Judy Grossman, DrPH, OTR, FAOTA, has worked in the Department of Occupational Therapy in a number of different roles, including special projects, grant writing, program development, and teaching. Her interest in interdisciplinary research and practice culminated in a multidepartment university grant that included graduate student internships and course work. In the following Q&A, Professor Grossman discusses her research specialties, the field of occupational therapy, and the OT@NYU program.
You’ve done a lot of research in the areas of early intervention and special education policy. How do you think these areas affect the clients whom clinicians serve?
I worked for a decade doing policy research for the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education. This experience included principal investigator responsibilities for research proposals, advisory groups, and data collection that helped me understand the needs of families who have children in special education programs throughout the state. I understand both the macro-systems perspective and the micro-individual concerns of families.
You’ve worked extensively with at-risk populations. How do you think that has contributed to your personal and professional growth as a clinician and as a professor? What are the unique challenges or needs that these populations face?
I have always been interested in community-based prevention work, but I have expanded my activities outside the profession. Throughout my career, I have brought my OT knowledge and perspective to many positions in mental health, early intervention, and special education. At the same time, I remain committed to teaching OT students about emerging practice areas. My doctoral degree in public health and post-professional training as a family therapist have supported my professional interests, which I share as a professor.
Through your work with the Ackerman Institute for the Family you support the growth and development of children and families and provide services for children with special needs. How has that shaped your outlook on that specific population, and what do you think it enables you to bring to the classroom to prepare OTs for advanced roles?
At Ackerman, I developed a team of professionals to provide services to families that have children with special needs. The services include clinical work, family therapy, group work, and interdisciplinary staff development workshops. This combination provides clinical evidence to share with students as well as issues of concern to all professionals working in the field. My team is interested in best practices in early intervention, special education, medical practice, and family support programs.
What do you think are the most prevalent challenges in the occupational therapy field today? How can clinicians address these?
The most prevalent challenges are developing evidence-based practices that are family-centered as well as an appreciation for our contribution to population health and community-based prevention services. I have long been a preventionist; thus, I have been able to track changes in the field and the emerging opportunities in health, education, and social systems. I think it’s important for OTs to widen their lens so they can think outside of the box about the unique and meaningful work we can do with at-risk populations.
From your viewpoint, how does OT@NYU prepare its students for advanced practice and leadership roles?
OT@NYU is in the unique position to promote student scholarship and refine the clinical and administrative skills that are necessary for leadership roles. Students can tailor the program to their area of interest and learn from some of the most qualified faculty in the field. My course – Promoting Family Resilience and Family-Centered Services – is offered as an elective, which speaks to the Department of Occupational Therapy’s intention to educate progressive thinkers who are well-grounded in theory, research, and practice.