Occupational Therapy Doctorate: A Thriving Program at Kettering College

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program at Kettering College is a popular place for good reason. With an enrollment waiting list, a 100% graduation rate, and an average starting salary for graduates around $85,000, occupational therapy is proving to be a viable career path.

An occupational therapist helps get patients back to normal life or finds ways to create a new normal life. Imagine you were in a car accident or had a stroke and have sustained injuries or impairments. Seemingly small everyday tasks like getting dressed or making dinner can become difficult.

An occupational therapist’s job is to show the patient ways to adjust until they are fully healed or ways to change their routine if their capabilities are forever altered. They help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. These specialized healthcare professionals work patiently to see progress and instill hope once again to those facing a setback.

Kettering College’s OTD program is filled with students who have answered the call to help patients. The program is a culmination of classroom learning (didactics), research, and hands-on fieldwork experience. Led by Dr. Shanese Higgins, DHSc, our OTD program takes three years to complete.

Second-year students spend a year researching a chosen topic that is precepted by faculty. For all scholarly and research projects, students must complete Kettering Health’s Institutional Review Board process for project approval prior to conducting their project and disseminating the findings.

At the end of their second year, they present their group research projects and have their White Coat Dedication Ceremony. This signifies the completion of their didactic portion of the program before sending them out to fieldwork/clinical placement. They pledge to be dedicated to their future patients and their profession. They then move into Level II Fieldwork and their Doctoral Capstone Project, leaving only one year left of the program to complete.

Students spend 18 months researching, creating, and implementing a chosen topic for their final Doctoral Capstone project posters. They get matched to a site and collaborate with a site mentor and a faculty mentor for the capstone. This is an advanced knowledge project that is completed after two Level II fieldwork experiences.

Both second and third-year OTD students recently gathered at Kettering Seventh-day Adventist church to present their researched work. Dr. Higgins notes some of the topics included:

Advocacy for the Profession of Occupational Therapy  

The Importance of Sleep in Occupational Engagement 

Caregiver Support and Training

The day was full of excitement as students showcased their hard work and research. A sense of gratification and accomplishment was evident not only for students but also for faculty and staff who have supported and encouraged OTD students toward success. Families and friends were invited to share in the joyful accomplishment. Congratulatory hugs and tear-filled eyes were a sign of relief and pride at completing such an academically challenging program, especially during a time of such uncertainty.

The day after the research project presentations, third-year OTD students attended a traditional pinning ceremony held at Southbrook Christian Church the morning of their graduation. Students are formally welcomed into the profession by accepting the pin. 

At this year’s pinning ceremony, Dr. Higgins opened the program with reflections on the last three years when the graduating students faced several obstacles that come with a worldwide pandemic and classes that didn’t stop in spite of it.

“Had we not lived through a pandemic, we would not be prepared for this moment. You were created by God for such a time as this.”

-Dr. Shanese Higgins, DHSc

The graduation ceremony followed the pinning ceremony to officially welcome 27 new occupational therapists into the workforce. They’ll move on to jobs in areas such as: Acute Care; Inpatient Rehab; Pediatrics; Mental Health; Hand Therapy Clinics; and Skilled Nursing Facilities/Extended Care Facilities.  

We are honored to watch these students go out into the world and answer their call to bring comfort and confidence back to patients who so desperately need it. We admire their grit, determination, and compassion as well as those who led them these last three years through unchartered territory.

About Kettering College
Kettering College is a fully accredited, coeducational college that specializes in health science education.  A division of Kettering Health, the College is located on the Kettering Health Main campus in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, and is chartered by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Kettering College offers an Occupational Therapy Doctoral program, a Master of Physician Assistant, Bachelor and Associate of Science degrees, and certificate programs.


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