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USC Occupational Therapy celebrates 70 years of service

Emcee Shawn Phipps highlights landmark accomplishments during the 70th anniversary celebration of USC Occupational Therapy. (Photo/John Skalicky)

A crowd of more than 100 Trojans gathered at the Pasadena Hilton in October to commemorate the 1942 installation of occupational therapy at USC. The evening’s festivities, capped with a performance by the USC Trojan Marching Band, were one of many throughout the year that brought together USC alumni, faculty, staff and students in celebration of the 70th anniversary milestone.

Shawn Phipps ’97, a member of the Board of Councilors of the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, welcomed the audience and introduced various accomplished alumni in attendance, including a Half Century Trojan graduate from the class of 1949. Phipps then outlined the anniversary themes of “Creating Leaders, Shaping the Profession and Building Better Lives,” offering examples of how USC has fulfilled each throughout its history.

The crowd certainly had reason to celebrate. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report ranked USC the country’s No. 1 occupational therapy graduate educational program. USC has held the top spot for more years than all other university programs combined.

Under the direction of then-President Rufus B. von KleinSmid, occupational therapy began at USC as an undergraduate degree program in 1942 — less than one year since the United States officially entered World War II. Given Southern California’s geographic proximity to the Pacific theater and the waves of injured servicemen returning stateside, USC opened its doors to train occupational therapists who would meet the nation’s demand for skilled rehabilitation professionals.

In the 70 years since, USC Occupational Therapy has significantly expanded its portfolio of research, education and clinical patient care programs. Since 2006 the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has been administratively housed at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Reflecting upon the 70th anniversary celebrations, Florence Clark, associate dean of the division, said while “nobody knows what the coming 70 years will hold, what I am certain of is that the Trojan Family, united by our common mission of leadership, innovation and service, will continue to make an impact on peoples’ lives for the better.”

Occupational therapy is the health and wellness profession that focuses on enabling people to perform their daily activities, defined as “occupations,” no matter what injury, illness, disability or condition might be present. By improving engagement in meaningful activities, occupational therapists, who work with patients across the life span and in hospitals, private clinics, nursing facilities, community centers and schools, can improve people’s health, well-being, productivity, independence and quality of life.

USC Occupational Therapy celebrates 70 years of service

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