Students within the Department of Occupational Therapy are embracing the challenges of COVID-19 to continue their research and community outreach.
Mary Jeghers, MSOT, OTR/L, (mentors: Sandra Winter, PhD, OTR/L, research assistant professor, and Sherrilene Classen, PhD, professor and chair) is part of the Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation (I-MAP) research team utilizing a community-based participatory research approach to understand the transportation perceptions, patterns, and needs of Gainesville residents.
Given COVID-19 restrictions, Mary, the research team, and stakeholders developed ways to adapt in-person focus groups to online using Zoom technologies. Recruitment activities shifted from in-person interactions in the community, to connecting with community leaders through email and phone to distribute study information via virtual postings on social media and neighborhood associations. Additionally, the team will explore how COVID-19 will impact Gainesville residents’ future transportation preferences and needs.
Fiorella Guerrero, MA, (mentor: Jessica Kramer PhD, OTR/L, associate professor) is part of the Youth and Young Adult Empowerment, Leadership, and Learning (YELL) Lab. The lab was in the process of hiring young adults with disabilities to work as research staff when COVID-19 emerged. Given the disproportionate impact of disasters on individuals with disabilities, the YELL lab wanted to ensure young adults still had the opportunity to apply for these jobs. Fiorella designed accessible interview procedures that job applicants completed via web conferencing platforms.
She is also the founder of “Warmakuna Hope” (WkH), a non-profit based in Lima, Peru, that provides rehabilitation services and workshops for impoverished children with disabilities and their families. COVID-19 forced WkH to close their facility and families to stop their economic activities. The WkH team answered with a humanitarian-aid response. With Fiorella’s remote collaboration, they fundraised and delivered 193 baskets of groceries and toiletries to Peruvian families impacted by the quarantine.
Sharon “Shazz” Mburu, PT, MS, (mentor: Consuelo Kreider, PhD, OTR/L, clinical assistant professor) a member of the Positive Transitions to Adulthood lab, has played a crucial role maintaining social connectedness for people living alone during the pandemic.
Shazz, who is a founding director of a bike festival in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, has also provided mentorship during COVID-19 to children who attended the festival. Using Zoom and WhatsApp video calls, she teaches children to repair their bicycles so they can exercise safely during the pandemic. She writes letters to older adults and young children impacted by social isolation in the Gainesville and Slippery Rock communities. Shazz believes that social connection with the community is critical during COVID-19 to reduce loneliness for those who do not have a support system.
We are proud of our students for supporting the community through research and outreach activities.