Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity
EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBERS
Catherine R. Hoyt, PhD, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Hoyt (she/her/hers) is the Founding Director and a founding member of COTAD (2014). She focuses on developing strategies to identify effective methods of diversity education and strategic growth of COTAD initiatives to support COTAD's mission. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation and Participation Science in 2019, after having earned her OTD in 2010 from Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Hoyt was part of the 2012 cohort of the AOTA Emerging Leaders program and has served on several volunteer committees to support pediatric practice and future visioning for AOTA. In addition to her growing body of work in research related to early identification and intervention for developmental delay, Dr. Hoyt is also a dedicated clinician and entrepreneur. She has a patent on a pencil grip and several products on the market for pediatric therapy. She is the owner of My Little Sunshine Pediatric Therapy in St. Louis, MO, and serves on the advisory board for Southpaw Enterprises, WearWorks Inc. and STEGA.
Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Anvarizadeh (she/her/hers) is a founding member of COTAD (2014) and serves as the organization's Vice Chair and Chair of the Toolkit Committee and COTAD Chapter program. She received her BS, MA, and Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from The University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Anvarizadeh was part of the 2012 cohort of the AOTA Emerging Leaders program and she is passionate about creating sustainable communities through social entrepreneurship and policy using an occupational therapy perspective. Dr. Anvarizadeh holds several leadership positions in the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) and serves as the California Representative for the AOTA Representative Assembly. Dr. Anvarizadeh was also part of the AOTA Special Task Force on Entry Level Education, and a crucial contributor to the professional dialogue on the entry level degree requirements in 2018-19. She continues to work tirelessly to support and establish COTAD Chapters at OT programs across the country to facilitate dialogue, awareness, and change related to issues of diversity in patient care and professional education. She currently works at USC as the Director of Admissions and Associate Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy.
Stephanie Lancaster, EdD, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS, CDP
Dr. Lancaster (she/her/hers) has been a practicing occupational therapist since 1991, specializing in assistive technology and treatment of neurological conditions since 1991. She has been a part of COTAD Leadership since 2017. She earned a B.S. in occupational therapy from Washington University in St. Louis and both an M.S. in Leadership & Policy Studies and a Doctorate of Education for Instruction & Curriculum Leadership with emphasis on Instructional Design & Technology from the University of Memphis. She is currently the Program Director and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Additionally, Dr. Lancaster maintains specialty certifications as an Assistive Technology Provider (ATP) through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders. Stephanie joined COTAD in 2017 with the goal of applying her knowledge and expertise in clinical education, connected learning, and instructional design and technology to further COTAD's mission. She served as COTAD's Social Media Coordinator for COTAD from 2018-2019 and is now the organization's Secretary. Stephanie blogs on her website and hosts the podcast On The Air for individuals interested in occupational therapy and OT-related topics.
Adam Pearson, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Adam Pearson (he/him/his) joined COTAD in 2015 and has made significant contributions to the organization’s development and achievements since then. He earned his B.S. in Psychology at Missouri State University and then earned a clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Pearson held teaching, practice and research roles for two years and has also had many administrative, clinical and leadership positions, all with a focus on health, health equity, strategy development, and program management. He currently works at the Centene Center for Health Transformation as the Strategy and Development Manager, connecting expert researchers at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis’s Brown School of Social Work with industry colleagues at Centene Corporation. Prior to his work with the Centene Center, Dr. Pearson spent many years working as an occupational therapist in a complex community mental health and psychiatric rehabilitation settings, most recently with Peter and Paul Community Services. As the Program Director of the Garfield Place Apartments, he led the programmatic and fiscal development of a permanent supportive housing program. His long term goals involve working with multi-disciplinary, diverse teams to develop and implement dynamic programs to end homelessness and improve occupational engagement for all nationwide.
