College’s Professor presents to capacity crowd at national conference

Posted on April 11, 2017
Roger Smith presenting at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) national conference

Roger O. Smith presenting the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture at the 2017 American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) national conference. Photo: Maysam Ardehali

Occupational therapists from around the country, and the world, gathered in Philadelphia, from March 30-April 2, to attend the American Occupational Therapy Association, or AOTA, national conference and to celebrate their 100-year history.

A special honor for Professor Smith

Among the many activities for the over 14,000 attendees is the prestigious Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture given by a leader in the profession. This year the honor went to the College of Health Sciences’ Professor Roger O. Smith, PhD, OT, FAOTA, RESNA Fellow. Smith teaches in the Department of Occupational Science and Technology, and is director of the Rehabilitation Research Design & Disability Center or R2D2.

As is tradition, Smith received the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award at last year’s AOTA national conference with an invitation to present a special lecture at the 2017 annual conference.

The award, begun in 1954, is one of the highest honors bestowed by AOTA, and one of the premier academic scholarly awards in the US. There have since been 51 OT scholars honored for their substantial and innovative contribution to the development of the profession’s body of knowledge through research, education and/or clinical practice.

Smith’s speech on the important role of technology

In his lecture, at the association’s 100th anniversary celebration, and to arguably the largest live audience of OT scholarship in the world (over 5,000 attendees!), he spoke on “Technology and Occupations: Past 100, Present and Next 100 Years.”

He reviewed the role that technology has played and how, for the next 100 years, as technology advances, occupational therapy practitioners and occupational scientists will deepen their understanding of how technology and occupation intertwine.

An enduring and illustrious career

Smith was singled out for shaping and defining the relationship between occupational therapy and technology. In his 35 years of practice, education, research and scholarship, Smith often, in his presentations, highlights the roots of occupational therapy as grounded in technology.

Smith is the only person in the US to be a fellow in both occupational therapy and engineering organizations, and on the roster of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Academy of Research. He also is president of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North American, or RESNA, which places him in a unique position to speak to occupational therapy practitioners from a clear interdisciplinary perspective.

Smith’s significant and lasting contributions to the profession meet at the intersection of occupation, access and technology. His work has generated specialized training programs in technology that have generated hundreds of advanced practitioners. They, in turn, have been able to apply best practices that enable access and full participation in health care, educational, vocational, and community environments in the US and around the world.

Who was Eleanor Clarke Slagle?

Eleanor Clarke Slagle (1870–1942) was an American social worker and an early pioneer of occupational therapy.

Often deemed the “mother” of occupational therapy in the US, Slagle is considered one of the most influential figures in the development of the field of occupational therapy.

Until the early part of the 20th century, occupational therapy had not been taken seriously as a medical career. As a trained social worker, Slagle, in her early career, worked at state hospitals, and also Chicago’s Hull House. She started giving lectures, began creating training courses and was hired to supervise occupational therapy in mental hospitals. Her reputation spread as she worked to promote the field of occupational therapy as a professional occupation.

Slagle was one of the founder, in 1917, of the The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy, now known as the American Occupational Therapy Association, with a membership of more than 60,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and students of occupational therapy.

It is fitting that the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award is named in her honor. The published lectures in her name are the most cited papers in the profession of occupational therapy and the occupational science discipline.

Read more about the 2017 Centennial AOTA Conference.