Joanne Oates
Joanne Oates

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation has awarded Joanne Oates, a second-year post-professional occupational therapy doctoral student, its 2022 STRIDE research grant. She is one of only three occupational therapy students and clinicians from across the country to be named a recipient of this prestigious award.

The STRIDE grant, which stands for stands for Standing for Research Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, offers $10,000 in research funds to graduate students and clinicians from underrepresented groups to improve their representation in the field of occupational therapy. The program also pairs recipients with experienced research mentors to assist them in their work.

Oates will be working with Lilian Magalhaes, an adjunct professor at the Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil, to develop culturally responsive frameworks for occupational therapy curricula. Magalhaes' research focuses on training occupational therapists in cultural sensitivity to improve their ability to serve communities rooted in unfamiliar cultures.

Oates’ passions for education, working with children, and occupational therapy led her to found the Smile a While Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing pediatric therapy to children with special needs in the Caribbean.

Gillian Rai, Oates’ doctoral advisor and assistant professor of instruction in the occupational therapy program, says “Joanne exudes an unwavering passion and commitment to addressing social, health, and education disparities. Occupational justice is at her heart, as evidenced by her nonprofit work.”

Oates credits her experience working with children in minority communities for motivating her research.

“There is a huge need for occupational therapists in minority communities," says Oates. "The larger issue is that the field of occupational therapy isn't very diverse. Therapists tend to work with people who look like them, and so some of these minority children are going years without getting service because of a lack of cultural understanding."

Oates hopes that her research will help provide underprivileged communities with more access to occupational therapy services. “Hopefully we can stop this cycle where special needs children are regressing because they aren't being properly treated,” she says.

Oates holds a BA in health and human services from the University at Buffalo, an MA in education administration from Florida International University, and an MA in occupational therapy from Mercy College in New York.