University News

WNE OTD Graduate Receives Hand Therapy Fellowship with NYU

Published: October 09, 2023 | Categories: All News, Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Kelsey Fitzhugh, OTD, OTR/L

WNE OTD Graduate Kelsey Fitzhugh, OTD, OTR/L Receives Hand Therapy Fellowship with NYU

Western New England University (WNE) is excited to announce that Kelsey Fitzhugh OTD '21 has been awarded the prestigious Hand Therapy Fellowship with New York University's Langone Orthopedic Center. Fitzhugh began the 12-month fellowship in September 2023 at the Rusk Rehabilitation outpatient facilities in New York City, where she will treat patients with a wide range of hand and upper extremity conditions and diagnoses.

The NYU Hand Therapy Fellowship is one of 13 board-approved American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) hand therapy fellowships. Fitzhugh secured the fellowship following a highly selective application and interview process. "The overarching goal of the fellowship program, as well as for myself, is to prepare my candidacy to sit for the Certified Hand Therapy (CHT) examination," says Fitzhugh.

In collaboration with world-renowned surgeons and therapists, fellows advance their orthotic skills and manual therapy techniques by fabricating orthotics, facilitating therapeutic interventions, and providing home programs. "I am most looking forward to learning this new skillset, finding a way to combine it with my creativity, and applying it to a wide variety of populations, including the burn survivor population," says Fitzhugh. Fellows also participate in national conferences, research development, and teaching opportunities for NYU OT students. "I am excited to be professionally challenged in a new context while also gaining a new family along the way."

Fitzhugh credits the balance of classroom and experiential learning at WNE with her success in the field. "The OTD program was a foundational steppingstone for my professional development of clinical reasoning, application, and communication, as well as the development of advocacy for myself and my patients," she adds. During her time at WNE, Fitzhugh took advantage of the experiential learning opportunities to apply classroom teachings in real-world situations. She dedicated her doctoral project to the launch of the WNE Bear Paw Center, one of the first student-run occupational therapy pro bono clinics in the country.

OTD Program Director and Bear Paw Center Faculty Advisor Brittany Adams praises Fitzhugh's drive and passion for the field. "Kelsey was an incredibly strong student overall," says Adams. "We're just so proud of her… she's our first to receive a fellowship, so we're really excited for her to lay the groundwork for future students."

Fitzhugh is a member of the second graduating class of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at WNE. Following graduation, she secured employment as a burn occupational therapist with the largest burn center in the United States, where she has been promoted to the Pediatric Burn Team and is one of five OTs and certified occupational therapy assistants on the Burn Reconstruction Team. She recognized the need specifically for CHTs after witnessing patients' difficulty finding providers with burn care experience. "I wanted to help fill that gap and sought after the most challenging and rewarding avenue that I could attain," says Fitzhugh.

NYU awards their Hand Therapy Fellowship to one applicant annually, and Fitzhugh looks forward to working and learning among global leaders in physical medicine and rehabilitation. To current and prospective OTD students, she advises, "never limit yourself and never stop asking questions… There are so many gaps to fill in healthcare within our scope, and there is always something more to be done."

The Western New England University Bear Paw Center is a student-run pro bono occupational therapy center committed to the delivery of essential community services. The acronym embodies the Center's mission: Bringing Equity Accessibility and Rehabilitation to People Achieving Wellness. The Center provides experiential learning opportunities for students pursuing a doctorate in occupational therapy.

The entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at Western New England University prepares practitioner-scholars to become healthcare leaders. As one of few OTD programs in the country with an eight-semester curriculum, the program combines classroom learning, laboratory skills, on-site level I & II fieldwork, and a 14-week doctoral experiential residency.