UAB School of Health Professions Current News

Occupational Therapy alumnus gives moving address at graduation

Christopher Ebner addresses gradsUAB alum Christopher Ebner, OTR/L, addresses OT gradsChristopher Ebner, OTR/L, alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Occupational Therapy, is the occupational therapy supervisor with the Warrior Transition Battalion - Europe. The battalion is responsible for treating service members who are wounded, ill or injured; and preparing them and their family to succeed when they transition back to the armed forces or into civilian life.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, Ebner, who is based in Kaiser Slautern, Germany, was invited back to Birmingham to deliver the graduation address at the OT Class of 2013 hooding ceremony. It was a moving speech the 50 graduates will not soon forget.

“Daily we provide rehabilitative care to soldiers who have sustained combat related injuries - ranging from an amputation to post-traumatic stress disorder - and we prepare them to return to living a meaningful life,” Ebner told the crowd. “The most difficult challenge for these warriors is transitioning from the military to civilian life and it is imperative that we support them and their families throughout their lives, particularly those who have sustained physical and mental health injuries.”

In September 2001, Ebner was in his first semester as an OT master student in the UAB School of Health Professions. He was in class on the day of the 11th when he learned terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Christopher Ebner OT gradsOT grads, family & friends listen to UAB alum Christopher Ebner, OTR/LHe did not recognize it then, but that day changed his life. It led to him applying for and earning one of only two U.S. Army OT internships at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2002. He accepted a direct commission into the Army and has been serving wounded warriors ever since.

“Over the next several years, you all must take time to identify opportunities when they present themselves and then be willing to walk through the door when someone opens it for you,” Ebner told the graduates. “As you begin your clinical career, seek out mentors that will enable you and further contribute to your growth, experience and knowledge.”

Ebner went on to tell the crowd that his success was directly related to his time at UAB. He said his instructors and his courses gave him the confidence to lead and the knowledge to understand that learning does not end when they leave campus.

“I encourage each of you to search for and discover ways to strengthen and add to the profession and practice of occupational therapy every day,” said Ebner. “I encourage you to find pearls of wisdom and pass them on to the next generation. We should all strive to leave this world in a little better shape than we found it.”