British PhD student partners with occupational therapy colleagues

Michelle Perryman (right) mentoring master’s student Megan Burger (left).

Michelle Perryman (right) mentoring master’s student Megan Burger (left).

The Department of Occupational Science and Technology has a new team member who traveled thousands of miles to teach and conduct research. Visiting Scholar Michelle Perryman from Great Britain is here for the academic year to study the communication in relationships between occupational therapists and their clients from an international perspective. Her long-term goal is to help equip occupational therapists and clients with the skills and tools required to respond to life’s transitional changes.

Foundation of a promising career

Perryman’s mother knew her daughter was destined be a researcher when, at the age of 11, she researched and compiled an entire file on Martin Luther King, Jr. It took a few more years, however, for Perryman to decide to become a researcher.

Originally from Bristol, England, Perryman moved north to attend the University of Cumbria-Carlise and earned her pre-registration master’s in occupational therapy in 2013. She then accepted an Honorary Research Fellowship that allowed her to travel to four different countries to research international perspectives of the role and philosophies of occupational therapists.

During this time, she was also a practicing occupational therapist. In 2016, Perryman returned to University of Cumbria-Carlise for her PhD because she was inspired to continue her education and research to better serve her clients.

Research with an international perspective

Perryman’s current research, which will turn into her dissertation, is focused on communication between occupational therapists and their clients. She is interviewing and observing occupational therapists in different generations, from students to retired professionals, to understand communication in therapeutic relationships.

The United States is not the first country where Perryman has gathered research data. She has collected data five different countries in order to ensure her findings have global connections. Coming to UW-Milwaukee has allowed Perryman to step outside her comfort zone to gain a greater understanding of the role of professional to client communication in occupational therapy.

By moving from one health care system to another, she is able to draw comparisons between the different systems. These comparisons have helped her learn more about the needs of clients and the importance of communication. Her mentor, Associate Professor Virginia Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, has given Perryman opportunities to teach, collaborate on research and present at conferences.

Perryman explained, “My department willingly opened its doors to me and provided me with much needed resources. Faculty and staff have been very supportive, and I believe the environment has helped drive my research.”

Milwaukee feels like home

Perryman is working hard on her research and teaching, but has also taken time to explore and enjoy Milwaukee. On the weekends, Perryman has enjoyed going to Milwaukee Brewers’ games and she loves spending time on the lakefront.

She even feels that Milwaukee is similar to her hometown. Perryman explains, “There is so much to do in Milwaukee and it is teaming with diversity. It reminds me of home. Bristol is also very diverse and busy. I am really loving my Milwaukee experience.”