We are pleased to announce the recipient of the second annual Jim Hinojosa Alumni Award, Dr. Paula Kramer. The award, named in honor Dr. Jim Hinojosa’s immense contributions to the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy and to the OT profession as a whole, seeks to recognize an outstanding NYU OT alumni who has made significant contributions to the profession.
Dr. Kramer is a three time graduate of NYU, and has written or co-authored 9 books and over 100 book chapters. Her focus is the translation of theory into practice, clearly describing the process and defining the concepts that are foundational to theory development. Together with Dr. Jim Hinojosa, she translates the abstract aspects of theory into a clear and understandable format. As a scholar, she has influenced practice by detailing how practitioners use the profession’s applied body of knowledge to provide theoretically based practice. Dr. Kramer was also named one of AOTA’s 100 Most Influential People in Occupational Therapy. Read on to learn more about Dr. Kramer, what brought her to the profession, and what she sees for the future of OT.
Tell us a little bit about your background, and your path to becoming an OT.
I had bad scoliosis when I was younger and surgery was recommended. At that time, the process required an extended hospital stay with limited movement, including staying in bed. My doctor recommended occupational therapy. My occupational therapist taught me how to perform most ADL skills with my limited movement, but more importantly, she taught me that I was still a productive, functional person even with these limitations. I learned that the limitations did not define me, I defined me. That was an amazing gift. That made me love occupational therapy, and I wanted to become an occupational therapist ever since.
How do you think your education at NYU prepared you for becoming a leader in the field?
Being educated by leaders helps you to become a leader. I have three degrees from NYU, all in OT (which I would not necessarily recommend, but it did work for me). My baccalaureate gave me the basics that I needed to start my career. My masters allowed me to grow and explore a more specified area of practice, working with children, understanding learning disabilities. And it taught me the critical importance of theory. Taking courses across campus in different departments was helpful and beginning to work with Anne Cronin Mosey was invaluable. Throughout my doctorate, I was constantly encouraged to grow and stretch, and see what could be instead of what was. This is the essence of leadership, seeing future possibilities and being willing to grow to get there.
You have worked extensively in changing policy and education in the OT field, can you tell us a little about your accomplishments there?
I started my service to the profession locally with the Metropolitan New York District and NYSOTA. I soon became involved with the Accreditation Council, I was interested in how education programs were developed and regulated. Around 1990, I was honored to Chair the new revision of the educational essentials now called the Standards. It was the first set of Standards developed independently by occupational therapists without the involvement of the Council for Allied Health Education and the American Medical Association. I shocked to discover that the term “occupation” was not in our educational standards and that there was limited mention of theory. I was proud to have championed the inclusion of both in the 1991 Standards.
Can you tell us about your writing and co-authoring of OT literature with Jim Hinojosa?
Jim and I have a fantastic relationship. He has been one of the most important people in my professional life, as well as being a great friend. Professionally, it is rather a co-mentorship. He makes me think differently. I can express myself and what I think about the profession or the topic we are working on, and he will give me his perceptions and together we can come to a consensus of what we want to put forward. He is one of those people that make you stretch and grow. I am very proud of all of the work we have done together, and I have enjoyed the collaboration so much.
What do you see for the future of the OT profession? What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your work?
I think the future of the profession is bright. We have many opportunities as long as we keep focusing on how we change the functional performance of our clients. We are finally becoming better known, but still have a ways to go, and it is important that we continue to promote the profession aggressively. I think the profession is somewhat at a crossroads with the decision to move to a doctoral level. Personally, while I am aware of the potential drawbacks, I think we have to make the jump. Our world recognizes education and titles, and to have our colleagues in physical therapy, at the doctoral level without having our profession at that level will put us at a disadvantage in the clinical world. My personal goals are more in the area of continuing to write to improve areas of practice and knowledge especially in pediatrics and the importance of theory related to occupation.