Ellen S. Cohn delivers the 2019 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture. Photo courtesy of the American Occupational Therapy Association

Occupational therapist Ellen S. Cohn is optimistic about the future of her field. Today, people demand quality care and patient-centered care—priorities shared by Cohn and her colleagues. The director of Sargent’s entry-level occupational therapy doctoral program, Cohn was recognized for her influence on the field in April 2019 with the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award, the American Occupational Therapy Association’s highest honor.

“The shifts in what’s considered important in healthcare are very congruent with the long-standing values and beliefs of the occupational therapy profession,” says Cohn, whose Slagle lecture was titled “Asserting our competence and affirming the value of occupation with confidence.” Cohn is the third Sargent professor to be given the honor in the last 12 years.

After graduating from Sargent with an occupational therapy degree, Cohn worked in clinical practice at Franciscan Children’s hospital, where she focused on helping children with developmental disabilities. She later earned a master’s in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University and a therapeutic studies doctorate at Sargent. She joined Sargent’s full-time faculty in 1999.

Today, Cohn focuses on qualitative research, including developing a new intervention to facilitate friendship in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Cohn offered Inside Sargent three insights on the future of occupational therapy:

1. Quality over quantity

“In the past, reimbursement for healthcare has been based on the amount of services provided instead of the quality of care or meaningful outcomes that matter to clients. Reimbursement is shifting to value-based care and quality care, as opposed to how many hours, minutes, or days people are receiving intervention. What matters to patients is now valued and viewed as both an outcome and an important means to improve health.”

2. Research advancement

“Occupational therapy is a relatively young profession. Yet, we now have enough practitioners and researchers who are prepared to conduct sophisticated, scientifically rigorous research to communicate and document the distinct value of the profession.”

3. Growth

“We have the infrastructure and the capacity to truly demonstrate to payers, to legislators, and to the public the tremendous benefits of occupational therapy, which is really exciting. I think it’s a great time to be an occupational therapist. And I think the profession is just going to continue to flourish because of all these shifts.”

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