By Kate Hunger
By the time Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor Ricky Joseph, Ph.D., M.A.-H.R.M., OTR, Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor joined the School of Health Professions faculty in 2013, he had retired from the U.S. Army—twice.
Joseph retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1999 and joined the faculty at the Medical College of Georgia. But he returned to military service in 2008 to develop the occupational therapy doctor of science program at Brook Army Medical Center. After retiring for the second time in 2013 with 27 years of military service, Joseph then joined the Department of Occupational Therapy, where he has distinguished himself with his commitment to education, interprofessional collaboration, and his expertise in and advocacy of mental health occupational therapy practice.
That Joseph recently won a 2019 Presidential Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching is no surprise to Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, Ph.D., OTR, Occupational Therapy Associate Professor and Department Chair, who nominated him for the award.
“He’s a wonderful colleague, supportive and generous,” Piernik-Yoder said.
Joseph teaches a substantial course load, Piernik-Yoder noted, including the program’s mental health content. Mental health has long been an area of focus for Joseph, who said the number of occupational therapists in mental health practice has decreased dramatically since he joined the profession.
“Our profession was founded on mental health,” Joseph said, adding that the drop reveals a disconnect between the history of occupational therapy and its current reality.
Joseph serves on a special panel of the Texas Occupational Therapy Association (TOTA) that deals with legislative and practice issues of occupational therapy in mental health, with a goal of securing the recognition and inclusion of occupational therapists in the provision of mental health care.
Joseph also works in the areas of ergonomics and physical dysfunction, and he represents UT Health San Antonio on the Texas Interprofessional Education Consortium and on the Texas Interprofessional Education (IPE) Task Force. He said he is encouraged by the significant improvement he has observed in interprofessional collaboration.
“We have a lot more collaboration between different professions and schools,” he said. “There have been more offerings for interprofessional education, a great level of collaboration between students and faculty and a great effort to seek opportunities to work with other professions.”