University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Active Research Programs

Active Research

The rigorous, interdisciplinary research programs at the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, including previous projects, have cumulatively received over $20 million of federal funding during the past 20 years. Even more importantly, our research agenda pursues—and generates—knowledge with relevant outcomes for real-world interventions that improve human health, quality of life and well-being.

The Division’s portfolio includes research grants, training grants and contracts. Projects currently within their active funding period are below.

Research Grants

Diabetes Self-Management Lifestyle Intervention for Urban Minority Young Adults

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth PyatakNIDDK logo
Funding Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Project Period: 07/15/14 – 04/30/17
Award Number: NIH/K01DK099202
Total Award: $456,312
Mentors: Anne Peters, Donna Spruijt-Metz, Robin Whittemore
Goal: This three-year mentored career development award will pilot-test an innovative intervention, Resilient, Empowered, Active Living with Diabetes (REAL), targeting underserved minority young adults with poorly-controlled diabetes. The individually tailored, community-based intervention merges findings of an in-depth needs assessment, principles of an evidence-based occupational therapy intervention (Lifestyle Redesign®) and evidence-based diabetes self-management strategies. A proof-of-concept study demonstrated that REAL is feasible to implement, acceptable to young adults with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, and has potential to produce positive changes in diabetes self-care and glycemic control. The study will randomize 80 young adults with diabetes to receive either the six-month REAL intervention or an attention control condition. Blinded data collectors will assess glycemic control, diabetes self-care behaviors and quality of life outcomes, as well as potential intervention mediators, before and after the six-month intervention. Additionally, a rigorous process evaluation will be executed to evaluate intervention implementation and study procedures. It is anticipated that findings from this pilot study will be used to inform a large-scale randomized controlled trial of the REAL intervention.

Integrating Childhood Obesity Prevention into Home Visitation Programs

Principal Investigator: Sarah-Jeanne SalvyCTSI_logo
Funding Source: Keck School of Medicine of USC-Southern California Clinical Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI): Community-Based Health Intervention Pilot Project Program
Project Period: 07/1/14 – 06/30/15
Award Number: SC CTSI (NIH/NCATS) #8UL1TR000130
Total Award: $27,686
Mentors: Titus Galama, Antelope Valley Partners for Health
Goal: This translational study will assess the feasibility, initial efficacy and cost-benefit of delivering a nutrition and physical activity module, named COPE (Childhood Obesity Prevention at homE) to an established Home Visitation Program (HVP) curriculum. Home visitation programs provide in-home services to low-income mothers and their children, and address multiple areas of mother and child health, but they have yet to be tested as an effective infrastructure for obesity prevention in early childhood. This nine-month pilot study will be conducted in partnership with an established HVP in Antelope Valley (Calif.), and will provide the feasibility data required to secure funding from NIH to test the long-term implementation of COPE on early childhood obesity prevention.

Effects of Mind-Body Interventions on Stress, Anxiety, and Pain in Hand Therapy Patients

Principal Investigator: Shawn RollASHT logo
Funding Source: American Society of Hand Therapists
Project Period: 06/1/14 – 05/31/15
Total Award: $3,135
Collaborators: David Black, Janice Rocker, Aimee Aguillon
Goal: This cross-over design study is being conducted to evaluate the proximal effects of mindfulness and visual biofeedback on stress, anxiety and pain in patients receiving hand therapy for hand dysfunction due to an orthopedic injury. Using both qualitative and quantitative techniques, this study will provide foundational information regarding potential short-term outcome measures, as well as tolerability, utility and feasibility necessary to develop an effective integrative mind-body intervention for hand therapy.

Identifying Risk Factors for Harm in Children on Invasive Home Medical Therapies

Co-Investigator: Mary LawlorCTSI_logo
Principal Investigator: Glen Takata
Funding Source: Keck School of Medicine of USC-Southern California Clinical Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) for Multidisciplinary Research Projects
Project Period: 03/15/14 – 06/30/15
Award Number: NIH/NCRR/NCATS #KL2TR00031
Total Award: $45,000
Goal: To conduct a pilot study leading to identifying and understanding the mediators of harm in children on home mechanical ventilation and home parenteral nutrition using systems engineering, human factors approaches and collaborate with parents to reduce harm to their children.

Pressure Ulcer Prevention App Development

Principal Investigator: Jesús DíazChristopher & Dana Reeve Foundation logo
Funding Source: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant supported through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Project Period: 02/1/14 – 1/31/15
Award Number: 1U59DD000838
Total Award: $8,000
Goal: To create a mobile phone application that helps patients with spinal cord injury and their clinicians more quickly and efficiently track skin conditions to minimize the development of pressure ulcers.

Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms of Sensorimotor Integration

Principal Investigator: Stefanie BodisonCTSI_logo
Funding Source: Keck School of Medicine of USC-Southern California Clinical Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) for KL2 Mentoring Research Career Development Award
Project Period: 07/01/13 – 06/30/15
Award Number: NIH/NCRR/NCATS #KL2TR00031
Total Award: $128,152
Mentors: Elizabeth Sowell, Terence D. Sanger, Florence Clark, Stewart Mostofsky
Goal: Using structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, and fMRI techniques, this study seeks to investigate the structural and functional connectivity of sensorimotor integration in typically developing children and those with autism spectrum disorder, aged 6-8 years.

Modulating Motor Behavior by Action Observation and Imitation: Implications for Stroke Rehabilitation

Principal Investigator: Lisa Aziz-ZadehDana_logo
Funding Source: The Dana Foundation
Project Period: 01/01/12 – 12/31/14
Award Number: CADF/AZIZ-ZADEH/2012
Total Award: $200,000
Collaborators: Carolee Winstein, Hanna Damasio, and Nerses Sanossian
Goal: Investigators will use MRI and fMRI imaging to examine whether, and how best, the mirror neuron system can be activated following stroke to optimally tailor stroke rehabilitation for individual patients.

Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children with Autism

Principal Investigator: Sharon CermakNIDCR_logo
Funding Source: National Institute of
Dental and Craniofacial Research
Project Period: 09/15/11 – 08/31/14
Award Number: 1 R34 DE022263-01
Total Award: $531,376
Co-Investigators: USC: Jose Polido, Marian Williams, Michael Dawson, Christianne Lane
Consultants: USC: Joel Hay; Beit Issie Shapiro (Israel): Michele Shapiro
Goal: The goal of this project is to collect information that will support a later clinical trial on the effectiveness of a specially adapted dental environment for children, including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and typically developing children, who have difficulty tolerating oral care in the dental clinic.

Community Discharge After Hip Fracture

K12 Scholar: Natalie Leland NICHD_logo_small
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health, NICHD/NINDS Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program
Project Period: 09/11/11 – 08/31/14
Award Number: HD055929 (PI: K. Ottenbacher)
Total Award: $75,000 NINDS logo
Faculty Mentor: Florence Clark
Abstract: Among community-dwelling older adults who experience an acute hospitalization and are discharged to post-acute care, the primary rehabilitation goal is community discharge. Yet, little is known about getting post-acute care Medicare beneficiaries back to the community and have them remain there. Re-hospitalization often limits the time spent at home. The goal of this K12 mentored research project is to further develop quantitative methodological skills to examine the national and temporal variation in the patient outcome of getting back to the community and remaining there among post-acute care Medicare patients who have experienced their first hip fracture.

Lifestyle Redesign® for Pressure Ulcer Prevention in Spinal Cord Injury

Principal Investigator: Florence Clark NIH_logo_small
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health
Project Period: 09/01/08 – 07/31/14
Award Number: 1 R01 HD056267-01A1
Total Award: $2,820,242
USC: Stan Azen, Erna Blanche, Joel Hay, Jennifer Unger
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Hospital: Salah Rubayi, Michael Scott
Goal: The long-term objective of this project is to identify an intervention option that can enhance the health and life quality of the population of adults with SCI while simultaneously diminishing the heavy healthcare burden that results from the problem of SCI-related pressure ulcers.

Training Grants

TREET: Training in Rehabilitation Efficacy and Effectiveness Trials

Project Director: Florence Clark OER
Funding Source: NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA); National Institute of Child Health and Human Development - National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research
Project Period: 05/1/11 – 04/30/16
Award Number: 1T32 HD064578-01A1 MRRIN_logo
Total Award: $1,068,942
Co-Directors: James Gordon, Stanley Azen
Goal: Faculty members from three program branches (occupational therapy, physical therapy, and advanced technology) oversee a coordinated training experience for nine doctoral-level scholars, each over a two-year period, that includes individualized mentorship, core coursework, participation in training seminars, immersion in externally funded projects, and writing of grant proposals and research publications. Anticipated trainee outcomes include an increased capacity to independently conduct randomized controlled trials and an increase in the quantity and rigor of rehabilitation science publications.


MetaNet: A Multilingual Metaphor Extraction, Representation, and Validation System

Project Director: Lisa Aziz-ZadehISCI_logo
Funding Source: International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley, CA (S. Narayanan, PI)
Project Period: 1/1/12 – 12/31/17
Award Number: 804USC
Total Award: $293,273
Abstract: The scope of the USC-led experiment is to conduct a fMRI study on metaphorical language processing and emotion processing to approximately 20 subjects.

Development of Teaching Material in Support of SIPT

Project Director: Florence ClarkWPS_logo
Funding Source: Western Psychological Services
Project Period: 06/01/98 – 12/31/14
Awarded to Date: $1,210,155
Abstract: Under this contract, the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy provides updates to the teaching materials used in Western Psychological Services’ continuing education program and provides administrative services as related to the program.

U.S. News Ranks USC #1 Program in the Nation

USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
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Phone: (323) 442-2850 · Toll free: (866) 385-4250
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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914,

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.®



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