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Students/Faculty News Rylan Gray November 15, 2023

Jewell Dickson ClaytonJewell Dickson-Clayton OTD, MPH, OTR/L, ATP, FAOTA has been named program director of the Entry-Level Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD). Dickson-Clayton becomes the first person of color to be program director for UAB OT.

“There have been so many great program directors,” said Dickson-Clayton. “I’m in a line of a lot of great men and women. We’re at a cusp of change and it’s such an exciting moment. I’m excited that leadership saw the possibility of me taking on this role and excelling in it. It shows we’re moving forward.”

“As the department makes the transition to the clinical doctorate we needed a leader with vision, creativity, knowledge, and compassion, who will continue to challenge the status quo to ensure that our program is one of the premier programs in the country and who genuinely cares for the success of every student who chooses UAB to share their journey,” said Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., ORT/L, ATP, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “Dr. Dickson brings all this and so much more and the program could not be in any better hands as we look to solidify our success, as well as innovate and influence the future of occupational therapy and extend your global reach.”

Dickson-Clayton teaches a multitude of coursework throughout the OT curriculum to ensure students are thoroughly prepared for life as an occupational therapist upon graduation. Her teachings focus on the occupations of adults and seniors, clinical education, assistive technology, and global health. Some of her courses include, “Context of Professional Practice,” “Professional Readiness,” and “Introduction in the OT Process, Analysis, and Adaptation of Occupation.”

“I believe being student-centered is always the best approach,” said Dickson-Clayton. “We want students to feel like they’re ready to face anything they encounter as occupational therapists. Most of us became faculty because we want to give some of what we learned to the next generation because they truly are the future of the profession.”

WATCH: Dickson-Clayton Discusses Future of Program and Industry

This year was the first completion of the capstone project for the entry-level doctorate in occupational therapy. Capstone is an integral part of our entry-level doctorate curriculum and is an individualized, student-led project. The student works closely with faculty and clinical mentors to design their project over the course of 4 didactic semesters. Their project then culminates in their final semester with the implementation of their project alongside an in-depth experience in the student's focus area of choice.

“I give credit to Megan Carpenter, our doctoral capstone coordinator, for spearheading these projects,” said Dickson-Clayton. “I think we’re learning how to marry the interests of the students, with the skillset of the faculty, and the needs of the community. Our goal is to make  them as impactful as possible.”

With over two decades of practice as an OT, Dickson-Clayton has seen many changes within the profession, the most significant being degree levels and points of entry into the profession. Through her experience, she also has developed a sense of foresight. With OT being such a rapidly growing profession, one might wonder what the future holds for it.

“I think occupational therapy is going to have to continue to redefine itself,” said Dickson-Clayton. “Not just letting people know what we do, but also the places where we can do it. I see us tapping in with more mental health services, community-based practice, and serving underserved and under-resourced areas. Anywhere you can identify change and transition, occupational injustice, deprivation, and alienation, I think OT can fit and make a difference.”

The Department of Occupational Therapy program at UAB has been around for over 50 years. Currently, the program is ranked in the top 23 of the best Occupational Therapy programs by U.S. News and World Report.

Dickson-Clayton’s dedication to occupational therapy and the success of her students serves as an example of the values of UAB. The OT program is in great hands.

“I love occupational therapy,” said Dickson-Clayton. “I think this journey has been about a love for OT, so to get the opportunity to continue to mold and shape students in that love means everything to me. We must love this profession to continue to inspire students to want it to do it.”

A Birmingham, Alabama native, Dickson-Clayton is a graduate of Ramsay High School. After earning her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Tuskegee University, she returned to Birmingham to attend UAB, earning her master’s degree in public health in 2006. A few years later, she would go on to earn her doctorate degree in occupational therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah.

“Birmingham is my home,” said Dickson-Clayton. “I started my journey here and I want to make this community better. To have a chance to lead here is super special for me.”

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