Kim Furphy is the program director of the master of science in occupational therapy program at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey, where she has served on the faculty since 2000. An assistive technology specialist, Furphy also teaches adult evaluation and intervention courses, does occasional pro bono work with clients, and conducts evaluations for assistive technology for school districts and other organizations. At Temple she completed an OT certificate in 1995 and a master of science in occupational therapy in 1998 before earning her doctor of health science degree from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.
What first drew you to occupational therapy?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Virginia, and my first job out of school was as a counselor at a juvenile sex offender unit. It was a locked rehab unit – one of those situations where you’re with the kids all day and can end up just sitting around when they are not in therapy sessions, especially on the weekends. I was not a person who liked to sit around, so I came up with a life skills program in which I had everyone participate.
One day my boss called me into her office and said, “What are you doing here?” I thought she was firing me. She was an OT herself, and she said, “I really think that you belong somewhere else. Have you ever heard about occupational therapy? Because that’s what you’re doing. I think you would really thrive in this field.”
Why did you choose Temple?
First off, I'm from Bucks County, so it was convenient. You know, convenience and cost are the first things you look at when you're financing your education. The certificate option at the time was appealing for me because I was able to start working as an OT sooner. I was also able to work while I was finishing the master’s degree. So Temple had everything that I was looking for – it just seemed like the best fit for me.
How did Temple’s OT program help you most as a student?
When I started the program, there was a certificate option that allowed me to go out and start working while I completed the master’s degree. That was a great option for me, first because I was able to keep working, and second because that practical experience helped me form questions and come up with original research with clients with whom I was already working.
What were your goals going into the program?
I had been learning about the psychosocial aspects of OT through my job with the adolescents, and then while I was working in this setting, my grandmother had a stroke. That’s when I saw the side of OT that addresses physical impairments.
Then while in OT school, I did fieldwork at Magee Rehab and I just fell in love with the rehab environment. A lot of young guys I was seeing as clients in the spinal cord unit had physical needs as well as a lot of the psychosocial needs of the adolescents I had been working with.
How is the Temple OT program different from others?
I had some friends who were in other programs that were more theory based. At Temple, we got both theory and hands-on education. When I was supervising students in the clinic setting before I began teaching, the Temple students always came in better prepared to jump right in. I think Temple is one of the better programs in Philly, at least in my experience, both as a student there and as an educator and clinician.
What about your student experience changed you or shaped your career?
The faculty. My professors were excellent OTs, and great people. Judy Perinchief, one of the faculty members at the time, had so much enthusiasm for the spinal cord and brain injury population. She got me interested enough to request and complete fieldwork at Magee Rehab, and it shifted my career direction toward physical rehab and eventually to assistive technology and education.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without Temple. It was a huge stepping stone to my career. Really, it’s the faculty that are the reason I chose to become an educator. And some of them were the reason I teach the way I teach.
What are some of your favorite memories of being a student?
Making splints and casts was fun and interesting. There was also a media and modality class, which introduced us to a lot of the basic therapeutic modalities that are at the heart of OT. The cadaver lab, especially the first day, was also a memorable day.
One day that really stands out in my mind is when we had a guest OT lecturer who showed us a video where she used a song with a client who couldn't shower himself due to a brain injury. It was a rap song that gave instructions to the client and he would follow along to complete bathing tasks. It sticks in my mind to this day and I still use that example with my students.
You’re an assistive technology specialist. What are some changes you’ve seen in that area since you started your career?
Just like the technological changes we’ve seen in everyday life, assistive technology has followed suit. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is that many of the technologies that are common today, like touchscreens and word completion tools on smartphones, were once considered assistive technologies. Now they’re commonplace and are making it easier for people with disabilities to live, work and play without the access barriers that were present in the past.