The American Occupational Therapy Association has granted its highest academic honor to Professor Emeritus Ruth Zemke of the USC Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.
Zemke was honored with the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Award, an academic prize that goes to an occupational therapist who has contributed to the profession’s body of knowledge through research, clinical practice or education.
At USC, Zemke was co-principal investigator of the Well Elderly Study, a landmark, large-scale investigation showing occupational therapy’s importance in the care of the aged. Zemke contributed to the development of occupational science through her research, publications and mentorship.
Her own practice background includes caring not only for those with physical challenges, but with mental health problems as well. She has evaluated and treated children with mental health issues such as schizophrenia and autism. She also has done home-based evaluation and community-based programming for the mentally retarded.
In addition, she has performed pre-vocational evaluations for persons with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses and helped develop sheltered work programs for them.
Her wide array of experience also includes work in hospital neuro-rehabilitation units, with a focus on adult stroke survivors.
As part of her award, which was presented during the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 84th Annual Conference in May, Zemke delivered a lecture titled “Time, Space and the Kaleidoscope of Occupation.”
Zemke studied occupational therapy as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. She obtained her master’s and doctoral degrees in human development from Iowa State University. Recent awards include the USC International Student Assembly Faculty Appreciation Award and the Award of Excellence from the Occupational Therapy Association of California.