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  • SCU Announces New Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program
SCU OTD Program Photo

SCU Announces New Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program

New program accepting student applications for Jan. 2023 startup

WHITTIER, CA. – (Nov. 3, 2022)Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) has announced the addition of a new Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) academic degree program. The 2.5 year program will allow participants to earn a doctor of occupational therapy degree, and will welcome its inaugural class of 32 students on Jan. 9, 2023.

The OTD program will prepare students to sit for their national board exam and obtain occupational therapy licensure in any state where they want to work. Occupational Therapists train people for the skills they need for daily living. According to onetonline.org, OT’s can expect to earn a median annual wage of $100,490 in the Los Angeles area. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of occupational therapists to grow 14% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistant careers are consistently ranked among the best professions in the United States. OT is ranked as the #11 Best Healthcare Job, and #31 out of the 100 Best Jobs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The addition of OTD at SCU further meets Southern California’s growing needs for expanded healthcare services. “Occupational therapists are a crucial part of the integrative team approach to delivering whole-person care as they play a critical role in the transition of acute care to the post-acute care setting,” said SCU President John Scaringe, DC, EdD. “Numerous healthcare settings need additional occupational therapy support, from hospitals, outpatient home health, skilled nursing, to inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and schools.”

The curricular threads of the OTD program will include Occupation-Centered Care; Lifestyle Health; Occupational Justice; and Lifelong Learning. The mission of the OTD Program will be to produce leaders who demonstrate health equity, ingenuity and evidence-based care centered on the philosophy and core values of the profession.

The OTD program requires completion of 101 credit hours over 7.5 semester terms, or around 2.5 years. It includes 24 weeks of internship fieldwork, followed by a 14-week doctoral practicum and mentored doctoral capstone project. The blended program is full-time and consists of daytime and weekday classes. The program has one annual entrance, in January.

SCU’s unique hybrid curriculum structure combines 70% online interactive lectures and 30% on-campus experiential learning. The in-person classes will offer OTD students the experience of a clinical simulation setting, designed to mirror actual practice. While online classes will give students flexibility with scheduling.

A headshot of Dr, Ann McDonaldSCU Founding OTD Program Director, Ann McDonald, Ph.D., says that “the core values of the OTD program align with the mission and values of SCU, including shared values such as critical thinking, communication, evidence-based care, leadership, community responsiveness, occupational justice, lifestyle health, lifelong learning and inter-disciplinary collaboration.”

“The philosophy of the OTD program encompasses viewing humans as occupational beings who are intrinsically motivated to actively seek and engage in meaningful, purposeful activities,” said Dr. McDonald. “The curriculum will emphasize learning by doing and team-based learning. Students will develop values of professional responsibility, lifelong learning, and interdisciplinary collaboration, throughout the program.”

Dr. McDonald was appointed as Founding Program Director in 2021 to develop the program after the SCU Board of Trustees approved development of the program.

“There will be multiple care settings, including SCU Health, for clinical rotations throughout the community, such as Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Tustin Unified School District, Greater Anaheim (Special Education Local Plan Area) SELPA, Orange County Mission, and VA San Diego, providing students with a comprehensive and well-rounded learning experience,” said Dr. McDonald. “Our interdisciplinary approach and early clinical practice will ensure that SCU is developing caring, exceptionally competent professionals in the field of Occupational Therapy.”

The OTD Program has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the AOTA. The accreditation process, which takes approximately two years, is designed to start before the first class of students enters the program and completed before the first class graduates from the program. Full accreditation is scheduled for December 2024. Full details are accessible on the OTD Program Accreditations, Exams & Licensures page.

Applications are open for the inaugural cohort startup which begins Jan. 9, 2023. Those interested in applying to the SCU OTD Program may contact Erick De La Rosa, MBA, SCU Associate Vice President of Admissions, at (562) 902-3377, or erickdelarosa@scuhs.edu, or visit the SCU Admissions page for more information, and to apply.

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