from San Francisco to San Jose, Linda retired.  She would have worked for a few more years but she suffers from Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy with Charcot foot, so she has been in and out of a wheel chair for the past six years.  She is now on her feet and vertical, but very careful about how much she walks.  Linda is highly motivated to be as independent as possible as she has a new granddaughter with whom she is eager to spend time. Linda’s OT background has been helpful in dealing with her disability in many ways.  She is savvy to doctor's instructions and therapists' requests and has stayed very busy with art, sewing and crafts. She still lives in the house she bought some 40 years ago in Los Altos, Calif. and tries to visit family in Wisconsin at least once a year.  She has two grown children and one grandchild so far.  

Carlene (Thorstad) Roberts, BS 1969
Carlene still lives in La Crosse, Wis. with her husband Cam and spends part of her time in Colorado, where the families of two of her sons live. Carlene has retired from paid OT work, but finds she still uses her training and skills frequently. She advises and assists her elderly mother and her friends in maintaining independent safe living environments. She is the guardian for one multiply handicapped man and advocate for another, and was given the 2007 YWCA Activist Award. She also serves on committees at Riverfront, the Southwest Wisconsin Sheltered Workshop and the Supported Employment and Lifestyles Facility, where she received the 2011 Humanitarian Award. She looks forward to using her knowledge to help maintain independent lifestyles as she had her husband age.  

Virginia O’Brien, BS 1976
Virginia recently did a podium presentation on her abstract retrospective study – Effects of a Dynamic Stability Approach in Conservative Intervention of the Carpometacarpal Joint of the Thumb: A Retrospective Study – at the Belgium Hand Therapy Day Congress. The presentation was a part of the European Societies for Surgery of the Hand Congress held on June 22, 2012. The study is currently under revision/review for a peer-reviewed journal.

Kristi Rietz, BS 1978
Kristi is very excited about the work she is doing at the VA hospital with the Tai Chi Fundamentals® (TCF®) Program. Master Tai Chi Instructor Tricia Yu created the program in Madison, with input from OTs and PTs to meet the needs of people of all ability levels in the community, clinic, or medical facility. It is standardized, developmental, and fun to teach and learn.  She has been using TCF® at the Madison VA in her Wellness Program since 2003. The Tai Chi Fundamentals® (TCF®) Program makes Tai Chi practice accessible, universal, and scientific.  

The Madison VA is starting a QI project, using TCF® in the residential substance abuse program, and Kristi would like to see what outcomes they might observe by creating a "tai chi culture," where staff, veterans, and family members all have the opportunity to practice together on a regular basis. Because of the many physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits she has seen in the Veterans in the Wellness clinic and in her own life, personally and professionally, she has had an interest in introducing TCF® to the wider VA system.  She believes it is a perfect fit for rehab, stress and pain management, improving self-care and self-awareness, and helping Veterans gain a greater appreciation of what life has to offer. 

Karen Marcus Sames, BS 1980
Karen was elected Chair of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Nominating Committee. She will serve a two-year term in that position. This also puts her on the Representative Assembly Leadership Team for AOTA. 

Sari (Lefco) Lewis, BS 1981
Sari was part of an International Teaching Team in Switzerland in May at the beautiful Kientalerhof Wellness Center. Participants from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy spent four days learning Craniosacral Therapy techniques.  Sari blends Craniosacral Therapy and other gentle manual therapy principles (myofascial release, neural tension release, joint and soft tissue mobilization) into her private practice to facilitate tissue and nervous system calming and improved function and quality of life for daily activities.

Lynn Chassee, BS 1987
Lynn is currently working for Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative in Kane County, Ill.  She is the team leader for 20 occupational therapists who work in the schools and on job sites for students.  This past June, she became a grandma again to a beautiful girl, Isabella Rose, who joins her wonderful grandson, Jack, who is 3 ½.  After being an OT in the educational system for more than 30 years, she will be retiring in 2015. She is not sure what she will do next, but she assures it won’t be sitting around!

Sarah Coyne, BS 1987/ JD 1995
Sarah changed careers and has been a lawyer since 1995. She is a health care lawyer, and her occupational therapy degree and practice have come in very handy - having an understanding of the human body, adaptive capacity and how hospitals work have all contributed to her practice.  She currently works at Quarles & Brady in Madison. 

