Dean of Occupational Therapy Program at West Coast University Honored with Prestigious Statewide Award

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Nicolaas van den Heever, OTD, BOT, OTR/L receives award from OTAC

Dr. Van Den Heever, recipient of the OTAC Practice Award

Nicolaas van den Heever, OTD, BOT, OTR/L, founding dean and director of the Occupational Therapy Program at West Coast University, is this year's honored recipient of the Occupational Therapy Association of California's (OTAC) Practice Award, the University announced today.

The award, which recognizes an OTAC member who has made "significant contributions to the advancement of occupational therapy in the areas of therapeutic practice, education, communication and/or community service" was presented to Dr. van den Heever at the organization's 38th annual conference last week in Pasadena.

"This honor serves as confirmation of my years of leadership and advocacy for occupational therapy," Dr. van den Heever stated. "I believe it's emblematic of my commitment to -- and strong identification with -- the field of OT."

A Trailblazer in his Field
The first male occupational therapy graduate in his native South Africa, Dr. van den Heever has over 32 years of experience in a variety of practice areas: from mental health, wellness, cognitive rehabilitation and to aging in place, to sensory integration, skilled nursing and community-based treatment -- and in a wide range of practice settings: the military, rural villages in Africa and China (for the World Health Organization), large psychiatric hospitals and industrial units, orphanages, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and in private practice.

Before joining West Coast University in 2012, he spent three decades in the health care field as a clinician, consultant, rehabilitation director and hospital administrator; as a business development and marketing professional; and as a professor and department chair at the University of Western Cape in South Africa.

A Speaker and Advocate
Earning his post-professional occupational therapy doctorate from the University of St. Augustine, Dr. van den Heever has been an international, national and local speaker on the topics of rehabilitation for adults and children, stroke prevention, stroke and brain injury rehabilitation, and return-to-driving rehabilitation. Dr. van den Heever recently presented at the 16th International Congress of the World Federation of Occupational Therapy in Yokohama, Japan.

A board member of the California Foundation for Occupational Therapy (CFOT), he also served as a board member and regional director for OTAC. Currently he is the editor of the AOTA’s Administration and Leadership Special Interest Group quarterly.

Among his many accomplishments, Dr. van den Heever played a key role in founding the first multidisciplinary community-based OT curriculum and fieldwork training program in the world, securing a $1 million grant for a home-to-home survey of 250,000 households in a “squatter” community in South Africa. The result was multidisciplinary, community-based intervention programs that helped establish primary care services within this community.

"I trust this award will help move West Coast University ever closer to the forefront of occupational therapy education," he said. "It's indicative of the high level of quality and commitment our OT program brings to our students and to our community."

About West Coast University
Founded in 1909, West Coast University is a private institution focused on health care education. WCU offers both undergraduate and graduate health sciences degrees. WCU campuses are located in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties in California, as well as Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. Through our commitment to academic excellence, fostering of a student-centric culture, and investment in advanced campus facilities, WCU strives to stay on the leading edge of the health care industry, preparing graduates for a career they love and one that meets the needs of the community. WCU is institutionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission ( For more information, visit

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Celia Ffrench
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