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Research Article
Issue Date: December 24, 2014
Published Online: December 29, 2014
Updated: January 01, 2019
Maralynne Mitcham: Educator, Mentor, and Innovator
Author Affiliations
  • Nancy Carson, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Division of Occupational Therapy, and Assistant Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, College of Health Professions, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston; carsonn@musc.edu
  • Patty Coker-Bolt, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, Division of Occupational Therapy, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Multidisciplinary Practice / In Memoriam
Research Article   |   December 24, 2014
Maralynne Mitcham: Educator, Mentor, and Innovator
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, December 2014, Vol. 69, 6901080010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.691003
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, December 2014, Vol. 69, 6901080010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.691003
Throughout her career, Maralynne Mitcham was a pioneer who worked tirelessly to advance the profession of occupational therapy through her contributions to education. She had a great capacity to think conceptually and creatively. “Doing thinking,” as she would call it, was another hallmark of her career. No matter the challenge, she always saw the big picture first, and then she ascertained how to collaborate, connect, and marshal needed resources.
Maralynne D. Mitcham, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Maralynne D. Mitcham, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
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In her role as an academician and educational leader, Maralynne was an early adopter of new ideas and sought to create a sense of community and inclusion in which all were welcome to participate. Time and time again, she pioneered educational innovation, led the way for others, and brought about lasting change in our profession. “Education as Engine” (Mitcham, 2014) was the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture she delivered at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA’s) Annual Conference & Expo in Baltimore in 2014. The metaphor of a train engine leading education into the future fittingly describes her influence on the profession as a visionary in occupational therapy education. Her work inspired hundreds of faculty members to harness the power of community–campus partnerships and interprofessional collaboration to enhance the education of future occupational therapists.
During Maralynne’s academic career, she served in a variety of senior roles in which she designed and led national efforts that integrated research into academic curricula, promoted collaboration with other professions, and enhanced faculty development across the profession. These efforts led to approximately $6 million in competitive grant funding and to scholarly dissemination of more than 100 national and international publications and presentations. Her work generated new academic knowledge for advancing professional education, such as integrating theory into practice, developing caring and compassion, and incorporating interprofessional education into occupational therapy curricula. It also yielded innovative perspectives for implementation and brought about significant developments such as fostering the transition to graduate entry-level education and collaborating across international borders. Her impact was far reaching, and her efforts directly benefited academic faculty members at occupational therapy educational programs at home and abroad, paving the way for successive generations of practitioners. Her ability to influence, support, and mentor faculty members, and in turn their students, was a hallmark of her lifelong career in academe.
Background
Maralynne received her diploma from St. Andrew’s School of Occupational Therapy in Northampton, England, in 1971 and began her occupational therapy career in England, taking her first position at Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre in Oxford, home of the Rivermead Perceptual Assessment Battery (Bhavnani, Cockburn, Lincoln, & Whiting, 1985). Here she developed her conceptual and holistic view of the profession and learned very quickly that education and interprofessionalism were essential ingredients of successful outcomes. In keeping with Eleanor Clarke Slagle’s pioneering spirit, she headed to the United States to work at Georgia Warm Springs Hospital, the site of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s polio treatments, where she rapidly transitioned to another country’s professional and cultural demands. As she continued her education, receiving her bachelor of science in occupational therapy (1976) and master of health education (1977) from the Medical College of Georgia, she began to craft a professional career trajectory that, unbeknownst to her, would ultimately lead to national prominence.
In 1977, Maralynne accepted her first faculty position, at the Medical College of Georgia. Here she laid the foundation for her academic life, honed her academic teaching skills, and contributed to curriculum innovation. As a doctoral student, she published her first conceptual piece of work, an innovative model for allied health faculty performance evaluation, a significant interprofessional development, which became the core of her doctoral dissertation in faculty evaluation. These early contributions to generating new knowledge resulted in her academic promotion and tenure.
Maralynne received her PhD in educational psychology from the University of Georgia in 1983, and in 1984 she was recruited to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as the third department chair in occupational therapy. In a state hungry for leadership in the field, she immediately began work on designing and implementing an advanced master’s degree for practitioners (master of health sciences/occupational therapy) and collaborating with other institutions at which such opportunities were not available. She created significant development for occupational therapy in distance education, connecting the advanced instructional technology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her newly designed master’s degree at MUSC.
As described in the literature (Mitcham & O’Shea, 1994), Maralynne singlehandedly took graduate education to communities of occupational therapists who heretofore had no access or opportunity. Recognizing the need for well-qualified faculty in occupational therapy, she designed and implemented another graduate degree at MUSC (master of science in health professions education) for working practitioners who wanted to make the transition from clinician to academician, thereby creating innovative opportunities for advancing education in health professions other than occupational therapy, and she mentored prospective faculty members as they readied for their academic careers and embraced a significant role change. During her tenure at MUSC she also served as assistant dean for research and graduate studies and, most recently, as assistant dean for mentoring and career development.
