As AOTA’s Centennial year closes, some of the 100 most influential people in occupational therapy took a moment to reflect on their careers, innovations in the field, changes in practice, and the future of the profession. Read more stories here.
Members of the 100 are quick to credit the people who influenced, supported, and mentored them.
Thinking back on the biggest surprises of his career, Paul Fontana cites the generosity of occupational therapists who mentored him. He credits Nancy Prendergrast, OTR, FAOTA, Program Director at the Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University); Thomas Cole, OTR, for his help in developing and running a business, leading to Fontana opening his own practice; and Cel Hamant, OTR, FAOTA, who guided Fontana in managing a state organization and committees.
Janice Burke credits “the women leaders who came before me.” She particularly credited Dr. Mary Reilly, “who taught me to think big, craft a clear and strong message, and persist with what I believe in.”
Many of the 100 would credit their parents; Mary Beth Early names her mother, who was in school for occupational therapy when she met Early’s father. Early’s mother didn’t finish her schooling and didn’t even tell Early about it until Early graduated from the OT program at Columbia.
Early also credits “the astonishing mind-expanding experience of working with students in the OTA program [at LaGuardia], who come from many countries and who apply themselves with intensity and tenacity. My work with the LaGuardia students helped me recognize their unique needs and led to my writing the textbooks.”
Throughout conversation, Mary Foto credits Leonard Schaeffer as her “guiding light.” Schaeffer was CEO of Blue Cross of California, and Foto credits him as being forward thinking. She particularly appreciated that Schaeffer “gave me latitude” and was very open to suggestions.
“I’ve asked him many times to help us on certain things, and he has,” reflects Foto.
Jim Hinojosa had numerous influencers for the many different roles he’s had in the profession. “Most significantly in the profession, I would have to say is Ann Grady whom I had as an instructor at Colorado State University and who appointed me to the chair the AOTA Commission on Practice,” he says. “Her mentorship was always sensitive and positive,” and she reminded him of the importance of “trusting the process.”
Hinojosa also credits members of the AOTA Commission on Practice, particularly Mary Foto, Winnie Dunn, Barbara Schell, Linda Thomson, and Sarah Hertfelder. “Each of them helped shape the way I see occupational therapy. Finally, I have to recognize Anne C. Mosey, my doctoral advisor and dissertation chair, who changed my way of seeing the world and helped me to value my own views of the world.”
Karen Jacobs credits Carol Gwinn as a mentor: “She helped me understand how to navigate the AOTA system. We talked about whether to run for [AOTA] Vice President.” Jacobs went on to serve as both AOTA Vice President and President.
Other influences Jacobs credits are Florence Cromwell (“a wonderful support in the work I was doing in prevocational and vocational work”) and Nancy MacRae. “We still mentor each other,” says Jacobs. “It’s been amazing.”
Jacobs also values being a mentor. “I want to pay it forward,” she says. “I want to mentor the next generation and have them comfortable mentoring the next generation of occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants.”