By Amber Kennedy

Old Dominion University seeks to admit its first students in a new Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program beginning in January 2023.

The Old Dominion University Board of Visitors approved the addition of a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program at its Dec. 10 meeting. If approved by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, the new program will be administered by the School of Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Health Sciences. The full-time, 105-credit program would add a cohort of 40 to 45 students annually.

With the addition of the occupational therapy doctorate, ODU will be the only institution in the state to offer the combined expertise of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, athletic training, clinical psychology and counseling programs on its campus.

"Aspiring occupational therapists who come to ODU will graduate with a wide range of therapeutic expertise that will help their patients live full lives," said Bonnie Van Lunen, dean of the College of Health Sciences. "We are excited to add this program to answer the needs of our community and the commonwealth."

By introducing the new degree, ODU will continue to address health disparities in Hampton Roads, which include shorter life expectancies and higher rates of heart failure, diabetes and strokes compared to state and national averages.

Occupational therapists help patients participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. The new program, designed as a full-time, three-year sequence, will prepare graduates to work in health care and community and educational settings. Graduates will also be eligible to apply to obtain Virginia licensure.

The program was granted eligibility status by the Accreditation Council for Occupation Therapy in December 2019, and a candidacy application will be due in April 2022. Once candidacy status is granted, the proposed program will accept and admit its first cohort. The council will make a full accreditation decision in August 2025.

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