Main Content:

SHRS Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Natalie Leland

We are exploring occupational therapy interventions with expert partners in many diverse fields including Bioengineering, Psychiatry, Cardiology and Gerontology. We have nationally recognized laboratories which have received funding from sources including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and the Department of Defense. Our research has been published in a variety of well-respected, high-impact peer reviewed journals.

A Research Career in OT

Many faculty in the Department of Occupational Therapy have active research programs. Here we feature two of our faculty, Dr. Roxanna Bendixen and Dr. Amit Sethi. 

Roxanna Bendixen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Associate Professor

Dr. Bendixen obtained her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy and her Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science from the University of Florida. In between degrees, Dr. Bendixen worked as an occupational therapist to children in a variety of clinical settings, including early intervention, a pediatric evaluation center for medically fragile children, and the school system. Her research program emerged from her clinical practice, and is focused on pediatric neuromuscular disorders and feeding in medically fragile infants. Dr. Bendixen is the recipient of two scientific career development awards, a K12 award funded by the National Center for Medical and Rehabilitation Research and supported by the University of Florida and University of Texas Medical Branch Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program (K12 HD055929), and a K01 award funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (K01 HD064778). Currently, Dr. Bendixen is conducting studies focused on outcome measures for boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), and mobile health technology for youth with chronic disability transitioning into adulthood. When asked what advice she has for occupational therapists interested in a scientific career, she said, “Often I hear clinicians say they love what they do and don’t want to stop treating clients. But a scientific career doesn’t disengage you from the clinic. I have found that the process of discovery and sharing that occurs while doing research is exciting and extremely relevant to our clinicians, our practice, and our clients." 

Amit Sethi, PhD, OTR/L
Assistant Professor

Dr. Sethi obtained his Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy at the School of Allied Health Sciences in Manipal, India; his Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; and his Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science from the University of Florida. In between degrees, Dr. Sethi worked as an occupational therapist in a variety of neurorehabilitation settings, including inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehabilitation, and skilled nursing facilities. Dr. Sethi's doctoral dissertation research focused on upper extremity impairments in individuals with stroke. Currently, Dr. Sethi is conducting several studies focused on identifying novel biomarkers for motor recovery after stroke and improving hand function in individuals post-stroke. Dr. Sethi collaborates with multiple disciplines including bioengineering, electrical engineering, emergency medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation and neuroradiology as part of his research. He is a recent recipient of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute Pilot Grant Award. Dr. Sethi's advice for occupational therapists interested in a scientific career is, “Broaden your theoretical base, engage in multidisciplinary research, and keep an open mind.”

Student Research Opportunities

The Department of Occupational Therapy Faculty are actively engaged in research studies throughout the year. There are several opportunities for students to become involved in these studies. If you are interested in participating in these research studies, please contact Laura Waterstram, MOT, OTR/L, Senior Research Occupational Therapist and Department Research Manager. 

See what student research workers have to say about working in the labs:

"Participating in research as a student research assistant has complemented my academic work by providing the opportunity to apply concepts I am learning to patient interaction in the moment. Additionally, my work as a research assistant has given me access to talented faculty who are national and global leaders in OT practice and who are eager to share their knowledge and expertise with aspiring students. I have developed discipline and attention to detail through tedious data entry while simultaneously learning to critically apply data to big picture concepts. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in research as a Master of Occupational Therapy student." - Stephanie Rouch, Master of Occupational Therapy Student '17

"Working in a research lab has been an amazing experience; I have been able to learn so much from an expert in my field of interest and I feel better prepared to pursue research opportunities in the future." - Elise Pure, Master of Occupational Therapy Student '17