Can motor outcomes be predicted early in life? Could Nintendo Wii be used to enhance walking capabilities in adults who have lower limb amputation? Does community gardening have a role to play in improving the wellbeing of individuals with severe mental illness?
These were just some of the questions posed — and explored — at this year’s 10th annual Capstone Conference: one of the crowning events for second-year UBC students completing their Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT).
The daylong event, put on by UBC’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, was an opportunity for these soon-to-be graduates to showcase findings from research projects conducted over the course of their final year of the program.
“I’m always impressed by the caliber of research conducted by our students,” says Dr. Catherine Backman, head of UBC’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.
And this year was no exception. Under the supervision of faculty members, as well as academics and clinicians in the field, the graduating class of 2015 designed and executed well over 20 research projects, each contributing new developments to the field of occupational therapy.
As in the past, this year’s Capstone Conference drew quite a crowd, as friends, family, upcoming students and clinical faculty came out in support of the graduates.
And while the event is certainly a celebratory occasion for the graduating class, it’s also a real opportunity for the wider community to hear about up-and-coming research and learn more about the value of occupational therapy as a profession, says Dr. Backman.
For many students and faculty members, this year’s conference was particularly special, as it drew support from B.C.’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview, as well as David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey. Both attended to hear, first-hand, from students and gain a richer understanding of some of the unique research projects underway within the Department.
One of the many projects that caught Anton and Eby’s eye was “Picture This,” a photo exhibit exploring the lived experience of high-functioning stroke survivors.
“I have always been interested in the issue of accessibility — and these photos are a powerful demonstration of how the world looks to people who have suffered from a stroke, and how the world now operates around them,” says Anton. “The students did a striking presentation and I really admire them for reaching out and sharing their findings on the issue of accessibility for stroke survivors.”
For Eby, the photo exhibit was a powerful, and very personal experience.
“My father had a stroke and lived with a disability from stroke for a number of years before he passed away,” reflects Eby. “The approach these students have taken with their research — having stroke survivors document their experience through photos — is very inspiring, as you really get to see the world through somebody else’s eyes and see the challenges they face, as well as the positive things that are happening for them.”
He adds: “The fact that these students reached out is very heartening — it shows they are interested in teaching others and exploring ways they can really help improve the experience for stroke survivors.”
MOT students Marie Maratos and Linh Huynh, who partnered with medical students Jordan Lui and Julia Tan, to conduct the yearlong study, say seeing the support from Anton and Eby is a great first step towards their goal of translating their knowledge and reaching out to those who can help affect change.
“Moving forward, no matter where this project takes us, it’s about creating change and working with the stroke survivors as equal partners, as they really are best able to educate us, not the other way around,” says Dr. Tal Jarus, a professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, who served as the students’ supervisor.
But Maratos and Huynh were not the only students to reveal some exciting developments in the field of occupational therapy during this year’s Capstone Conference. Studies ranged from examinations on adaptive features of wheelchairs and the efficacy of scooter training through to explorations of virtual reality interventions for children with autism.
Many of the students have already presented, or are preparing to present their research at national and international conferences.