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Research SnapshOT

We connected with MS in OT student Juan Barragan and MA in OT student Bradley Chang, who worked with their faculty mentor Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Janet Njelesani to investigate the lack of representation and diversity in the field of occupational therapy.

Read on to learn more about their research, entitled "Perspective of BIPOC Occupational Therapy Students, Practitioners, and Faculty on Addressing Anti-Racism in the Profession," which they recently presented at the Steinhardt Research and Scholarship Showcase.


A lack of diversity exists in the profession of occupational therapy (OT), with the profession dominated by white females. There is also an urgent need to address anti-racism in the profession as systematic racism is a barrier for Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to access higher education and health services, and insufficient action has been taken to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the profession. Key to addressing racism is taking action that is prioritized by BIPOC practitioners, students, and researchers. 


To understand racism in education and practice from the perspectives of BIPOC occupational therapy practitioners, students, and researchers. 


This descriptive qualitative research study used secondary analysis of data generated from four listening sessions hosted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Data were analyzed using Taguette qualitative software and thematic analysis.


Results illuminate that AOTA is taking several actions for the field including increasing diversity in AOTA staff; hosting conferences and events that include content and dedicated sessions on DEI; offering continuing education and practitioner resource development; supporting staff collaboration with governance groups; and strengthening advocacy and policy. AOTA is also committed to addressing the lack of DEI in OT by addressing the needs of OT academic programs and meeting the rights of BIPOC OT practitioners. Racism in OT remains an ongoing issue and a problem nationwide, with much work to be done. However, this foundational research provides insight into the profession’s position and illuminates gaps for future research and institutions to address and change in their systems. 

Juan Barragan in a white coat.

We chose to focus on this research because it is a necessary step in anti-racist work that needs to occur in the field, and as a profession, we need to step back to assess where we stand and the work that needs to be done. Also, as the future workforce in OT, we want to best serve an increasingly diverse population in the US. 

Juan Barragan
Bradley Chang

The ultimate goal is for AOTA to include the information collected and data embedded into sustainable institutional change. Our research has the impact to create structural reform that goes beyond making performative statements in today's climate. 

Bradley Chang

Related Degrees

Master of Science
Occupational Therapy
Professional Degree

The NYU Steinhardt Professional MS in Occupational Therapy prepares graduates to become registered occupational therapists.

Master of Arts
Occupational Therapy
Post-Professional Degree

This one-year master’s gives professionals the opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge in occupational therapy.