Dr. Glen Gillen Announced as New Program Director

It gives us great pleasure to announce that Dr. Glen Gillen has accepted the position of Director of the Programs in Occupational Therapy at Columbia. He will begin this new role on September 1, 2018, when Dr. Janet Falk-Kessler will be retiring from her distinguished service in this role.

Dr. Gillen received his undergraduate degree from New York University, as well as a Masters degree from NYU as well. He later obtained an EdD from Teachers College/Columbia. He has been a part of the NYP/Columbia community since joining the staff at the hospital in 1990, and a faculty member in the OT program at Columbia since 1993. Most recently, he has served as a full Professor at Columbia, and as the Associate Program Director for OT.

Dr. Gillen has been highly accomplished as an academician within the field. He has authored 30 original publications, and more than 100 publications in total, including serving as the editor of the definitive textbook on stroke rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists, now in its fourth edition, and as co-editor of Willard and Spackman. He has received numerous awards and invited lectureships, including the keynote Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture at the national meeting of the AOTA. He is widely acknowledged as a leader in the field of Occupational Therapy nationally and internationally.

In addition to his role as Program Director, Dr. Gillen will serve as a Vice-Chair in the Columbia Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, and will also service as an Assistant Dean at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.

Please join us in warmly welcoming Dr. Gillen to his new role!

Program Director Janet Falk-Kessler Announces Retirement


It is with mixed emotions that we announce that Dr. Janet Falk-Kessler will be retiring before the fall of 2018.  Janet has been a pillar of our department, having been on our full time faculty since 1985 and serving as the Program Director since 2001.  Janet’s accomplishments are too numerous to list and she will be missed dearly.


Some highlights include:
  • Developing the joint MS/MPH program, the first of its kind.
  • Serving as a champion to maintain our program’s commitment to mental health
  • Developing a joint EdD program in conjunction with Teachers College Department of Movement Science
  • Shepherding the post-professional OTD through the University administration and the New York State Department of Education, resulting in Columbia University being the first New York State based program to offer this degree.  It is now on the record for degrees that may be granted in New York State because of her tireless efforts.
  • Securing dedicated OT space in the Learning Center, which now serves as our OT lab.
  • Developing our Programs elective program
  • Shepherding our department through four accreditation cycles and serving as lead for two of them.

Her honors include induction into Kappa Delta Pi, the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Roster of Fellows for “outstanding contributions to mental health education”, serving on multiple editorial boards, and many more.
On behalf of the dozens of faculty members and thousands of students she has mentored, we wish her only the best during her “refirement”.  Most importantly, we wish her well as she enjoys her current role of grandmother to Violet and Evelyn!

Dr. Emily Raphael Greenfield Celebrates Retirement

Dr. Emily Raphael Greenfield will be semi-retiring from our program at the end of this month.  The faculty and staff of the OT and PT departments gathered earlier this week for a luncheon to celebrate Dr. Raphael Greenfield and her many accomplishments and contributions to our program.

Dr. Raphael Greenfield graduated from the Columbia Programs in Occupational Therapy in 1986, after initially earning a Masters degree in Anthropology.  She later received her Ed.D from Teachers College in Health Behavior Studies.  Two of her classmates, Julie Kern and Diane Schreibman, who also remain involved in the programs, were also in attendance.

She created an outstanding Mental Health curriculum in our program and is dedicated to providing services to the homeless population, especially at the Fort Washington Men’s Shelter.  She and Dr. Sharon Gutman created the SMART program,  a multi-modal, interactive skill-building program targeting living skills necessary for the transition from the shelter to apartment living.


We are all very glad she’ll continue to stay involved in the programs next year, and we wish her all the best in her retirement.


Student Reflects on Fieldwork at AOTA

Clarice Miller from the Class of 2017 has been completing her 3rd optional fieldwork this fall with the American Occupational Therapy Association.  She wrote a reflection on her time at AOTA and its impact on her future plans:

My experience at AOTA has been amazing. Everyone is welcoming and I am an active member of our team. I primarily work with our Federal Affairs Team and occasionally collaborate with our Regulatory and State Affairs Team. My typical week involves attending and reporting on Congressional Hearings on the Hill, attending meetings with Congressional Staff with AOTA lobbyists, and meeting Congressmen and women who are supportive of occupational therapy. Additionally, I participated in numerous other educational opportunities such as attending the Learning and Action Network (LAN) Summit on payment reform, meeting with AOTA employees and AOTA Board Members, attending coalition meetings, attending events about the Opioid Crisis and Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) payment reform, and various other projects. It has been a “choose your own adventure” type of fieldwork and I chose to focus on issues primarily affecting Medicaid and Medicare.