Stacy Wilson, MS, OTR/L
Mr. Stacy Wilson (he/him/his) is a founding member of COTAD (2014) and serves as the Treasurer and Public Awareness Coordinator. He earned his BA in Psychology (2007) and MS in Occupational Therapy (2010) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). His professional experience includes work in the inpatient rehab unit at WakeMed hospital, where he works to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord injuries, amputations, and other health impairments. He is currently the Supervisor of Acute Rehabilitation Services at WakeMed Hospital. Mr. Wilson is an AOTA Emerging Leader, and he is passionate about investing in and increasing recruitment and retention of diverse students to the profession. In order to accomplish this, he established a scholarship at UNC-CH to increase diversity in occupational science and occupational therapy that has provided financial support to multiple students since its inception. Additionally, Mr. Wilson is active in developing and refining the COTAD Recruitment and Retention Toolkit, educating high school and college students about careers in OT at local career fairs, and serving as an advocate for minority recruitment and retention at his alma mater. He also collaborated with a group of students at Kunming University in southwest China to create the country's first Student Occupational Therapy Association. Mr. Wilson’s work at the local, national, and international levels demonstrates his passion for increasing awareness of occupational therapy and recruiting and retaining more OT students of diverse backgrounds.
Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L
Ms. Lauren Jones (she/her/hers) has served in multiple roles for COTAD, including Secretary and Editor, since joining in 2016. She earned a B.S. in Psychology from the College of William and Mary and an M.S. in Occupational Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was in the 2016 cohort of the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development Program. She currently works on an interdisciplinary team providing services to youth, adults, and older adults in an inpatient psychiatry setting. In addition to working, Lauren is active in local and national occupational therapy professional organizations. She is currently the Special Interest Section Coordinator for the North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association, where she collaborates with clinicians across the state to develop programming for OT practitioners in diverse settings. Additionally, she has served AOTA in multiple capacities, including roles as a representative to the Assembly of Student Delegates, an intern for the Education SIS, and an Emerging Leaders Program application reviewer. Lauren is active in the therapy blogging community, sharing valuable information for current and prospective OT/A students as well as practicing clinicians on her blog, Gotta Be OT. As Editor of the quarterly COTAD Courier newsletter and website, she helps to support COTAD's mission behind the scenes by contributing to website design, communications, and outreach efforts. She is active in promoting the conversation of diversity and inclusion through social media and in her community, and she is passionate about helping achieve COTAD's mission in the years to come.
Jordan Skowronski, MS, OTR/L
Mr. Skowronski (he/him/his) is an occupational therapist and Public Health Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois Chicago. He has been a part of COTAD since 2015. As an OT, he works at the Northshore Evanston Hospital Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit and in home health. He received three awards from clients for the services that he provided. His clinical work has inspired him to research the social, cultural, policy, and system factors that shape health in aging individuals and communities. Mr. Skowronski is a research assistant on a randomized control trial of a community-based health promotion program for older adults. Since 2014, he has worked with COTAD to improve the diversity and inclusion within the OT workforce. He presented with COTAD at three AOTA Conferences and continues to supervise two COTAD members in their work. His long term goals involve teaching diverse students, investigating cost-effective, multidisciplinary health promotion programs for older adults, and improving the quality of healthcare and long term care systems.
Nádine Kwebetchou, MBA, MS, OTR/L
Ms. Kwebetchou (she/her/hers) is a founding member of COTAD (2014) and earned her Masters of Business Administration from Cornell University and Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from Towson University where she graduated with departmental honors. She has served as Professional Action Chair for the National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus, Alternate Representative for the State of Maryland in the AOTA Representative Assembly, and is a graduate of AOTA’s 2014 cohort of the Emerging Leaders Program. Ms. Kwebetchou received recognition from Cornell University as a Forte Fellow for her academic and leadership achievements. Ms. Kwebetchou has held clinical leadership positions and has worked in diverse healthcare settings: Intensive care, acute care, sub-acute, polytrauma, oncology, skilled nursing, maternity, emergency department, ambulatory surgery, assisted living, outpatient, and home health. She has also presented in national and international conferences. She is passionate about the field of occupational therapy catalyzing diversity AND inclusion from a PEO (person, environment, and occupation) perspective. Her goal is to apply her knowledge, expertise, and diverse experiences to further COTAD’s mission. Ms. Kwebetchou currently works as a healthcare executive and resides in Washington DC.
Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Cristina Reyes Smith is a graduate of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at Thomas Jefferson University and the Masters in Occupational Therapy program at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She has over 15 years of experience in community health promotion, program development, and volunteer service to underserved communities. She currently works as an Assistant Professor and Director of Admissions in the MUSC College of Health Professions (CHP) Division of Occupational Therapy. She has served as Faculty Advisor for the CHP Student Diversity Leadership Council and CHP Aprendiendo Juntos interprofessional Spanish club.
Dr. Smith was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the American Occupational Therapy Association beginning in July 2020. She was also recently invited to serve on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Occupational Therapy Education and officially began this role April 2020. She has conducted presentations and published articles about workforce diversity; cultural competence and sensitivity; and related topics for local, state, and national venues. She has also integrated these concepts on campus through presentations, interprofessional course electives, and student research groups. She coordinates the annual MUSC Culturally Sensitive Care Program open to all MUSC students, faculty, and staff since the Fall of 2018 about the USDHHS National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards. She also coordinates the annual MUSC Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest for Lowcountry children and youth in honor of the Charleston native and civil rights activist.
Khalilah R. Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L
Dr. Khalilah Johnson (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Johnson joined COTAD Leadership in 2019. She also serves as an affiliate research faculty member at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, and a senior reviewer and clinical consultant for Elsevier. Broadly, Dr. Johnson's research focuses on access and participation in health and vocational services of racial/ethnic minority adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as developing culturally affirming interventions to increase their community engagement. Her research is published in the Journal of Occupational Science, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Open Journal of Occupational Therapy just to name a few. Dr. Johnson’s interests are informed by 13 years of clinical experience spanning Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. In addition to COTAD, she is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, the National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus, the Society for the Study of Occupation USA, and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Johnson also serves as the Advocacy and Policy Coordinator for the Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Section (DD SIS) for AOTA.
Meegan D. Lambert, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Meegan Lambert (she/her/hers) earned her Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree at Pacific University. She received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Tennessee State University, and a Bachelors of Arts in Health Promotion at Purdue University. Dr. Lambert joined COTAD Leadership in 2018. She has nine years of experience as an occupational therapist in various settings including acute care, skilled nursing, long-term acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, community-based settings, and home health. Dr. Lambert is also a licensed massage therapist, certified lymphedema therapist, and certified brain injury specialist. She is currently a traveling occupational therapist with active licenses in Illinois Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas. Dr. Lambert joined COTAD in 2018 and serves and the Minority Mentoring Program Coordinator. She is passionate about the recruitment and retention of racial minorities in the OT profession.
Alexia Rebne, MS, OTR/L
Currently employed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the Occupational Therapy Program Admissions Coordinator, Ms. Rebne (she/her/hers) has been a registered Occupational Therapist since 2008. Lexi joined COTAD Leadership in 2017. Since graduating from the MS-Occupational Therapy Program at UW-Madison, Ms. Rebne has primarily worked with clients in post-acute rehabilitation settings that also offered outpatient, and home health services. Since joining the academic setting at UW-Madison in 2010, in addition to her role as the Occupational Therapy Program Admissions Coordinator, Lexi has also been employed as a Lecturer for the Occupational Therapy Program. She is currently enrolled in the post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program at UW-Madison, with a capstone plan to create an online course, designed especially for pre-occupational therapy students from underrepresented backgrounds, that will provide an opportunity for students to further develop skills and strategies that will positively impact their success with the occupational therapy admissions process.
