By Peggy Qualls, Community Relations Manager —
Rebekah Funk will graduate in December from Denison University with a Bachelor of Science degree, the first step toward becoming a registered and licensed occupational therapist. Rebekah has been shadowing occupational therapist Arin Waechter, OTR/L in the rehabilitation center at Kendal at Granville. During the spring, Rebekah spent 6 hours per week here, and now again for fall semester she is with us 4 hours per week — which by the way, exceeds the program requirements!
Growing up with an autistic brother, Rebekah had been attracted to the field of occupational therapy since she was in third grade. An occupational therapist helps their patients to recover from temporary disabilities (like depression, stress-related problems, traumatic injuries, eating disorders, etc.) as well as in the management of permanent disorders (like spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy). Since her brother received therapy, Rebekah saw firsthand how important this service is, and initially felt a pull toward pediatric occupational therapy.
Rebekah has long been aware that the educational requirements for occupational therapists are rigorous: first, a four-year undergraduate college degree, preferably in a field of study such as biology, psychology, sociology, kinesiology, health science, or similar … and it is expected that students will gain some field experience during this time. Following college, three successful years of graduate school are the new norm, culminating in a doctorate degree. In the United States, the certifying body for all occupational therapists is NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy). For national certification (required for state licensing), it is essential for the candidates to pass the NBCOT exam. And occupational therapists must possess a license in their respective state.
However, as she grew up and started college, the idea of going to medical school and becoming a doctor also gained appeal. Denison University’s pre-med program is well regarded, so as she began college, Rebekah’s path to becoming a physician seemed straightforward. She has loved her college years and the biology program has been rewarding, but there is more to college than studies!
Rebekah also has a long-standing love of horses, and she’s now President of Denison’s Equestrian Team. The 18-member team has a barn in Pataskala where they practice English style riding, and members compete in four collegiate regional shows per year. Her equestrian interests led to a 2019 summer internship through Glade Run Adventures, where children up to age 18 receive some therapy while on horseback. This summer’s experience combined with Rebekah’s spring shadowing here at Kendal at Granville re-kindled her passion to pursue occupational therapy!
According to Director Tim Schirf, OTR/L, “Rebekah came to Kendal thinking that she was most interested in pediatric occupational therapy, but while shadowing Arin, she has had an ‘Oh, Wow!’ experience that opened her eyes to the possibilities inherent in working with seniors.”
Arin continued, “I feel that during the past two semesters, Rebekah has seen the whole gambit of services, especially being here in the morning when we are assisting residents with their activities of daily living. Our goal is to make sure residents throughout our community are as safe and independent as possible, whether they live independently, are here for skilled care and rehabilitation, or even our assisted living residents. We assess residents to determine their current abilities and give them tools for self-care, providing exercises and equipment to strengthen and improve their mobility.”
For now, Rebekah has her sights set on graduating from Denison University this December, and then selecting a graduate school program, possibly back “home” in the Pittsburgh, PA region. She has ample time to clarify her goals while pursuing graduate studies in occupational therapy.
And we hope that there will soon be others to follow in her footsteps. According to Tim Schirf, OTR/L, Health Pro’s Director of Therapy at Kendal at Granville, “We are grateful for the collaboration with Denison University over the past couple of years that has allowed their interested students to shadow our therapists. In addition to Rebekah, this semester we also have another student who is a junior at Denison, and we hope this relationship will continue with even more students shadowing us while exploring career options in the field of senior therapies.”
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