Department of Occupational Therapy chair honored by peers for lifetime achievement
Florence A. Clark, professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) at its 25th Annual Conference in Sacramento on Oct. 14.
The award recognized her contributions and leadership in clinical practice, education, research, administration, and research in occupational science and occupational therapy. Clark has made significant contributions to the profession during her career of more than 30 years, 25 of which as USC faculty.
She began clinical practice in occupational therapy in 1970 as an occupational therapist and then coordinator of rehabilitation and education of the adolescent unit at Buffalo State Hospital in Buffalo, New York. She later served as assistant director of occupational therapy at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, in Spring City, Pennsylvania.
Early in her career, Clark realized the importance of science for establishing the legitimacy of occupational therapy within the university and in the health care community. Generating new knowledge and initiating innovation in occupational therapy practice to increase understanding of the profession’s contribution to society has been a continuing part of Clark’s vision for occupational therapy.
Clark taught at Elizabethtown College and Temple University in Pennsylvania until 1976. She moved to Southern California to join the USC faculty and to concurrently become a doctoral student at USC. By 1983, Clark was promoted to associate professor with tenure and had earned her Ph.D. in education. In 1987, under the leadership of former USC Occupational Therapy Department chair, Elizabeth J. Yerxa, Clark contributed with other faculty to the creation of the Ph.D. program in occupational science.
In 1989, after Yerxa’s retirement, Clark was appointed chair of the department.
In 2000, she also oversaw the creation of the Center for Occupational Science and Lifestyle Redesign, which focuses on education, research, and community service.
Clark has served on numerous committees and commissions concerned with health policy planning and undergraduate professional and liberal arts education. Currently, she is on the National Board of the Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institutes of Health.
She has also served on federal grant agency review panels, the Commission of Education of the AOTA and contributed to official documents produced by the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Clark has published more than 60 articles and chapters in journals, newsletters and books.
She has made over 100 presentations for conferences, symposia, workshops, institutes, and courses. Additionally, she has been an active member of the AOTA and the World Federation of Occupational Therapy since 1970 and the Occupational Therapy Association of California since 1976. She has served as a leader within the profession of occupational therapy and the broader health care community.
She has been instrumental in the development of the annual Symposium on Occupational Science, which attracts scholars from an array of academic fields in order to engage in dialogue and inspire new thinking. She enlists leaders from other disciplines to teach and conduct research in the department as well.
For example, she has negotiated faculty appointments in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy for two internationally recognized anthropologists, Gelya Frank and Cheryl Mattingly, and an adjunct faculty position joint for internationally recognized primatologist Jane Goodall, who holds a similar position with Anthropology.
These scholars engage occupational therapy and occupational sciences students and faculty in interdisciplinary dialogue. These exchanges enrich the development of occupational science and enhance understanding and respect for occupational therapy in the global interdisciplinary academic community.
Clark served as principal investigator on a National Institute of Aging grant that evaluated the effectiveness of preventive occupational therapy specifically tailored for multiethnic, independent-living older adults. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was one of the largest outcome studies performed in occupational therapy and demonstrated that an occupational therapy program called “Lifestyle Redesign” slowed down declines normally associated with aging and, in some cases, improved health.
The results of this study not only hold promise for enhancing the quality of life of elders but also provide the occupational therapy profession with strong evidence about the effectiveness of occupational therapy in the realm of well elder care.
Clark’s Lifetime Achievement award from the OTAC was presented during the organization’s presidential luncheon, attended by more than 500 of her colleagues.