An interview with Tracy Chippendale
It was a bit like coming home for Tracy Chippendale, who joined the Department of Occupational Therapy at NYU Steinhardt as an Assistant Professor last fall. Chippendale, an NYU alumnus had graduated in 2011 from the post professional program in Occupational Therapy at NYU and returned to the Department after working as an assistant professor at Tufts University for the past two years. After completing her first year at NYU, Chippendale talks about her students and how her continuing passion for the geriatrics field has driven her first year at NYU so far.
How did you find your first year at NYU as a full time faculty?
It’s been an easy transition for a couple of reasons. I had been an adjunct professor since 2002 and I was a full-time assistant professor at Tufts University for two years prior, so it was nice to come somewhere and hit the ground running. I have had a very warm welcome, not just within the department, but also from faculty members in other departments and schools. You already know the people, so it’s a little bit like coming home.
Could you talk about your research in geriatrics and how your interest in the subject started?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in working with seniors. When I was a high school student I used to volunteer at a nursing home and I enjoyed doing that. I went into Occupational Therapy thinking I would work with seniors, and I tell students, ‘It’s nineteen years later and I’m still working with seniors.’ I learn a lot from older adults and find this area of practice to be very rewarding.
After earning my Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Queens University, I worked for a number of years in my area of focus. I worked full-time as a clinician while pursuing a part-time post professional Masters degree at NYU and soon after that, began teaching as an adjunct professor. I enjoyed teaching and I wanted to be a full time academic, which led me to pursue a Ph.D. It was during my PhD studies that I realized, I didn’t want to just teach, but I also wanted to conduct research. I wanted to be at a place where I could be involved in research that can have an impact on a larger scale, such that other people can benefit from new knowledge that is being generated.
The overarching theme of my research is interventions that help elders Age in Place – or remain in their homes as long as possible. One aspect of this is interventional research to address mental health needs. I am also exploring the relationship between a neighbourhood environment and falls. One of things I’m trying to do through my research is to investigate interventions that increase interest among health science students in this area of specialty. I hope that through my teaching and research I can help build a workforce that is trained to meet the healthcare needs of older adults since there is a growing need for that.
Can you tell us about your research at NYU?
During my time at NYU, I received a foundation grant from the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation that helped me conduct an intervention study with two components – the first part is a life review writing workshop for older adults, and the second component provides the opportunity for seniors to share their experiences with health science students. I had done a pilot study earlier in Boston, and now I’m conducting the study on a multi-site level in New York, where I recently completed data collection at all four program sites.
Marie Boltz a faculty member in the Nursing department at NYU has collaborated with me on a study examining the experience of older adults in their neighbourhood, in relation to perceived fall risks and strategies for preventing falls. A lot has been done on studying falls indoors, but outdoor falls have received less attention. We completed one part of the study, which was published in the Gerontologist, and I have presented the work at the American Geriatrics Society Conference as well. Understanding perceived fall risks as well as resources and strategies used by seniors to prevent outdoor falls, is a good starting point to develop effective programs that target the seniors most at risk for falling outside.
I also collaborated with Marie on a study that involves a family focused intervention in acute care for family caregivers of older adults with dementia.
How has your experience of teaching at NYU been so far?
I’m enjoying the coursework and I’m excited to be here and be able to teach my area of interest. In the Fall I co-teach a course on human development- that covers the latter part of development and in Spring I teach a relatively new course for Geriatric practice, that has a lecture and a lab component. I was able to develop and operationalize the geriatrics course with the help of other faculty members, to make it a strong one that can focus on the unique aspects and clinical needs of elders. For example, I cover the assessment and treatment for clients with dementia and low vision, assessment and prevention of falls, and community based services and resources that are available to seniors.
This upcoming Fall I’ll be co-teaching a course in Foundations in OT, which will be an introduction to the profession. In addition to that I’m excited about a research course next Spring which involves faculty members who will mentor students on a specific research project related to their research agenda. I’ll get to work with two groups of students. It is a great opportunity for collaboration between faculty and students.
I have a lot of passion for my work and I hope I can communicate that to my students through my teaching. I enjoy class discussions and the students have been very engaged in them. Being able to share stories has added to the learning experience. I think what’s nice is that students are interested in learning about all practice areas. I always secretly hope that some students decide to go into geriatrics, but I encourage them to expose themselves to a variety of practice settings, so that they can solidify their decisions about where they want to work.