We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Tripta Velamoor as a Clinical Assistant Professor, and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator. Dr. Velamoor received her Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy from NYU in 2002, and has worked in a variety of practice settings over the years including sub-acute rehab, home and community-based, and schools. Her primary focus has been in pediatrics as a school-based practitioner, and she has a strong interest in the role of occupational therapy in health promotion and chronic disease prevention through addressing social determinants of health. She earned her post-professional doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy from Boston University in 2022, where she developed a guideline for use by occupational therapy educators to prepare students to address population health needs. In addition to teaching full time, Dr. Velamoor practices occupational therapy at a small preschool, and serves as the Secretary for the New York State Occupational Therapy Association. Please read on for our welcome interview with Dr. Velamoor.
It is a pleasure to have you join the NYU OT community! What drew you to NYU?
Thank you so much for the warm welcome, it is a privilege to be here! There are many reasons why I was drawn to NYU. I have fond memories here! I moved from Canada to New York City to attend NYU in 1999 as a graduate occupational therapy student. Moving to New York City and attending NYU was, not surprisingly, a formative experience. I loved living and learning in a city that forces you to analyze your belief systems and pushes you outside of your comfort zone. As a student at NYU, I had some incredible fieldwork experiences that were defining moments in the development of my professional identity. In the classroom, I was able to learn from leaders in the OT profession. Over the years, as an occupational therapy practitioner and educator, I have continued to look to the NYU OT program and faculty as leaders within our profession. As a new faculty member, I am excited about the incredible opportunities that NYU’s position, both geographically and academically, affords for shaping future generations of occupational therapy practitioners to meet health care challenges. And last, but not least, I met my husband at NYU, and got engaged in the iconic Washington Square Park!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your background in the OT profession and your areas of specialization?
I have worked primarily as a pediatric occupational therapist in school-based settings for the past 20 years. I have worked with children and their families from preschool through high school. No matter what age or grade, I love the role that occupational therapists play in advocating for students with disabilities to be included in all aspects of the educational experience, from academic to social-emotional. After 16 years of working with children, I decided to enter academia, and became a fieldwork coordinator for a brand new graduate occupational therapy program at Iona University in 2018. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic turned healthcare on its head. I quickly learned how important it is to prepare occupational therapy students to not only develop important clinical skills, but to graduate with tools to meet ever-changing health care challenges including advocacy skills, innovative thinking, and cultural responsiveness. In my previous role, I had the unique opportunity to collaborate with faculty from the university’s institute for entrepreneurship and innovation to facilitate the development of an entrepreneurial mindset for occupational therapy students. I decided to take a leap of faith into the world of entrepreneurship myself, and recently launched a small home safety and accessibility consulting business. Throughout my career, my collaborations and conversations with a diverse range of professionals have broadened my view of the possibilities for occupational therapy within healthcare, helped me grow as a practitioner and educator, and reminded me of the distinct value of the occupational therapy profession!
Thinking about your own student and training days, what were your most formative experiences?
The clinical experiences where I connected with a patient/client/family member and earned their trust were most formative. Students read and learn about therapeutic use of self in the classroom, but developing that skill in a real life setting is, I believe, the most important skill that an OT student can learn. Without the foundation of a strong therapeutic relationship, based on empathy, we cannot practice with humility. If we don’t practice with humility, we cannot be client-centered. There are some stories of clients that I worked with during my fieldwork experiences that I will never forget, not because of the intervention that I provided, but because of the realization that their current health status and the work I was doing, while important, was just one part of their story.
What classes will you be teaching, and what other roles will you have in the Department?
In the Spring semester, I will be co-teaching two courses: Medical and Psychiatric Conditions, and Special Topics in Digital Media: Access and Assistive Tech in Historic Sites and Museums. My primary role in the department is to be the Doctoral Capstone Coordinator for the new entry-level OTD program that will welcome its first cohort in the fall semester, 2024. My role will include teaching doctoral capstone courses as well as developing a repertoire of sites for students to complete their doctoral capstone experiences.
How would you describe your teaching style?
My teaching philosophy and style are based on David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). ELT describes the process of learning as a transformative experience through which knowledge is created through a cycle of learning. Students actively engage in a real-world experience, and are provided with ongoing opportunities to reflect on and observe their experience from different perspectives, apply theory to understand their observations, and use these theories to make decisions about future actions and to solve problems. I believe that it is my role as Doctoral Capstone Coordinator to structure capstone courses and experiences to provide opportunities for students to engage in this cycle of learning, as well as to guide students through this transformative learning experience in a supportive way. I most enjoy when students begin to discover the depth and breadth of what occupational therapists can do when given the opportunity to explore non-traditional roles for themselves. I am excited to see the amazing work that the NYU OT students are going to do in their capstone experiences, and I am honored to be able to support them on their educational journeys!
What new directions and developments in the OT Profession would you like to see and work towards?
The health care system is facing so many challenges. When preventable chronic diseases are the leading causes of hospitalization and death, it is clear that our approach to health care needs to change. Furthermore, the rates and distributions of chronic diseases highlight the disturbing health inequities that exist. Occupational therapists must play a role in addressing population health needs and social determinants of health through developing interventions that target health promotion and disease prevention. Unfortunately, reimbursement systems do not always support occupational therapists engaging in this type of work. However, this only means we need to strengthen our advocacy efforts and demonstrate our value as a profession! The doctoral capstone experience provides a wonderful platform for our profession to do just that. Working at the intersection of entrepreneurship and healthcare is critical to solving problems, and the occupational therapy profession is perfectly poised to be at the forefront of health care innovation. I would love to see the profession play a pivotal role in improving the health and wellbeing of all people, communities, and populations in alignment with the American Occupational Therapy Association’s call to action outlined in its Vision 2025.
And finally, is there anything else you would like to share with us to help us get to know you better?
I am a mom to two teenage daughters who keep me on my toes! I currently live in Westchester County, so I look forward to being in the city regularly and seeing more shows, meeting friends and family for dinner, and simply walking through the city which is so energizing. I love to read, listen to podcasts, play piano, and exercise. I ran my first half marathon in NYC in 2014, and the NYC marathon (slowly but surely!) in 2017. I am thrilled to join the NYU OT community and to learn about all the meaningful occupations of my colleagues and students!