Reshaping the occupational therapy degree program to respond to emerging challenges in the field is one of the key tasks for the University of Newcastle's latest academic appointment to the School of Health Sciences.
Distinguished expert Professor Susan Ryan has been appointed the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy program convenor, and is the first Professor of Occupational Therapy to join the University's ranks.
"My first task is to work with staff, students and local therapists to respond to new challenges in occupational therapy," Professor Ryan said. "One example is the move from hospital-based services to community-based services, which requires a more social model of care and different skills, knowledge and abilities."
Most recently based at University College Cork in Ireland, Professor Ryan said she was enjoying being back in Australia.
"After graduating from Sydney University, my career took me to many countries including India, the USA, England and Ireland, but I have always looked forward to returning to Australia and the University of Newcastle has made that possible."
To complement the undergraduate degree program, Professor Ryan will also investigate developing postgraduate programs, including Continuing Professional Development short courses and Masters and Doctoral programs.
"During my time in Ireland, I designed an Honours program and a Masters program in Advanced Healthcare Practice. This was important because it was necessary to provide existing practitioners the opportunity to develop a knowledge of the latest advances and research in the field and to applying this in their own practice.
"I also developed the first professional doctoral degree where therapists study modules and undertake research with practising ooccupational therapists, then produce a shortened thesis, known as a Professional Doctorate.
"The format differs from a traditional PhD, as it is more practical-based, and I would like to see this model adopted at the University of Newcastle.
"The addition of new postgraduate degree programs would be an exciting development for the occupational therapy profession in the Hunter New England region."
As a researcher, Professor Ryan is primarily concerned with the different ways health science professionals are educated, with an emphasis on combining clinical reasoning, adult learning theories and reflection.