Student Research, Doctoral Experiential Internship and Community Engagement

The overarching philosophy of Rocky Mountain College Occupational Therapy Doctorate (RMC OTD) Program is guided by the Framework for Educating Health Professionals to Address the Social Determinants of Health, which was developed by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” The premise of this framework focuses on the importance of educating healthcare providers about the social determinants of health through transformative learning and community engagement to foster a commitment to lifelong learning.

The Philosophy of Occupational Therapy Education (AJOT, 2014) states that students are occupational beings who are in dynamic transaction with the learning context and teach-learning process. The learning context includes the following:

  • Curriculum and pedagogy
  • Understanding of humans as occupational beings
  • Occupation as a health determinant
  • Participation in occupation as a human right

Occupational therapy education is the process by which practitioners, educators and researchers gain their professional identity. The values within the practice of occupational therapy (AJOT, 2014) include:

  • Development of a sound reasoning process
  • Client-centered approaches
  • Occupation-based
  • Evidence-based treatment approaches
  • Theory-driven
  • Active and diverse learning both in and out of the classroom
  • Connection between past and present knowledge and experience
  • Continuous self-reflection of practice/work
  • Lifelong learning

The occupational therapy doctorate program at Rocky Mountain College embraces an educational trajectory that prepares students to become practitioners, educators and researchers who promote the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals, communities, organizations and populations through the use of meaningful, client-centered, evidence-based, theory-driven occupation. The Rocky Mountain College OTD Program promotes student understanding of and engagement in the research process through the development and implementation of a research project. In addition, students will complete a 16 week Doctoral Experiential Internship which focuses on one of the following: Clinical practice skills, Research skills, Administration, Leadership, Program and Policy Development, Advocacy, Education, and Theory Development. Community engagement is a cornerstone of the RMC OTD Program.

Dr. Kirchen has been successful in promoting student-led research and community engagement as Director of the James Madison University OT Program in Virginia. Her students received the JMU Graduate School Community Impact Award in 2017, 100% of her students and faculty members presented at the AOTA Centennial Conference in Philadelphia in 2017 and Dr. Kirchen received the VOTA Award of Merit-Educator by the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association in 2017.

Dr. Kirchen’s research interests include:

  1. Using occupation-based interventions to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of human beings
  2. Military culture
  3. Scholarship of teaching and learning
  4. Enhancing QOL of long-term care residents

Please see several of Dr. Kirchen’s recent publications:

Health Benefits of Group Based Cooking in a Skilled Nursing Facility
Tuning in to Meaningful Occupation: Using Music in Long-Term Care