The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved a new doctoral degree in occupational therapy at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree will replace UTEP’s Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree and prepare service professionals who will improve quality of life and reduce health disparities in the El Paso region.
“The opportunity to offer a doctorate in our Occupational Therapy program in the College of Health Sciences will provide our students and the region we serve a greater ability to respond to the social determinants of health and provide outstanding occupational therapy-based healthcare with expertise, empathy and integrity,” said William H. Robertson, Ph.D., College of Health Sciences dean.
The OTD is the highest level of academic preparation that an entry-level occupational therapist can obtain. It is expected to be the required degree program to enter the occupational therapy profession in the coming years.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) also has approved UTEP’s OTD program.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow 16% through 2029. Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.
The OTD will be the third doctoral degree offered through UTEP’s College of Health Sciences.
The program is set to begin in the fall of 2022. A cohort of 24 students will be admitted in the first year and the goal is to grow enrollment in the program each year through a competitive selection process.
Students will take courses in foundational and clinical sciences, general occupational therapy evaluation, treatment and evidence-based practices, as well as research and occupation-based practices that incorporate cultural and contextual relevance.
UTEP’s OTD program will be the only one in The University of Texas System that will require students to complete two courses in conversational Spanish skills. These courses are directly related to the needs of the community served in El Paso County and the surrounding areas where Spanish is often the primary language.
“UTEP’s doctorate in occupational therapy, with a focus on inclusive excellence and a culture of caring, means we will continue to prepare excellent occupational therapists poised to meet the needs of the Paseo del Norte community for many years to come,” said Dahlia Castillo, OTD, OTR, clinical assistant professor and Occupational Therapy Program director.
Graduates of the program will be eligible to take the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
The new program brings the total of doctoral degrees at UTEP to 24, along with 74 bachelor’s and 70 master’s programs.