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Updated: June 22, 2020

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) officially announced today that its Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is the first graduate program in the nation to attain the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) Program of Merit Health Professions (POM) designation. The program is also the first rehabilitation and occupational therapy program in the U.S. to be awarded this distinction.  

Each of the OTD program’s spring 2020 graduates will receive a POM certificate. This will continue for all OTD students graduating over the next five years, until the OTD program’s next review in June 2025. 

Ranked third in the nation, Pitt’s OTD program, was named a Program of Merit (POM) for its commitment of incorporating gerontology and geriatrics throughout its curriculum. The program meets, and in some cases exceeds POM Health Professions program expectations. The review team cited several program highlights and strengths as reasons for awarding the designation, such as a 100% student retention rate, among several other factors. The AGHE states, “Program innovations are impressive including the Pitt OT Advisory Think Tank. Additionally, the program’s breadth and depth of community partners/collaborations is impressive.”   
The program was also praised for its outstanding leadership and faculty including six faculty members who have attained the distinction of being Fellows of the American Occupational Therapy Association. This includes Dr. Pamela Toto, associate professor, who was also the first occupational therapist in the U.S. to apply for and be awarded Board Certification in Gerontology, indicating advanced knowledge and expertise, by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Toto personally initiated, led and prepared the application for the OTD’s POM designation. 

“Our curriculum is topnotch in training students to be effective occupational therapists for clients of all ages across the lifespan,” says Toto. “The AGHE Program of Merit Recognition provides formal acknowledgement that Pitt OTD graduates are well-positioned to be leaders and advocates in all aspects of health and well-being services for older adults.” Toto also serves as the director of Pitt’s online post-professional Doctor of Clinical Science (CScD) in Occupational Therapy program

The Executive Committee of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), formerly known as the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, established and implemented this voluntary evaluation process for health professions programs that choose to integrate gerontology/geriatrics competencies in order to prepare students for working with older adults. As a member of the AGHE, Pitt OT’s application for POM designation was supported by the Retirement Research Foundation, committed to improving the quality of life of older people. The Foundation directly allocated funding to the AGHE for the program’s review. 

The OTD program will be recognized at the AGHE Annual Business Meeting scheduled during the 75th Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting in November. 

Pitt's OTD program is currently ranked third in the nation based on the most recent surveys of Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report. No other program ranks higher within the state of Pennsylvania. Pitt OT faculty include world-renowned experts in the areas of Gerontological Rehabilitation, Neurorehabilitation, Pediatric Rehabilitation, and Community Rehabilitation. Pitt OT graduates consistently score above the national average on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification exam.