Anne Kiraly-Alvarez, O.T.D., OTR/L

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Program Director, Occupational Therapy, Downers Grove

Seeing our alumni make a difference in their communities, take on leadership roles, and influence the profession makes me proud to be an educator. ”

Anne Kiraly-Alvarez

Years at Midwestern University:

I’ve been at Midwestern University for nine years, since July 2014. 

What are your research interests?

My research interests include: 1) outcomes of and experiences with occupational therapy interventions for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in community-based settings; 2) cultural influences on occupation and strategies to enhance cultural humility of occupational therapy practitioners; and 3) doctoral capstones in occupational therapy education.

What is the most rewarding part of being a member of the Midwestern University faculty?

I feel honored and blessed to be able to work alongside highly qualified and passionate colleagues at Midwestern University. The most rewarding part of being a faculty member here is connecting with students and contributing to their education. The reason I decided to pursue academia is to help prepare students to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to be client-centered, occupation-focused, evidence-informed occupational therapists. Seeing our alumni make a difference in their communities, take on leadership roles, and influence the profession makes me proud to be an educator.

How do you engage students in the learning process?

I, along with my colleagues, try to implement a variety of teaching and learning approaches to enhance student engagement throughout our curriculum. We use Universal Design for Learning principles to offer educational activities and assess student learning in a variety of formats. One of the most common ways students like to learn is through hands-on experiences, labs, and standardized patient interactions. We include these opportunities in most of our courses, so that students have the opportunity to practice and apply concepts that they’re learning in the classroom to real-life scenarios. Within the OTD Program, we also use a mentorship model through which students are paired with faculty mentors who meet with them on a regular basis, particularly to guide them through their group research projects and individual doctoral capstones. This mentorship promotes the students’ active engagement in their learning throughout their educational journeys.

What do you hope students learn from your classes?

I hope students become passionate about occupational therapy the way I am. I hope they learn to embrace who they are as individuals as they develop into their new professional identities as occupational therapists. I hope they can take what they’ve learned throughout the curriculum and use it to provide high-quality occupational therapy services and promote occupational justice for all individuals, groups, and communities. 

What lessons would you like students to take with them in their professional careers?

Pledge to practice with cultural humility, empathy, respect, and integrity. Make a commitment to lifelong learning and service to your community. Be humble and don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit you don’t know something. Take care of yourself, so that you have the ability to also care for others.

What about your profession should people know more about?

Occupational therapy is a hidden gem within the healthcare community. Occupational therapy practitioners are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a wide range of people across the lifespan in practically any setting. They bring a unique skillset to an interdisciplinary team to maximize client outcomes such as quality of life and participation in desired daily activities. Within hospitals, occupational therapy is the only spending category where additional spending was significantly associated with lower readmission rates (Rogers, A. T., Bai, G., Lavin, R. A., & Anderson, G. F. (2016, September 2). Higher hospital spending on occupational therapy is associated with lower readmission rates. Medical Care Research and Review, 1–19. 

Mariah Zeigler

Anne Kiraly-Alvarez, O.T.D., OTR/L is the Program Director for Occupational Therapy at the Downers Grove Campus.