Helen Valencia, MS, OTR/L
Ms. Helen Valencia (she/her/hers) is a recent graduate of the Stony Brook University Occupational Therapy Program where she obtained a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. Helen joined COTAD Leadership in 2019. She achieved academic and leadership recognition by her induction into the Alpha Eta Society, a national honor society for health professionals. She was also awarded with the Jean Clark-Brown Leadership Award by her program. She has completed her level II fieldwork placements in pediatrics and community mental health and is passionate about both fields. She migrated to the United States from Colombia at a young age and credits her supportive family for where she is today. From 2014 to 2019 Ms. Valencia was a co-founder of a small non-profit organization which sponsored leadership and self-development programs for a community in Colombia. She is a strong believer in the power of creating relationships and building communities. She is proud to join COTAD and will be assisting with the development of the Minority Mentoring Program.
Michelle DeJesus, MS, OTR/L
Ms. Michelle DeJesus (she/her/hers) is an occupational therapist working in pediatric and outpatient rehabilitation settings in Miami, Florida. She joined COTAD Leadership in 2019. She graduated summa cum laude in 2018 from Nova Southeastern University with a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy and summa cum laude in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Public Health from the University of South Florida (USF). As a graduate student, Michelle served as co-leader of NSU’s Interprofessional Diabetes Education and Awareness organization (IDEA) where she led a group of 50 interprofessional students to develop and deliver bilingual health presentations to underserved communities in South Florida. Currently, Michelle serves as an advocate for diversity, inclusion, and her profession via her personal blog (Michelledot.com) and social media accounts where she authentically shares her experiences as a minority in healthcare as well as her passion for the OT profession. Ms. DeJesus is elated to join COTAD to promote a more diverse and inclusive environment for future and current OT practitioners.
Emily Sherman, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Emily Sherman (she/her/hers) recently earned her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. She joined COTAD Leadership in 2019. After working for a number of years in the film and television industry, a life-changing health event lead her to become an occupational therapy care recipient. She then decided to go back to school to pursue a career in occupational therapy – the field that given her life back. At WashU, she developed a scholarly project aimed at exploring the need for LGBTQ+ health information in occupational therapy curricula in order to guide quality improvement initiatives in academia that will better equip occupational therapy students, educators, and practitioners to enhance cultural humility in occupational therapy. She first became involved with COTAD as a student when she helped found WashU’s student chapter, which went on to win COTAD’s inaugural Chapter Excellence Award and received an Honorable Mention from the WashU Liberman Leadership Awards. She is grateful to be able to continue serving COTAD as the membership coordinator.
Michelle Finet, PhD, OTR/L
Dr. Michelle Finet is an occupational therapist who has worked with children and youth for over 20 years specializing in the areas of sensory integration and autism. She joined COTAD in 2019. She has worked with clients with a wide range of diagnoses including but not limited to Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, torticollis, developmentally delays, brachial plexus injuries, cognitive impairment, muscular dystrophy, and attention deficit disorder. Dr. Finet also has experience running a company providing therapy services through a contract with the state of Arizona as well as working as an ergonomics consultant in multiple settings. She currently teaches full-time in the OT program at Touro University in Henderson, Nevada. Her research focuses on how OT can be more involved with working with and providing services to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and she provides services one day per week in a primary care clinic focused on serving that community. She is currently part of the COTAD social media team.
Ryan Lavalley, PhD, MOT, OTR/L
Dr. Ryan Lavalley (he/him/his) is a community-based occupational therapist and post-doctoral research associate in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Lavalley joined COTAD Leadership in 2020. He completed his masters in occupational therapy at Xavier University and his PhD in occupational science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research and teaching focus on understanding and leveraging the role of occupation and occupational therapy in community initiatives and social transformation. He serves as a core team member for UNC’s Partnership in Aging Program supporting development of initiatives working at the intersection of aging, housing, and racial equity. In partnership with the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, he coordinates the Northside Residential Fellowship program, Linking Generations in Northside program, and Elder Power Team. In partnership with the Orange County Department on Aging, he coordinates the Orange County Home Preservation Coalition and manages the Handy Helpers Home Repair Program. He is also a coordinating member of the International Social Transformation through Occupation Network. Dr. Lavalley is passionate about bolstering the role of occupational therapists in fostering positive community change and is excited to support an occupational therapy profession that celebrates diversity and inclusivity through his role with COTAD.
