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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr July 28, 2023

FAOTA honorees: Chris Eidson and Valley McCurryFAOTA honorees: Valley McCurry (right) and Chris EidsonValley McCurry, Ph.D., MBA, OTR/L, FAOTA, assistant professor, UAB Department of Occupational Therapy, was inducted into the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Roster of Fellows earlier this year. The organization that represents nearly 250,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy students, inducts fewer than 30 people to their Roster of Fellows annually. It is an exception to be nominated and then selected to join this exclusive group.

“Throughout my career as an occupational therapist, I have had the privilege to work with many wonderful clients, students and healthcare professionals – I can honestly say each of them helped shape me into the teacher and clinician I am today,” said McCurry, who was honored with UAB OT colleague Chris Eidson, Ph.D., MBA, OTR/L, FAOTA.

“To have two awardees from the same institute in the same year is rare and awesome,” said Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., chair, Department of Occupational Therapy. “Valley, and her colleague Chris Eidson who was also elected, have had their immense and long commitment to state and national leadership in our profession recognized in being awarded this honor.”

To highlight the importance of being named a Fellow, it is easy to point to a list that comes from the AOTA. However, these qualifications – knowledge, expertise, leadership, advocacy, guidance, significant contribution – are really just a list on paper. They do not come to life until you match them to a person, like McCurry, who has spent every day of their life representing the true meaning of those words.

Her nomination letter had this to say about that:

“She is a fierce advocate for the profession of occupational therapy and the needs of practitioners and students. The thousands of practitioners who practice in the state of Alabama owe a great deal of their work opportunities to Dr. McCurry and the countless and often thankless service leadership she has consistently given.”

The FAOTA has been called a “lifetime achievement award” by past honorees. And while that is based on what someone has already accomplished, it does not mean they are finished executing their vision and eclipsing their aims. McCurry sees the honor as an incentive toward extending a legacy of excellence.

The nominator pointed out that McCurry is a leading expert in mental health and has contributed greatly to the occupational therapy profession as the author of book chapters, a presenter at state and national conferences, and published scholarship material. Much of this effort covers mental health and those who are unhoused. Her work is not based on what she reads – it comes from what she experiences based on her significant service to that population in the Birmingham community.

 Eidson and McCurry with UAB OTD studentsMcCurry and Eidson with UAB OTD students

She is equally passionate about quality teaching strategies with an emphasis on teamwork and interprofessional collaborations. The best example of this was the recent creation of the UAB PT/OT Hospital Simulation – a collaboration between the Departments of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. McCurry, along with co-collaborator Tara Pearce, PT, DHS, associate professor, UAB Department of Physical Therapy, delivered a first-hand acute care clinic experience to 240 students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy and Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy programs.

“To me, being named a Fellow means that in some way I was able to make an impact on the profession from the students, to the practitioners, to the patients, and for that I am very grateful,” said McCurry. “I am passionate about occupational therapy and truly think it is a phenomenal profession. Being selected for this prestigious position is truly an honor.”

McCurry has also impacted the world of occupational therapy in ways that are rarely recognized and almost always overlooked. For the past 17 years, she worked diligently to revitalize the Alabama State Occupational Therapy Association (ALOTA), which was in desperate need of greater engagement and a new direction. For seven of those years, she served as president and her nominator says the State of Alabama has stronger professional associations because of her service and leadership and has better state policies because of her advocacy.

In one sentence – her nomination letter sums up why McCurry is a member of the AOTA Roster of Fellows Class of 2023.

“The profession of Occupational Therapy continues to serve individuals, groups, and society because of [Valley McCurry].”

McCurry and Eidson received the honor at the AOTA INSPIRE 2023 annual conference and expo in Kansas City, Missouri. They join UAB OT colleagues Jewell J. Dickson, OTD, MPH, OTR/L, ATP, FAOTA, Class of 2022, and Elizabeth (Beth) Barstow, Ph.D., OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA, Class of 2015, on the AOTA Roster of Fellows.

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