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BAMC celebrates 100th anniversary of occupational therapy profession

Narciso Sorio, certified occupational therapy assistant, performs soft tissue mobilization techniques on patient Irma Olivas in the BAMC Outpatient Occupational Therapy Clinic March 23. OT’s use these specialized techniques in an effort to help individuals get back to participating in everyday, meaningful activities. (U.S. Army photo by Lori Newman)

Narciso Sorio, certified occupational therapy assistant, performs soft tissue mobilization techniques on patient Irma Olivas in the BAMC Outpatient Occupational Therapy Clinic March 23. OT’s use these specialized techniques in an effort to help individuals get back to participating in everyday, meaningful activities. (U.S. Army photo by Lori Newman)

Story by Lori Newman

Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Brooke Army Medical Center occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of their profession this month.

During the first week of April, tables and demonstrations were set up in the Medical Mall giving patients and staff members the opportunity to learn about the OT profession. The week culminated with the BAMC outpatient OT clinic hosting an open house to highlight the some of the tools and treatments they use to help their patients gain health, wellness and overall independence.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Jones, certified occupational therapy assistant and clinical instructor, said he chose occupational therapy because it offered him a certification he could use when he retired from the military.

“When I got into it I found that this is what I really love,” Jones said. “I get to help patients when they are at their acute stage and they really need help. It’s nice to see when they get better.”

The American Occupational Therapy Association currently represents more than 210,000 occupational therapy practitioners and students in the United States.

According to the AOTA, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people participate in the things they want to do, need to do, and are expected to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Common occupational therapy interventions include helping individuals across the lifespan to recover from injury and overcome physiological, psychological, intellectual, and behavioral deficits.

Lynda Voronin, COTA, says because of her own health issues she is more empathic to her patients.

“It’s much easier to say, ‘I’ve been there and this is the outcome,’” Voronin said. “I take everything I’ve learned in my past and apply it to my patients.”

People choose the OT profession for many different reasons.

Rosa Webb, registered occupational therapist, said she became an OT because when her twins were born six weeks prematurely an OT helped them with their developmental skills.

“I didn’t even know what occupational therapy was but the OT gave me some brochures about it and I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” Webb said.

Over the past 26 years there have been many innovations in the occupational therapy field, Webb said.

“A lot of the things we do are based on theory,” she explained. “We OT’s have to be creative. Through creativity we have developed things we never would have thought would work at one time.”

“In occupational therapy we are focused on overall function,” said Army Capt. Matthew Baumann, registered OT and officer in-charge for BAMC Outpatient Occupational Therapy Services. “We try to make people as independent as possible for as long as possible.”

OT’s promote optimal health and well-being by holistically evaluating the individual. This holistic evaluation involves a thorough analysis of activity demands, environmental supports and barriers, and a person’s motivation, values, beliefs, culture and performance abilities.

“In the military environment, this unique holistic assessment of an individual or unit enables occupational therapy practitioners to work as human performance experts building warrior resiliency skills while maximizing the overall functional abilities of our patients,” Baumann said.

Because BAMC is a Level I Trauma Center and the Burn Center is also located in the hospital, the OT’s and COTA’s and students here see a wide variety of patients for multiple reasons.

“I tell the students they are going the get the best training they will ever have here,” Webb said.

“The great thing about being an occupational therapist in the military are the different avenues we get to work in,” Baumann said.

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