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Assistant Professor Kim Gargin Helps Students Take Flight Through Fieldwork

Kim Gargin smiling at students in classroomAssistant Professor Kim Gargin joined Temple's Occupational Therapy faculty in 2014 with more than 13 years of clinical practice and research in professional development. We talked with her about being on the team designing Temple OT’s new curriculum and what’s unique about Temple’s fieldwork experience.  

This is part of Temple OT's 50th Anniversary Story Series--read more here.

It’s your third year on the Temple OT faculty. What brought you here?

I went to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia for my undergrad and graduate work, and I was an adjunct there for a long time. It was comfortable. Roger Ideishi [director of Temple's OT program]had been one of my instructors there, and when he made the transition to Temple we talked a lot about what Temple was about. He was excited about where he thought Temple OT could be headed, being nestled in the North Philly community.
That got me excited. I think I was ready for a challenge, to sort of break away from my nest. But it was still a safe jump because I knew what a great leader Roger was. Having the opportunity to be part of writing the new curriculum has been the most exciting thing.
What stands out for you about the students and faculty?

Because we keep our class size pretty small, the faculty have a very dynamic relationship with students, who I would say are very passionate. We get more than 700 applicants for somewhere between 55 and 60 seats per year at this point. So Temple OT students are dynamic, flexible, organized, and creative. And they’re passionate about being here. They don’t just want to be an OT. They want to be a Temple OT. They appreciate our location and the way we connect with our community. As evidence of that, the Student Occupational Therapy Association organizes community service activities on top of their regular course work and required field work.
Kim Gargin training occupational therapy studentsWhat’s distinctive about the curriculum?

From their first year, our students get lab experiences in the community. Instead of practicing on each other in a classroom, they're working with kids, hands-on. That's pretty unique to our program. 
We also send students out to the community into a site where they don't have a traditional OT program. They have to figure out what they need and how OT can meet those needs. There are many opportunities for students to make a mark for themselves.
How do fieldwork placements help OT make an impact on the community at large?

We’re always brainstorming who might benefit from having OT services. As we become aware of various organizations, we find out about their mission and think about whether there’s a role that we can address. Of course, there are certain types of organizations we know we can serve: mental health settings, homeless shelters, domestic shelters, schools. But we’re always thinking outside the box.
So you’re broadening your community outreach and hitting a lot of learning objectives at the same time.

Exactly. We have students do a needs assessment, then plan a program, then implement it and analyze outcomes. They’re learning to build a program from the ground up. They do it as part of our research course. After they understand the needs of the site, they go back as more of a fieldwork experience.
How does this approach complement the rest of the program?

It takes the burden off of our clinical sites. There are at least eight different OT programs in the Philadelphia region alone, so our traditional OT sites have a huge demand placed on them to take students. And it complements the traditional OT fieldwork experience our students continue to get at those clinical sites.

Kim Gargin training student in wheelchair useWhat have been some highlights of being part of the faculty?

Being on the team that’s developing and implementing the new curriculum has been a great experience for me. I’ve learned so much about curriculum design, as well as how curriculum aligns with accreditation. The entire experience has been valuable to me. 
I also love the academic festival we have every fall, where students present their research and awards are handed out. Now being in my third year, I've seen two classes come completely through the program, so it's great to see them grow. It's rewarding to see their process, their evolution, and then to let them fly from our nest.
What do you appreciate most about your fellow faculty members?

We have a great faculty! I guess I'm biased, but you know, when you look around, we have such a wealth of knowledge of instructors. Dr. Ideishi knows the ins and outs of accreditation, and curriculum, and the fellowship of teaching and learning. Dr. Beth Pfeiffer, who's been with Temple for a long time, gives us the perspective of the history of the program. For those of us who are new, that keeps us grounded in our tradition and helps us move forward. Susan Santalucia is a very experienced teacher, and I’ve learned so much from her. Dr. Rochelle Mendonca is an excellent researcher and is really a go-to for all of us with research and design. It's such a complementary group, and we all share the same beliefs about community-based practice and engagement.

Learn more about what's happening at Temple's Occupational Therapy Program here.

Posted:  February 9, 2017