Whitney Harris, MS, OTR/L
Ms. Whitney Harris (she/her/hers) graduated with her M.S. in Occupational Therapy at West Coast University (WCU) in December of 2017. She started working with COTAD in early 2017 when she helped kickstart the now growing COTAD Chapters in her last trimester at school. Since graduating, Whitney has continued her involvement with COTAD by assisting in COTAD Chapter administrative work, being a part of the new COTAD Community Service Committee, and co-creating the Book+ Club in which she facilitates on a monthly basis. Whitney collaborated with other COTAD volunteers on a poster presentation at the 2019 AOTA Conference, discussing the efficacy and importance of COTAD Chapters in schools. Besides her thorough involvement with this organization, Whitney works in early intervention working with children with a variety of developmental disabilities and sensory processing challenges. She is also working towards her Advanced Practice Certification in Swallowing Assessment, Evaluation, or Intervention (SWC) to help children with feeding challenges. Additionally, Whitney is published in the Occupational therapy Association of California Newsletter in the May/June Issue of 2018 discussing building cultural humility within occupational therapy programs. Whitney is passionate about the education of culture and diversity in all its forms. She is excited about her new position with COTAD and being a part of an important movement in the OT field and our communities.
Devlynn Neu, MS, OTR/L, LSVT, BIG
Devlynn Neu (they/them/theirs) is an occupational therapist from Rochester, NY, currently working in various settings as a travel therapist. Dev joined COTAD Leadership in 2020. They have a passion for working with adult and geriatric populations, specifically with neurological conditions and those within the LGBTQIA+ community. They graduated magna cum laude in 2018 from D'Youville College with a combined Bachelor's and Master’s of Science in Human Occupation and Occupational Therapy, with minors in Psychology, General Spanish, and Spanish for the Health Professions. As a graduate student, Devlynn served as a member of the College's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), and was the founder of the Occupational Therapy Chairperson's Council and Community Wellness Clinic, where they organized and led a group of 50+ interprofessional students and practitioners to develop and provide holistic education and resources to pregnant women and mothers of newborns in both English and Spanish. Devlynn was the recipient of the Occupational Therapy Professional Promise Award in 2018, and was the recipient of the Young Alumni Award in 2019 at D'Youville College. Currently, Devlynn serves as an advocate for diversity, inclusion, and representation for the LGBTQIA+ community via their personal blog (therainbowot.com) and social media account (@therainbowot) where they authentically provide educational materials and share experiences as a minority in healthcare, along with their passion for the OT profession. Devlynn is beyond excited to be a member of COTAD, and to be a part of the movement towards enhancing education, inclusion, diversity, and representation for future and current OT practitioners, as well as those within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Nikki Busquet Guarino, MS, OTR/L
Mrs. Nikki Busquet Guarino (she/her) is an occupational therapist with experience in outpatient
pediatrics, early intervention and home health. She joined COTAD leadership in 2020.
Graduating from Auburn University with a B.S in Human Development and Family Studies, Nikki
became a certified Child Life Specialist; helping hospitalized children cope with their diagnoses
and treatment through therapeutic play. While serving as part of a multidisciplinary pediatric
inpatient rehabilitation team, she was inspired to change careers and become an occupational
therapist. Nikki graduated with honors from Howard University School of Health Sciences with
her M.S. in occupational therapy in 2016. Relocating to her home state of Florida, Nikki has
been serving children and families in the Tampa Bay area for four years. She is passionate about
the occupation of play and brings her knowledge of therapeutic play and coping styles to her
occupational therapy practice. In her work with children and families, she has been a steadfast
advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion by developing bilingual parent education materials
and helping her Spanish speaking clients navigate the healthcare system. Nikki is currently
employed by Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services, a charitable organization that provides
free occupational therapy services to children and families who demonstrate financial need
and/or lack access to health insurance. She is thrilled to help support the mission of COTAD and
work towards building a more diverse occupational therapy profession that reflects the
diversity of the clients served.