Barbara Young, BS 1988
Barbara would like to encourage anyone thinking about becoming an OT to go for it, as it has been the most satisfying career for her.  It has a variety of settings in which to practice, and she believes OT’s are a great asset to any team.  She also believes the profession needs strong leaders that will keep up the task of maintaining and assessing each individual’s best life skills and productivity. Barbara ran her own clinic for 10 years with a specialty in Autism and ADHD. She remembers a wonderful pediatric professor she had back at the University - Mary Schieder - in the first class she taught at the UW-Madison.  Barbara currently lives in Portland, Ore., but still considers herself a grateful alumna of the University.

Vicki Crass-Umhoefer, BS 1989
Vicki is continuing her private practice as OTC Therapy, LLC. She currently services the Germantown (Wis.) School District, along with numerous outpatients. Her specialty remains in the area of sensory integration therapy and treatment.  Areas of growth for her have included the use of interactive metronome therapy, craniosacral therapy and somato-emotional releases.   

Kristy (Dassing) Boblitt, BS 1998
Kristy is currently working mostly as a mom to Nina, 5, and Isaac, 2, but still works part-time in private practice as a consultant. She works in a sensory integration clinic setting with kids a few hours a week, and is also the OT on the autism diagnostic team for the U.S. doing diagnostic assessments once a week. She has expanded her practice to also include consulting with day programs on using sensory strategies and developing occupation based activities for adults with developmental disabilities. This has become a new passion for her and is an area that seems to have potential for more OT involvement, research and program development. She is still living with her husband, Nate, in northern California and loving it, but misses Madison - especially in the fall.

Olivia (Sy) Adams, BS 2000
Olivia relocated to Shanghai in June of 2011 for her husband's job. The first year was spent adjusting, studying Chinese, and taking care of her son (he was 16 months old when they moved).  After more than half a year of living in Shanghai, Olivia realized she hadn't interacted with any professionals from her field or related fields such as PT or ST since moving to Shanghai. Olivia very much identifies as an OT, and was craving some professional interactions. It did not take long before she made contact with a pediatric therapy clinic, called "Olivia's Place." Started by American expats less than two years ago, inspired by their frustrations trying to get any (and quality) therapy services for their daughter with Downs Syndrome, Olivia's Place not only provides therapy services in the clinic, but also has relationships w/ many international schools. Another one of their main missions is to provide outreach and education to the local community, including local hospitals and clinics, orphanages, and local schools. China does not have OT as a profession. Even the word for therapist-- "zhi liao shi" meaning "curer, healer"--does not accurately describe what an OT does. But just because the profession does not exist in China, does not mean it is not needed! The practicing therapists in China are all foreign trained (from western countries), and sadly, the services tend to be transient because of the expat lifestyle. Now that Olivia’s son is in school this year, she has begun working at Olivia's Place. It is really interesting meeting therapists from all over the world, says Olivia, and looking at everything from a different perspective. For example, handwriting cannot be assessed the same way as in the US, because different styles are taught, depending on the country. She says it was also very interesting going through CPR training in a country where there is no "Good Samaritan Law" and where TB and hepatitis are prevalent.

Phillip Wendt, BS 2002
Phillip has accepted a position as lecturer and fieldwork coordinator at Queen's University Occupational Therapy Program in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. In addition, he has been elected to the board of directors with the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and will start his three-year term in the fall of 2012. He lives north of Kingston with his wife and two cats and will be expecting a second child at the end of the year.

Emeritus Faculty Updates

Betty Risteen Hasselkus
During the past year, Betty served as an external examiner for dissertations from two Australian universities and as a reviewer for a number of manuscripts submitted to our professional journals. She was an invited keynote speaker at Colorado State University in May, meeting with students and faculty for their Research Symposium and giving a presentation titled “Everyday Occupation:  The Heart of Research and Practice.”   Her Everyday Occupation Blog is thriving.  On the more local level, she is somewhat of a Scrabble fanatic and plays duo-piano music with a piano partner – an occupational pursuit that is tremendously gratifying.  

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