Scholarship and Service
Early in her career, Maralynne became involved with AOTA and was afforded opportunities to connect with emerging issues of the time, such as competency assurance and a proposed universal occupational therapy evaluation instrument. She coauthored a position paper for AOTA on the role of occupational therapy in the vocational rehabilitation process (AOTA, 1980) and collaborated on the development of the Uniform Occupational Therapy Evaluation Checklist (Shriver, Mitcham, Schwartzberg, & Ranucci, 1981), a precursor to the series of Uniform Terminology documents that would ultimately become the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (AOTA, 2002) for the profession.
During this time, she contributed and influenced practice-based professional developments and was selected to collaborate at the national level on such projects as AOTA’s Planning and Implementing Vocational Readiness in Occupational Therapy (PIVOT) and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s (AOTF’s) Clinical Reasoning Advisory Committee. These early contributions generated innovative perspectives for the practice of occupational therapy and established her national reputation.
At a time when few occupational therapists held advanced degrees, Maralynne completed her PhD, demonstrating her preparedness for academic life and readiness for academic leadership roles. She quickly grappled with the lack of research in the field and sought to evoke change. Through her seminal work Integrating Research Into Occupational Therapy (Mitcham, 1985), she conceptualized how academic programs might weave the threads of research throughout their curricula. Her scholarly influence led to curriculum innovation, service on editorial boards, and ultimately to leadership with the AOTF. She served as a board member (1987–1993), secretary (1993–1994), and, ultimately, president (1994–1997), subsequently being awarded an honorary life membership to the board in 2002 in recognition of her significant contributions.
Maralynne’s reputation for innovation was felt not only locally and nationally but also globally in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. At MUSC, she served in senior administrative roles for research and graduate education and continued to influence new knowledge and faculty development. At the national level, she was the youngest board member in the history of the AOTF to be elected its secretary and then president. During her presidency, she launched faculty development initiatives supporting faculty members’ cultivation of requisite instructional skills for quality graduate education, thereby assuring the beginning of a movement for faculty competency. The new knowledge and innovative perspectives that emerged from this work were later described in the literature (Mitcham & Gillette, 1999; Mitcham, Lancaster & Stone, 2002) and continued to evolve to meet emerging needs for new generations of faculty. When the profession moved professional education to graduate entry level in 1997 (Resolution J; see AOTA, 2014), Maralynne was much sought after as a curriculum consultant, empowering programs to reconceptualize their curricula in ways that would address new educational standards and effectively prepare graduates to meet the occupational needs of society.
Interprofessional Education and Practice
Maralynne generated yet more innovation in education through federally funded grant work that included junior faculty members and students in community–campus partnerships. Two projects stand out for their ability to address lack of access to service, rife in a medically underserved state such as South Carolina. First, the Community Connections (funded through a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration) built on earlier work and expanded interprofessional (occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech–language pathology) community-based learning experiences for students and faculty while simultaneously fostering reciprocal relationships between academic and community partners to promote delivery of needed health services to residents living in medically underserved communities. Second, the Caring Health Professionals Program, funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, created a conceptual framework (Graber et al., 2012) to infuse caring and compassion into health professions curricula (occupational therapy, physician assistant, physical therapy, and nursing). In both these endeavors, Maralynne was the powerhouse behind innovation, bringing new knowledge and interprofessional benefit to all participants.
The emergence of interprofessional work is important for occupational therapy, and Maralynne was a key player at the university level, leading curricular innovation across all colleges at MUSC through its Creating Collaborative Care (Learning Together–Transforming Health) initiative. As described in the literature (Blue, Mitcham, Smith, Raymond, & Greenberg, 2010), when students learn together, they have greater capacity to develop teamwork competencies and, ultimately, to deliver better, safer care. Once more, Maralynne was innovative in addressing faculty development needs for interprofessional education and led the way in designing and implementing a faculty fellowship program that is currently in its second year. Most recently, she also served as the interim codirector for the Office of Interprofessional Initiatives at MUSC. The profession is richer for her interprofessional involvement because wherever she went, there went occupational therapy.
Awards and Honors
Maralynne’s innovative impact on education was recognized throughout her career: She was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Member Award from the Medical College of Georgia in 1981; elected to the AOTA Roster of Fellows in 1987; and received the Meritorious Service Award from AOTF (1998), the MUSC College of Health Professions Excellence in Service Award (1999), the MUSC Teaching Excellence Award, Educator–Mentor (2000), the MUSC College of Health Professions Scholar of the Year Award (2002), the AOTA Award of Recognition for Advancing Occupational Therapy Education Through Faculty Development (2006), and the MUSC Distinguished Faculty Service Award (2009). In addition, as a testament to her remarkable ability to bring innovative perspectives to the forefront, MUSC honored Maralynne by naming the interprofessional faculty development fellowship program she designed and implemented at MUSC the Maralynne D. Mitcham Interprofessional Faculty Fellowship.
