posted on Oct. 17: Rehabilitation science celebrates its 10th anniversary this year


The School of Rehabilitation Science, established at McMaster in 1990, is celebrating a decade of unique programming and important research activities.

“We were the first in the world to offer problem-based, self-directed learning in an occupational therapy (OT) and physiotherapy program,” notes Mary Law, associate dean. The school's educational goals, she adds, have always remained constant: to become a successful education venture, to provide effective teaching through highly qualified faculty members, and to offer avenues for faculty development.

Effective last month, the school offers a master of clinical health sciences, occupational therapy degree (MCHS-OT) and a master of clinical health sciences, physiotherapy degree (MCHS-PT). There are approximately 51 students enrolled in each. A new research-based master of rehabilitation science, established this fall, has attracted seven graduate students. The school has 25 full time-equivalent faculty members, and 150 part-time and professional associate faculty who lead tutorials and provide hands-on skills training.

“We have an excellent relationship with the community professionals,” says Susan Birnie, administrator. “We are very grateful for their support and involvement. We couldn't do without them.”

In addition to teaching, the school places strong emphasis on research, with the result that it now has a number of important research initiatives:

7 CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research (multidisciplinary research to improve the life quality of children with disabilities);

7 Environmental Technology Assessment Unit (multi-professional research relating to assistive technology);

7 Environment Research Group (with a focus on the relationship between individuals, their daily activities and their environment);

7 Mobility Aging and Participation Group (a multidisciplinary research group focused on research with seniors);

7 Work Function Unit (applied research in the area of work and human function);

7 Human Movement Laboratory (examines 3D human movement);

7 and, most recently, the Functional Assessment and Abilities Laboratory.

“There has always been a good integration of research into the education programs taught by the faculty,” Law says. She is sure this has become a factor in the school's successful recruitment process. In fact, the school has the reputation of being the “university of choice” in the province for prospective students.

Future plans over the next 10 years include developing a PhD program, investigating the use of distance education, and broadening and increasing the research activities.

To help celebrate the school's 10th anniversary, Jill Binkley, one of the original faculty members who is currently at the University of Georgia, has been invited to give the Helen Saarinen Lectureship in January 2001. Plans are also in the works to have a symposium in 2002 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first graduating class. And later this fall, the school will publish a special report highlighting the events and achievements of the past ten years.

Originally established to provide an occupational therapy and physiotherapy program at Mohawk College in the 1970s, the school moved to the Chedoke Hospital site in 1980 and combined with the degree-granting programs being offered at McMaster. Students obtained a bachelor of health sciences in either occupational therapy (OT) or physiotherapy (PT). In 1994, it moved completely to McMaster University and was housed temporarily in the former teacher's college building. As of April 2000, the School of Rehabilitation Science has found a permanent home on the fourth floor of the Institute of Applied Health Sciences.