The Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (OT) Program was created in 1996 and provides education to prepare entry-level occupational therapists that will primarily serve the underserved population of the border region of south Texas. This is the only occupational therapy program within the medically underserved communities of the Rio Grande Valley. It is one of a few OT programs nationally that graduates a high number of Hispanic (95%) students each year. The program began as cooperative baccalaureate program and quickly moved to independent status in 1999 and was successfully accredited in 2000. The program offers scholarships, research opportunities, and culturally competent courses that ensure students will become well-rounded professionals. The typical student is 27-28 years of age, Hispanic, and on a second career with family responsibilities. All students commute, a few from as much as 80 miles away. While an intensive program, many students continue to work as a means of financing their 2.5 years education.
The mission of the Department of Occupational Therapy is to prepare graduate level professionals capable of meeting the challenges of health care and community environments, and the needs of the growing international and multi-cultural populations of the south Texas region. The goals of the program are: 1) to expose the students to the influence and impact of occupation, culture, systems, and disabilities on a variety of age groups and settings; 2) to prepare graduates to assume the roles of life-long learners, innovators, and leaders; and 3) to serve the health care needs of the region and state.
· The OT program has graduated 163 students on time from the Rio Grande Valley, with most (95%) choosing to stay and work in the Valley.
· Graduates of the program have a 100% pass rate on the national OT examination.
· The number of applicants to the program has grown from 60 to 200 individuals seeking admission. Of the applicants, 98% are Hispanics.
· UTPA MS in OT program’s student body averages 95% Hispanic and 25% male, thus producing a high percentage of minority graduates.
· Scholarly inquiry by students has also increased. Since 2009, 10 MS in OT students have collaborated and presented with faculty professional posters at the national conference and at 4 state conferences.