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Alumni Profile

Travel is therapeutic

penny moyers
As president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Penny Moyers is working to get OTs out of the hospital and into the community. Photo courtesy of Penny Moyers.

Although Penny Moyers is an occupational therapist (OT), a traditionally hospital-bound profession, she has always liked fieldwork — even if it got her into a little trouble now and then.

Moyers, BS ’77, is now a leader in her field, but during her student days she had an anti-establishment streak. Once she was assigned to don a prosthetic arm with a hook and go into the community for a few days to experience how others reacted to it. But Moyers took the assignment to a new level. She and her new arm headed out to the highway and hitchhiked to St. Louis for a concert.

“A young man on a motorcycle picked me up. It was awkward. I put my hook around him but was afraid I was going to hurt him. I wrote up the paper when I got back, but I got a low grade for exercising bad judgment. I was a challenging student, and I think my teacher just wanted to take me down a notch or two.”

Not to worry. Moyers was also a very good student, and she did well in the course. Now she is a professor at the University of Alabama–Birmingham and president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She still thinks about getting OTs out of the hospital and into the community.

How? She offers the example of a soldier returning from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury. OTs could leave the hospital to train employers to manage people with such injuries, who sometimes have trouble maintaining their focus. They could also visit soldiers’ homes to help caregivers deal with behavior problems that may result from brain injuries.

“Health care in general needs to do better,” Moyers says, and occupational therapy has to get stronger, too. “If we are really going to help people change their lives, we need to be out with them.” — Dale Smith