West Coast University Launches Occupational Therapy Program in Los Angeles

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Students and faculty celebrate the new Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program.

Amidst the final construction at the newest extension of West Coast University’s Los Angeles campus on Vermont Avenue, the inaugural cohort of the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program recently gathered for orientation. There, faculty and administrators had the opportunity to meet the 15 students and host a small celebration to mark the official launch of the program. The MSOT program is the first to operate at the new WCU campus, a building which had long been the Cleveland College of Chiropractic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which analyzes employment data for the U.S. Department of Labor, the need for occupational therapists is increasing as baby-boomers age and people remain active later in life. The BLS lists occupational therapists as one of the most in-demand jobs in health care in this decade, with the number of positions in Los Angeles County expected to grow by more than 34 percent by 2020. Recognizing this increased demand, leaders at West Coast University decided to launch the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program. To accomplish this, WCU tapped Dr. Nicolaas Van Den Heever, who is serving as the founding Dean and MSOT Program Director.

“As occupational therapists, you will provide services to individuals whose abilities to function with the tasks of living are challenged or impaired,” Dr. Van Den Heever told the group of eager students. “Together we will serve diverse populations in a variety of health care settings and communities. You have decided to pursue a career that is centered in bringing hope, to help and care for others, providing them with an opportunity to engage in life to the fullest.”

The new MSOT degree at WCU is a full-time, two-year program dedicated to the education of proficient, entry-level occupational therapy generalists. The 96-credit curriculum is designed to cover six trimesters. Two cohorts will be admitted per calendar year - one at the beginning of the spring (January) trimester and the other at the beginning of the fall (September) trimester.

Dr. Van Den Heever says “when setting out to design our MSOT program, we posed a simple question: What type of educational structure would maximize an OT student's opportunity for success? Our answer: An integrated approach, seamlessly blending classroom work, advanced technology, and 1,080 hours of in-depth, hands-on fieldwork.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Van Den Heever and our new faculty members for making the MSOT program become a reality,” said Dr. Barry Ryan, University President. “This is an exciting development and WCU extends a very special welcome to the inaugural MSOT students. I have no doubt that you will thrive here, and the MSOT program will continue to grow along with the great demand for occupational health care professionals in California.”

In addition to Dr. Van Den Heever, faculty in the MSOT program includes Assistant Professor Diane Gale; Dr. Heather Thomas, Associate Professor; Dr. Ann E. McDonald, Associate Professor; and Lisa Phillips, Program Assistant. For more information, visit http://www.westcoastuniversity.edu/programs.

WCU has applied for accreditation of the MSOT program, and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is 301-652-2682). Once accreditation of the program has been obtained, its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, most states require licensure to practice; however, state licensure is usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination.

About West Coast University
Founded in 1909, West Coast University is one of Southern California’s health care educators, offering programs in nursing, health care management and dental hygiene at campuses in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, and nursing programs at its new campus in Dallas, Texas. West Coast University is institutionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (http://www.wascsenior.org). The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) awarded programmatic accreditation to WCU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs in October 2009 and its Master of Science in Nursing program in May 2012. WCU’s Dental Hygiene program at the Orange County Campus is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association to offer the only Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene (BSDH) in the County. It is one of only four BSDH programs in California.

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Joe Cockrell
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