Finally, Maralynne was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Award, the highest academic award given by AOTA, and she subsequently delivered the 2014 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture, drawing a record attendance of 3,500. Her lecture, “Education as Engine” (Mitcham, 2014), focused on the themes of education as a product, learning as a process, and living as progress. The nature of these awards reflects her vision for and leadership in generating innovation in education, interprofessionalism, and faculty development.
Legacy
For education to have a profound effect on practice, it must be carefully conceptualized for each generation of learners such that emerging knowledge is taken forward and applied in contexts that are complex and challenging. Maralynne found her niche early in academic education and, in the years that followed, helped the profession mature in the academic milieu. The impact of her work is found not only in her significant contribution to curriculum changes when the profession transitioned from undergraduate to graduate entry level, but also in the preparation of faculty members to deliver new levels of education in productive and effective ways.
Maralynne’s legacy includes the endowment of the annual Maralynne D. Mitcham Lectureship. In 2005, the Maralynne D. Mitcham Lectureship Fund was established to create, in perpetuity, an annual lectureship program for the Division of Occupational Therapy at MUSC. The fund’s purpose is to honor Maralynne’s collegial spirit, leadership skills, and mentorship and promote a day of sharing and fellowship for the profession of occupational therapy. More specifically, the lectureship is awarded each year to a scholar in the field who has a broad perspective on occupation, has an international reputation, and has made significant contributions to education, practice, or research in the field of occupational therapy. The lectureship has been awarded for the past 2 yr to renowned speakers and truly represents Maralynne’s vision. The lectureship will continue as a significant part of her legacy and as a premier opportunity to recognize a scholar in the field of occupational therapy. Her desire to promote ongoing scholarly discussion and collaboration is represented by this lectureship.
In closing, Maralynne will be remembered not just for her many professional contributions but for her spirit, her enthusiasm, and her generous gifts of friendship, humor, support, and love. We will miss her love for a “cuppa” and the many opportunities for mentorship over afternoon tea. We are better occupational therapists and better individuals for having known her, and the many lessons she shared will live on in us all.
References
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1980). The role of occupational therapy in the vocational rehabilitation process. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 34, 881–883. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.34.12.819a [Article] [PubMed]
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1980). The role of occupational therapy in the vocational rehabilitation process. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 34, 881–883. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.34.12.819a [Article] [PubMed]×
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2002). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 609–639. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.56.6.609 [Article] [PubMed]
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2002). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 609–639. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.56.6.609 [Article] [PubMed]×
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). History of AOTA accreditation. Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Accreditation/Overview/History.aspx
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). History of AOTA accreditation. Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Accreditation/Overview/History.aspx×
Bhavnani, G., Cockburn, J., Lincoln, N., & Whiting, S. (1985). Rivermead Perceptual Assessment Battery. London: GL Education Group.
Bhavnani, G., Cockburn, J., Lincoln, N., & Whiting, S. (1985). Rivermead Perceptual Assessment Battery. London: GL Education Group.×
Blue, A. V., Mitcham, M., Smith, T., Raymond, J., & Greenberg, R. (2010). Changing the future of health professions: Embedding interprofessional education within an academic health center. Academic Medicine, 85, 1290–1295. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e53e07 [Article] [PubMed]
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Graber, D. R., Mitcham, M. D., Coker-Bolt, P., Wise, H. H., Jacques, P., Edlunc, B., & Annan-Coultas, D. (2012). The Caring Professionals Program: Educational approaches that integrate caring attitudes and empathic behaviors into health professions education. Journal of Allied Health, 41, 90–96. [PubMed]
Graber, D. R., Mitcham, M. D., Coker-Bolt, P., Wise, H. H., Jacques, P., Edlunc, B., & Annan-Coultas, D. (2012). The Caring Professionals Program: Educational approaches that integrate caring attitudes and empathic behaviors into health professions education. Journal of Allied Health, 41, 90–96. [PubMed]×
Mitcham, M. D. (1985). Integrating research into occupational therapy: A teaching guide for academic and clinical educators. Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Foundation.
Mitcham, M. D. (1985). Integrating research into occupational therapy: A teaching guide for academic and clinical educators. Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Foundation.×
Mitcham, M. D. (2014). Education as engine (Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 636–648. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.686001 [Article] [PubMed]
Mitcham, M. D. (2014). Education as engine (Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 636–648. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.686001 [Article] [PubMed]×
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Mitcham, M. D., Lancaster, C. J., & Stone, B. M. (2002). Evaluating the effectiveness of occupational therapy faculty development workshops. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 335–339. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.56.3.335 [Article] [PubMed]×
Mitcham, M. D., & O’Shea, B. J. (1994). Using audioteleconferencing to link occupational therapy graduate students in the United States and Canada. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 48, 619–625. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.48.7.619 [Article] [PubMed]
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Shriver, D., Mitcham, M., Schwartzberg, S., & Ranucci, M. (1981). Uniform occupational therapy evaluation checklist. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 35, 817–818. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.35.12.817 [Article]
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Maralynne D. Mitcham, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Maralynne D. Mitcham, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
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