The School of Rehabilitation Therapy is celebrating its 50th Anniversary! In recognition of this special milestone, the School is publishing an online alumni profile project. This series of alumni profiles will feature graduates from all of our programs, paying tribute to the diversity of experience, achievements, and contributions of our alumni community.
Interviewed and reported by Janet Law, PT MSc BScPT (Hons) Class of 2003
Elizabeth Bell was in the first graduating class of the Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy program at Queen’s University in 1972. She was a faculty member at Queen’s University and Dalhousie University. She was instrumental in preparing hundreds of occupational therapists.
Elizabeth is the recipient of the prestigious Muriel Driver Memorial Lectureship Award from Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists in 1980 and a mentor and role model to many Occupational Therapists Canada
Q: You received your P&OT diploma from University of Toronto in 1960. What motivated you to leave your work and home in Toronto and became a full-time student in the Bachelor program at Queen’s University?
A: After practicing in two children’s centres in Toronto, I could see the practice landscape was changing. I knew that, if I wanted to take on new challenges in occupational therapy, I needed to further my education and so the decision was made to enroll in the Bachelor of Science OT program at Queen’s.
Both PT and OT programs have changed again and now they are masters and doctorate degrees now. I encourage young professionals to plan ahead and to meet your career aspirations.
Q: What was the admission process and what was it like to be in the first Bachelor degree program?
A: Muriel Driver was the person who interviewed me and accepted me to the Bachelor program. She is a trailblazer in occupational therapy. One interesting story is that she lent me her own graduation gown to wear at the 1972 convocation. The gown has been with me ever since. (Note: Elizabeth donated the gown to Queen’s University and it will be on display at the School’s 50th Gala dinner taking place on September 23rd, 2017.)
I was in the first graduating class of Bachelor of Science OT program in 1972. Something you may not know is that the class consisted of only two students – Barbara O’Shea and me. Barbara is an incredibly intelligent and insightful person. She was teaching in the diploma program, while studying in the bachelor program. We started off as classmates, and later she became my friend, my colleague at Queen’s University and was my boss at Dalhousie University.
Q: Thanks for sharing these two interesting pieces of history with us. The rehabilitation world is a tight-knit community! Could you share some highlights of your career path following your graduation from Queen’s.
A: After graduation, I stayed in Kingston and taught in the new Bachelor of Science degree program until 1979. There were 6 students for Class of 1973 and the OT program and faculty have grown tremendously since then. In 1980, I followed Barb to Dalhousie University and helped her to establish the OT program. My role was the Fieldwork Education Coordinator for all four Atlantic Provinces and one of the initial faculty members. I was also working part time at the children’s hospital in Halifax. I retired in 1998 and moved back to Toronto.
My career was fulfilling. I coordinated annual workshops in each Atlantic province, engaged in OT teaching and research, and was the advisor for many students. The most rewarding part of my work is to see OT graduates excel in their careers and become leaders in the OT profession.
Q: Could you share your reflections on the OT profession and healthcare practice over the course of your career?
A: The OT profession is slowly evolving from providing care in hospital settings to meeting clients’ needs where they live, work and function. Some strong OT graduates have shown great leadership skills and have taken risks to expand our profession beyond institutions to the community. For example, Community OT Associates (COTA) was founded by a few visionary OTs. I wish there were more of these leaders and that the pace of the change was faster.
Words of wisdom for current students and aspiring professionals:
- Be bold and be brave
- Be articulate and convincing
- Join up with others and keep moving forward