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Professor named a Fellow by the American Occupational Therapy Association

Kristine Haertl, Ph.D., was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association at the organization's annual conference in April 2012.
Kristine Haertl, Ph.D., was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association at the organization's annual conference in April 2012.
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10.

St. Kate's Professor Kristine Haertl, Ph.D., was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) at the 2012 Annual Conference and Expo in Indianapolis.

The honor recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the occupational therapy field through knowledge and expertise, and denotes excellence in the areas of teaching, scholarship and leadership. Haertl was honored as a Fellow for "Promoting Occupational Therapy in Community Mental Health,” after her extensive work and research on mental health issues and dual diagnoses.

Haertl developed a passion for mental health issues early in her life, after witnessing the challenges of mental illness in members of her own immediate family. Much of her work aims to combat the preconceptions surrounding mental illness, and prove that individuals with mental illnesses can live productive lives in peer-supported environments. 

“Though we’ve grown, there’s still quite a bit of stigma attached to mental health conditions, and yet the truth is that one in every two of us will be affected by either a personal situation or a family member or a friend who is affected by a mental health condition,” says Haertl.

An advocate for mental health

Among a long list of accomplishments, Haertl worked to build an occupational therapy department in the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center in Anoka, Minn., a state psychiatric hospital, before beginning her work at St. Kate’s.

She now runs her own private practice, in addition to publishing extensively, presenting at national and international conferences, and actively serving on the board for Tasks Unlimited, a mental health service provider in Minneapolis, where she previously served as chair.

Haertl has long been active in research related to peer-supported mental health housing models — research which was highlighted by the American Occupational Therapy Association in 2008.

"When working with those with serious mental illness, I have worked with models, particularly peer-supported models, that have been highly successful" says Haertl. "Our research has demonstrated that the concept of interdependence, the idea of relying on one another for health and well-being, often leads to a healthier lifestyle than independence. We all rely on the support of one another. Interdependence is a concept I've been very intrigued with, and I believe it leads to healthier communities."

Other ongoing research by Haertl includes a study on the lived experience of Asperger’s Disease, and a collaborative effort to study the effects of dance on memory and well-being, with St. Kate’s professors Catherine Sullivan, Ph.D., and Lisa Dutton, Ph.D.

An educator at heart

Haertl brought her expertise in occupational therapy to St. Kate’s in 1997, and she has since taught courses on occupational therapy, psychology and the liberal arts CORE, including The Reflective Woman (TRW). Last year, she developed a section of the TRW course for transfer students pursuing careers in healthcare, which was so successful it will be taught again next year.

Haertl will also partner with English Professor Geri Chavis, Ph.D., to teach an honors seminar on healing in writing. She is excited to teach the new interdisciplinary course, as she embraces the tradition of liberal arts education at St. Catherine University. 

“The liberal arts are integral to all levels of education in all fields, particularly occupational therapy, which is based very heavily on a merging and blending of the arts and the sciences,” says Haertl.

Whether it is through The Reflective Woman, courses on psychology or occupational therapy courses taught in the Day, Weekend and clinical doctorate program at St. Kate’s, Haertl relishes the opportunity to continue teaching students and sharing her passion in the classroom.  

“Though the research and the activities are very integral to who I am and what I do, and my faith is the core of who I am, if someone were to ask me where my office was, I would say in the classroom,” says Haertl. “That’s where my heart lies.”

In 2008, she was awarded the Faculty of the Year Teaching and Advising Award at St. Catherine University.

A wave of support

In April, over 20 students from St. Catherine University attended the annual conference of the American Occupational Therapy Association, alongside participating faculty. Every student in attendance had taken at least one course with Haertl.

When Haertl accepted the honor of being named a Fellow during the awards ceremony, the students from St. Kate’s stood to do “the wave” as they held signs cheering Haertl on.

“That was really very special,” says Haertl. “The student and faculty support was something I felt very honored and blessed to have.”

The addition of Haertl’s name to the Roster of Fellows brings the number AOTA Fellows currently working at the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health at St. Catherine University to six.

Others who have been named to the AOTA Roster of Fellows include current faculty members Kathleen Matuska in 2011, Karen Sames in 2008, Marianne Christiansen in 2004, Julie Bass Haugen in 2001, and Dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health Penelope Moyers in 1997. Professors emeritae Sharon Stoffel and Mary Lou Henderson were also given the honor, in 1988 and 2007 respectively.

No other Department of Occupational Therapy in the Midwest employs as many Fellows as St. Catherine University.

June 5, 2012 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Leadership, Social Justice