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Dean Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., receives the AOTA Award of Merit

Dean Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., speaks at the national conference in San Diego, Calif., after receiving the Award of Merit.
Dean Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., speaks at the national conference in San Diego, Calif., after receiving the Award of Merit.
Photo by Melissa Kaelin.

Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., OT, BCMH, FAOTA, dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health and the Graduate College at St. Kate’s, received the Award of Merit, the highest honor bestowed by the American Occupational Therapy Association, on April 28, 2013, in San Diego, Calif.

The Award of Merit honors occupational therapists who have made an outstanding global contribution to the profession of occupational therapy. Only 74 occupational therapists have received this award since 1950.

Dedication and leadership

Dr. Florence Clark, OTR/L, FAOTA, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) presented the award to Moyers on stage during the AOTA national conference in the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday.

"Dr. Moyers offers humanized, highly thoughtful, and practical insights to meet practice, research, education and leadership challenges," said Clark. "Her numerous accomplishments, awards, written and oral presentations, and service to the profession of occupational therapy makes Dr. Penelope Moyers most deserving of AOTA's highest honor, the AOTA Award of Merit."

Moyers received the award to resounding applause and a standing ovation from her colleagues, including St. Catherine University President Andrea Lee, IHM, and Senior Vice President Colleen Hegranes, who traveled to San Diego for the awards ceremony.

Moyers tearfully accepted the honor, sharing her personal inspiration for pursuing a career in occupational therapy: the story of her grandmother's battle with Tuberculosis. Only after her grandmother began working with an occupational therapist did she overcome the sadness and limitations of her illness. Moyers witnessed this change in her beloved grandmother when she was just a child. 

"I wanted right then and there to become an occupational therapist. I wanted to be that person who facilitated her transformation — that person who made her happy," said Moyers, in her acceptance speech.

"My grandma introduced me to a wonderful profession where I could express growing self-awareness of my own determination and commitment, which I hope was at least a little bit like hers. I have been blessed by that early introduction to OT when I was just 8 years old, and I look forward to all the blessings to come."

A force of change

Moyers has influenced the profession of ocupational therapy for the past 25 years as a practitioner, innovator, influential scholar, educator and leader.

Her global contributions to the profession include her early innovative work in substance abuse intervention and the competency programs offered to occupational therapy practitioners through AOTA programs. She has demonstrated a deep understanding of the scope of occupational therapy practice through authorship and co-authorship of two editions of the Guide to Occupational Therapy Practice.

In leadership roles as a faculty member, program director, program chair, and dean at three institutions of higher learning, including St. Catherine University, Moyers has made a significant impact on the professional lives of entry-level and post-professional occupational therapy students, faculty, practicing OTs and other disciplines.

At St. Catherine University, Moyers has been influential in her role as the first dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, leading the institution through a time of change in healthcare education in response to the challenges of healthcare reform. She has helped to facilitate new partnerships between the University and healthcare hospitals and clinics, including interprofessional education (IPE) projects and a research collaboration between North Memorial Hospital and St. Catherine University — a collaboration that won a research award from the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association last year.

Moyers has also served in many state and national occupational therapy leadership roles. She served as president of the AOTA from 2007 to 2010, launching leadership development programs for faculty, program directors, new practitioners and middle managers.

Using engaging professional presentations and relationship-building, Moyers contributed to increases in association membership, readiness to participate in leadership roles, the focus on evidence-based practice, and increased participation in advocacy and policy development.

April 29, 2013 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Leadership