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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2022

MEDCoE welcomes first class of new Occupational Therapy Doctorate program

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, welcomed the first class of students in the Army-Baylor University Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at MEDCoE Jan. 28.

Col. Enrique Smith-Forbes, Army-Baylor University Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program director, introduced the 11 students in the inaugural Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program class during the first part of the ceremony at Blesse Auditorium.

Afterward, Maj. Gen. Dennis P. LeMaster, MEDCoE commanding general, lead the ceremony for the opening of the newly renovated Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program Activities of Daily Living lab located in Willis Hall, which will help in meeting program requirements and enhance the learning experience for the students in the program.

The program trains students in becoming occupational therapists in the Army, serving in a variety of practice areas. Occupational therapists are members of the Army Medical Specialist Corps, which includes physical therapists, dietitians and physician assistants.

Smith-Forbes said the new graduate program will provide advanced training to occupational therapists in helping to meet both the mental and physical needs of the Army force.

“This program comes to meet the needs for the Army’s new Holistic Health and Fitness System, the H2F,” Smith-Forbes said. “It will help to increase the readiness and optimize the performance of the American Soldier.”

H2F is the Army’s doctrine of force readiness and lethality and optimal physical and non-physical performance. The goal of H2F is to help service members in reducing injury rates, improving rehabilitation after injury and increasing the overall effectiveness of the Army force.

According to Smith-Forbes, graduates of the program will learn advanced practice skills including wellness, cognitive and mental health, behavioral health, upper extremity evaluation and research.

“The occupational therapist, in addition with the physical therapist and the registered dietitian, are going to be part of the H2F team, the Holistic Health and Fitness team,” Smith-Forbes said. “They are going to be embedded into the brigades of the units and will help the Soldiers in their readiness.”

Retired Col. Skip Gill, former MEDCoE deputy commandant, helped to establish the formation of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program while at MEDCoE. He was one of the guest speakers at the ceremony.

“Today is a culmination of many years’ worth of effort, a couple years’ worth of planning and then eighteen months of lighting speed execution,” Gill said. “What’s awesome today is we’re meeting the Army’s mission, to take an initiative in holistic health, H2F.

“What we needed to do to meet the Army’s mission was to build our own occupational therapists. We didn’t have the capacity, and it wasn’t out there in the civilian education system to meet the Army’s requirements. That took a lot of work,” Gill added. “The efforts of the Command Group to get that across the finish line was huge.”

To graduate from the program, students will have to complete 18 months of coursework and 12 months of clinical and research work at a military treatment facility or hospital. The program’s first class of students is set to graduate in July 2024.

MEDCoE received candidacy status for the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program from The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, or ACOTE.

If the program is granted full accreditation status in 2024, graduates will be eligible to take the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and to apply for a state license.

For more information on this program, visit https://www.baylor.edu/graduate/dscot/.