Ph.D. in Occupational Science: Immersion Experiences
The hallmark of our Ph.D. program is immersion for 20 hours per week in an interdisciplinary, extramurally funded research group during the first six semesters of study. Within these groups, doctoral students gain experience in interdisciplinary research and grantsmanship that include work related to publications, data collection, data analysis and theory building. An intensive immersion model can be thought of as a learner-centered research apprenticeship. We believe that the wide-ranging content of our research programs prepares our Ph.D. students as career scientists who can confidently make a valued contribution to interdisciplinary research groups. It also places the student squarely at the center of translational research that is at the forefront of health-related research.
Immersion in the Brain and Creativity Institute
In this immersion, you will become part of the Neuroscience team at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute which is directed by world-renowned neurologists Hanna and Antonio Damasio. The mission of the Institute is “to make use of important new discoveries from the mind and brain sciences and confront pressing issues of our time.” You will be mentored by Assistant Professor Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, whose work focuses on how neural pathways and systems can be used for higher cognitive processes such as language, thought, empathy and creativity. You will also have the opportunity to become an expert in state of the art research techniques used for brain imaging such as functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimuluation.
Immersion in the Pressure Ulcer Prevention Interdisciplinary Research Group
For nearly a decade, our Pressure Ulcer Prevention Study (PUPS) team has been building a translational research program that targets the prevention of medically serious pressure ulcers in people with spinal cord injury. The first PUPS was funded by the Department of Education and NIDRR and, through a qualitative research approach, uncovered the complexity of factors that came together in daily life circumstances to produce pressure ulcers in the participants. Study results were then translated into several products including an online consumer manual, a rehabilitation professionals’ manual and a Lifestyle Redesign® intervention for pressure ulcer prevention. Most recently, the PUPS team, led by Professors Florence Clark and Erna Blanche, have secured NIH (NCMRR) funding to conduct a randomized controlled trial to test the cost-effectiveness of this intervention approach. The intervention is particularly promising because it incorporates the full range of lifestyle issues that are relevant to pressure ulcer risk and ensconces preventive measures into individualized, sustainable routines. In this immersion, you will work closely with an investigative team led by occupational scientists that includes biostatisticians, clinical trial methodology experts, a nurse scientist, a plastic surgeon, social psychologists and a physiatrist. Further, you will be exposed to state-of-the-art knowledge on pressure ulcer prevention, clinical trials and health economic methodology, quality-of-life measurement, instrument development and validation and the translational research process.
Immersion in the Study of the Everyday Experiences of Children and Adults with Spina Bifida, Their Families and Practitioners Who Care for Them
From 2001 to 2004, Professors Ann Neville-Jan and Mary Lawlor, through an NIH-funded disability supplement, conducted a research study focused on the everyday life experiences of 14 adults with spina bifida using narrative, ethnographic, and longitudinal methods. They continue to examine the data across the cohort of 14 adults respective to developmental trajectories, how ordinary participation is extraordinary and the significance of life choices for social participation and identity-shaping.
More recently, Dr. Neville-Jan, with a multidisciplinary and multi-site team (physicians, a nurse, psychologists and occupational therapists) are conducting a CDC and AUCD (Association of University Centers on Disabilities) funded study of the effectiveness of bowel and bladder interventions for children with spina bifida using both quantitative and qualitative methods. As a Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Neville-Jan leads the qualitative component of the grant. Interviews are presently being conducted with children as young as 5 years of age, family members, and practitioners at the Spina Bifida Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to understand the struggles and successes related to this potentially stigmatizing issue. Immersed in this research group, you will work with team members analyzing data, participating in teleconferences across sites and submitting new grants including foundation grants from potential public and private funding sources.