Occupied with Service

Pacific occupational therapy students meet with teens at Miller Education Center in Hillsboro to discuss goals and start working on life skills.

From a neighborhood school to an orphanage half a world away, Pacific’s School of Occupational Therapy puts community partnerships at the forefront of student learning.

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You don’t have the fancy equipment we have here,” she said. 

“It makes us better therapists, because we’re not thinking, ‘equipment, equipment, equipment.’”

Tiffany Boggis, the School of Occupational Therapy’s leader on the Nicaragua trip, said the efforts are making a long-term difference not only for the patients that Pacific students serve, but for the system of care throughout the country. 

Pacific students work with one of the Nicaragua’s five occupational therapists, along with a local nursing school that traditionally hasn’t had the time or resources to focus on elder care, Boggis said.

“One result of our partnership with the nursing school is that they have included a whole portion in their curriculum on working with older adults and a lab portion where nursing students go out to homes for abandoned adults and work with individuals in hogars,” Boggis said. “That’s a really cool example of how our participation down there has really helped to spark some action in Nicaragua, for them to be able to take it on themselves.”


At home, the opportunity to serve and learn is even greater. 

Pacific partners with Washington County Community Corrections, where students work with inmates in an optional drug and alcohol treatment program. The inmates spend 60 to 90 days in AA and other treatment, and occupational therapy students help them implement the lifestyle changes before and after release.

“That’s a key part of the program, because they go back to the community with the same people, the same problems with their family,” Rogers said. “How do they move their sincerity to stay clean and out of trouble into behaviors they can maintain over time?”

The OT program also partners with Old Town Clinic on Portland’s Burnside Street, working with professional occupational therapists to provide services such as pain management to homeless and underserved populations.

Students work with the Kiwanis Camp that provides summer camp experiences for people with disabilities. They have partnered with TriMet to help more people transition from driving or call-a-ride service to traditional public transit. They have interned with Our House of Portland, which provides healthcare and housing services to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.

Pacific also partners with Portland State University in working with AgrAbility, an organization devoted to helping farmers return to the fields and continue their livelihoods after experiencing disabilities.

Students helped found and continue to work at AntFarm, a community center in Sandy, Ore., that uses outdoor activities such as trail-building to connect with at-risk youth.


On a Friday afternoon in February, Hannah Frankamp OT ’14, a first-year Pacific occupational therapy student, sat in a classroom, chatting with Karina Soriano, a senior at Miller Education Center in Hillsboro, Ore. 

Throughout the school, about 30 other first-year OT students met one-on-one with middle and high school students in the alternative school.


Elder care: New online gerontology certificate program helps healthcare providers serve aging population

In December, Pacific conferred its first gerontology certificates to a class of interdisciplinary health professionals. Pacific's first online-only program, the gerontology certification is a spin-off of the School of Occupational Therapy and seeks to improve elder care.