Cheri NippCheri Nipp is using her knowledge to change the world—starting with the state of Mississippi.

Twenty years after earning her B.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Nipp returned to school to specialize her knowledge. Now, after earning her Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation and Postprofessional M.S. in Occupational Therapy, she is the sole provider of outpatient low vision rehabilitation services at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Mississippi.

In fact, she’s the reason that the facility has a Low Vision Rehabilitation program at all.

“Our hospital's vision is to be the provider of the best patient centered care and health services in America,” Nipp explains. “The North Mississippi Medical Center is the largest non-metropolitan hospital in the United States, serving more than 700,000 people in 24 counties in north Mississippi, northwest Alabama, and portions of Tennessee.”

Thanks to Nipp, patients no longer have to travel to Memphis or Birmingham to receive specialized low vision services.

Nipp graduated from UAB’s B.S. in Occupational Therapy program in 1990 and has practiced occupational therapy for the past 23 years. “I was in the process of recovering from a terrible car accident when I chose my major,” she recalls. “I did not know the field of occupational therapy was an option until I was required to have OT for extensive hand injuries due to my accident. I realized very quickly that I had found my career of choice.”

20 years later, Nipp reconnected with her alma mater. “UAB was again demonstrating cutting edge training, this time through their Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation under the direction of Mary Warren PhD, OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA,” she says. “I had been a practicing OT for about 20 years when my grandmother began struggling with her vision. As an OT, I was searching for ways to help her continue to enjoy her independence.”

Nipp took full advantage of the distance learning structure of both the graduate certificate and the Postprofessional M.S. in Occupational Therapy programs. “I was a non-traditional student from a rural area, looking to further my education in order to meet the needs of individuals with conditions causing low vision,” Nipp says. “Long distance learning was the best answer for me as a full time working OT and mother of a very dynamic and busy little girl.”

Nipp’s Master’s Project, “Efficacy of Continuing Education: Application of Basic Low Vision Rehabilitation Strategies After Completion of a Computer Based Training Module,” was recently accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Occupational Therapy in Health Care. She also received her Specialty Certification in Low Vision through the American Occupational Therapy Association, making her the only OT in the state of Mississippi to hold these credentials.

Nipp advises students to keep current with the latest developments in their field. “Stay active in your state association and national association in your chosen program,” she says. “Look for opportunities to meet the needs of those in your area through volunteering. The lives you impact now could have lasting effects long after you have moved on.”