sheila RocheOccupational Therapist Sheila Roche of Ireland was attending a workshop in London, England when she heard a presentation from Mary Warren, director of the Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation at UAB. It was a topic she was not very familiar with.

“At the time, I was working in stroke rehabilitation and did not have any knowledge or experience of low vision rehabilitation outside of this area,” said Roche. “I was very unsure about committing to a program about which I knew very little, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

The distance learning and being able to work full-time was a huge selling factor for Roche.

“Being in Ireland was no real disadvantage,” said Roche. “Juggling the course with full-time work, social and family life can be tricky at times, but it’s undeniably rewarding and definitely manageable.  I even managed to have two little girls along the way!”

Roche completed her graduate certificate two years ago and just received her Master’s degree with a concentration in Low Vision Rehabilitation in August.

Roche now works in the South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital in Cork, Ireland. She is the senior occupational therapist on the trauma orthopedic unit, a rehabilitation unit that caters for those with upper limb, lower limb and/or spinal fractures. Most of her clients are older adults who have been admitted following a fall and some for traffic accidents.

“The skills I learned have been invaluable in assessing the visual status and basic cognitive functioning of my clients with CVA (stroke),” said Roche. “In my current role in orthopedics, I often encounter clients who have eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. I am now in a position to explore low vision strategies with these clients.”

Since low vision rehabilitation is not an area where occupational therapists in Ireland typically work, Roche is now involved in providing lectures to OT students and health professionals.

“I feel some responsibility towards spreading the knowledge that I gained at UAB to my colleagues here in Ireland,” said Roche.