It has been wonderful to see all of the work that AOTA does to support occupational therapy practitioners and the care and research that goes into the materials AOTA produces. I have learned so much about how federal legislation is developed and how AOTA works with other organizations and Congressional Committees and staff to negotiate the content of a bill to best support occupational therapy practitioners and their clients. A majority of our meetings involved negotiating a solution to the therapy cap and advocating for our home health bill which will permit occupational therapists to open home health cases.

For my personal projects, I follow health news closely and look for anything that may impact our profession. One of my main projects has been to thoroughly research Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and assess the role of occupational therapy in those payment models. I will produce a report of my findings and identify how occupational therapy practitioners can meet the goals of an ACO and where there is potential for emerging areas of practice. Additionally, I researched and reported on the new HHS and CMS rule about the HCAHPS pain management survey questions and wrote a blog post on OT Connections about my personal journey to become more politically engaged.

Moving forward, I plan to enter the field as a practitioner while continuing to advocate for occupational therapy at both the state and federal level. I will pursue opportunities to work on my state senator’s campaign, work with my state association on legislative goals, and continue to seek opportunities to work with AOTA. After this fieldwork, I have a better appreciation of AOTA and have a better understanding of what it means to be an occupational therapy practitioner. I feel more confident in my ability to define occupational therapy and communicate why it is vital that our services continue to be valued and supported by payment reform and value-based care incentives. My exact path and what future degrees I will pursue is unclear, but I know that advocating for the inclusion and advancement of occupational therapy in the changing healthcare structure is my main goal, no matter the job title.

Watch Demos of the New Technology in the OT Lab

Dr. Dawn Nilsen did demos of some of the new technology available in the new OT lab, including interactive applications for teaching anatomy, and ways to make PowerPoint presentations more interactive.

Watch the demos here:


Columbia OT Lab Grand Opening

The Columbia University Programs in Occupational Therapy hosted a grand opening for our new OT lab space yesterday.  Alumni, university and hospital colleagues, and fieldwork supervisors joined the faculty and staff to see the ADL practical areas and the new teaching technology.


The ADL areas include a bathroom with grab bars, seats, and a removable shower head, a kitchen, and bedroom with a Murphy bed, dresser, and closet, as well as the CUOT bodega, and a pediatric area.

The new teaching technology includes a camera that can magnify and project so everyone can see demonstrations from around the room, and a smart board with a variety of teaching applications.

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us and who made the lab space possible.  This will provide fantastic learning opportunities for our current and future students.

Columbia Circulates Form Letter for OTD Mandate Abeyance

Please personalize, save, and email this letter using the fillable fields if you have concerns about the OTD mandate. This will take less than 5 minutes of your time. Please add your credentials at the bottom. Please note that you can customize the last bullet for other comments and concerns.

OTD Mandate Abeyance Request Form Letter

Please email your letter to:



The letter needs to be sent by 11/25 at the latest, but the sooner the better.

Lastly, please share this link widely to colleagues and stakeholders who may also have concerns:  http://bit.ly/2yhR9Qd. Please use social media, chat boards, message boards, etc. to share this link extensively.




OT Students Organize Bus Demo

Photo courtesy of Barrier Free Living

Our students have been working hard all summer at their Level II fieldwork placements in Mental Health, Physical Disabilities, and Pediatrics and accomplishing wonderful things.  One group of students completing Level II Mental Health fieldwork at Barrier Free Living (https://www.bflnyc.org/) wanted to increase their client’s access to transportation.  They invited an MTA bus to come to the transitional housing site to educate the residents about the accessibility of the bus system.  OT student Amanda Rubin, who spearheaded the project, explained that a majority of the residents use motorized wheelchairs or scooters and were often dependent on Access-A-Ride, which sometimes came too late or too early.

More than 10 residents took part in the demonstration.  They all had the opportunity to enter, settle, and exit the bus with the assistance of the OT Department and an MTA bus driver.  Each person had different needs based on their specific disability and adaptive equipment.  They also learned how to communicate with the bus driver in order to get their needs met.

The entire day was dedicated to helping residents learn their rights, how to best advocate for themselves, and how to independently use public transportation.


Dr. Dawn Nilsen Participates in Lehman College Public Health Minute

Dr. Dawn Nilsen participated in the Lehman College, CUNY public health minute segment with Dr. Bill Latimer, Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Human Services and Nursing.  Dr. Nilsen spoke about the stroke motor review she and Dr. Glen Gillen are working on with AOTA.  You can listen to the segment at the link below:



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