OT Faculty and Staff

Misericordia University's Occupational therapy faculty and staff are seasoned professionals who also have a passion for educating future occupational therapy professionals. You will get to know each faculty member on a personal level through your classwork, fieldwork, and research opportunities.

Full-time Faculty

Gwen Bartolacci, OTD, OTR/L

Associate Professor

Phone: (570) 674-6257

email: gbartola@misericordia.edu

Dr. Gwen Bartolacci is an Associate Professor at Misericordia University and Director of the OT Weekend Program. She teaches Evidence-Based Practice, Community-Based Practice and Current Issues and Trends. Dr. Bartolacci has twenty years of clinical experience; she has been a staff therapist, manager and director of occupational therapy services in a variety of settings and has worked extensively with adults with physical disabilities and psychiatric conditions. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of North Dakota and a Master of Education degree from Pennsylvania State University. She earned her doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. She received the Misericordia University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010. Special interests include community-based occupational therapy services and health promotion and wellness programs.



Lori Charney, OTD, OTR/L

Department Chair & Assistant Professor
(570) 674-3330
email: lcharney@misericordia.edu

Lori Charney, OTD, OTR/L is the Chair of the Misericordia University Occupational Therapy Department. Dr. Charney is a 1993 graduate of College Misericordia where she received her BS in Occupational Therapy. She has worked as an OT in various practice areas including home health care and adult inpatient rehabilitation with a focus on stroke, spinal cord, oncology and orthopedic specialty areas. Dr. Charney returned to Misericordia University to obtain a post professional master's degree in OT in 2011 and a clinical doctorate in 2014. Her doctoral capstone was the development of a sensory/social summer camp for students with autism which included a research component to determine the effectiveness of pairing sensory activities and social skills instruction to improve social participation. Dr. Charney presented her capstone at the national AOTA conference in Baltimore, MD in April, 2014. She also has extensive experience in the public school system where she developed a district wide sensory program, an assistive technology program, and an outdoor sensory playground. Dr. Charney, who is an assistant professor, teaches introduction to OT, conceptual foundations, geriatric intervention, contexts and environments, and is a research chair in the weekday program.


Joseph Cipriani, Ed.D., OTR/L

Professor

Phone: (570) 674-6412
email: jciprian@misericordia.edu


Dr. Cipriani earned his B.A. degree from Wilkes College, a B.S. degree from Misericordia University, M.A. degree from Wichita State University, and his Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Cipriani is a full professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. He teaches courses in Applied Functional Anatomy, Geriatric Intervention, elective courses in the OT department with a focus on working with the homeless and also international service learning, and supervises student research projects. Professor Cipriani has presented 24 papers at national or international conferences in occupational therapy, often in conjunction with student research groups. He has presented in venues as diverse as the American Occupational Therapy Association National Conferences; World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress (Montreal, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden, Yokohama, Japan), the World Congress of Rehabilitation International (Oslo, Norway),the International Federation of Aging World Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, and the Conference of the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, in Basel, Switzerland. He has almost thirty years’ experience as an occupational therapist, working in settings as diverse as acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient, intensive care, skilled nursing, and the emergency department. He has also authored or co-authored 14 articles in professional journals, and written two book chapters. Dr. Cipriani has published in well-known journals such as Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics; The Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy; Occupational Therapy in Mental Health; Occupational Therapy in Health Care; The World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin; Arthritis Care and Research; and the British Journal of Occupational Therapy. Most of his published research has been in the practice area of geriatrics and has been co-authored by students within the occupational therapy program. He is on the Editorial Review Boards for the journal Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics and Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. Dr. Cipriani was honored with the 1995 Misericordia University Teaching Excellence Award and in 2007, the Lewis & Barbara Alesi Excellence in Scholarship Award. In 2016, Dr. Cipriani was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to be a member of the Community Advisory Board of PennSERVE. Dr. Cipriani has also had the privilege of being a faculty leader on multiple student service trips both domestically and internationally, including three class based trips to work with Mustard Seed Communities, Jamaica.


Jennifer Dessoye, OTD, OTR/L, CLA

Jennifer Dessoye, OTD, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor

Phone: (570) 674-6494

email: jdessoy2@misericordia.edu


Jennifer Dessoye OTD, OTR/L, CLA earned her Master's in Occupational Therapy('01) and a Bachelors in Psychology('01) from Misericordia University. After practicing for 10 years, she decided to further her education and completed her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy ('10) from her alma mater. Dr. Dessoye practiced in both in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation including an executive role as the manager of several rehab clinics. After having children of her own, she found her passion treating children with special needs in the school system. She is passionate about her work with children, especially those on the autism spectrum, and still maintains a current practice in pediatrics. Dr. Dessoye was recently selected as one of 25 faculty from across the nation to participate in AOTA's Academic Leadership Institute. Dr. Dessoye presents both nationally and internationally on pediatric research. In addition to teaching full time, she developed and owns a private elementary school, Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy in Conyngham, PA . Currently she is teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses: Occupations I, Occupations II, Pediatric Intervention I, Introduction to OT, Pediatric Assessment, Management and Supervision, as well as Doctorate and Masters level research with a focus on pediatrics or leadership.


Dawn M. Evans, OTD, OTR/L

Assistant Professor
Phone: (570) 674-6415
email: devans@misericordia.edu


Dawn M. Evans, OTD, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Misericordia University. Dr. Evans holds a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree ('12), Master of Science degree in Organizational Management ('05) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy with a minor in Psychology ('88) from Misericordia University.Dr. Evans has twenty-five years of clinical experience in the practice areas of psychiatry, physical disabilities, and forensics. She has held positions as an occupational therapist at Danville State Hospital working with persistently mentally ill clients on behavior modification units, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center on the in-patient acute care and rehabilitation units, Farview State Hospital/SCI Waymart with persistently mentally ill forensic clients and Mercy Special Care Hospital on the gero-psychiatric unit. Occupational therapy courses Dr. Evans currently teaches include: OT 103 Introduction to Occupational Therapy weekend program, OT 220 Human Development I weekday program, OT 221 Human Development II weekday and weekend programs, OT 511 Adult Intervention lecture and lab weekday and weekend programs, OT 570 OT Management and Supervision weekday program and OT 690/695 Research Project I and II weekday program.Dr. Evans research interests are in health and wellness. She is currently involved in conducting collaborative research projects with graduate occupational therapy students in the areas of adolescent and parent perceptions of healthy living. Dr. Evans has presented at numerous state and national occupational therapy conferences. Dr. Evans was the lead investigator and co-author of the following article:

  • Evans, D., Conte, K., Gilroy, M., Marvin, T., Theysohn, H., and Fisher, G. (2008). Occupational Therapy- Meetin the Needs of Older Adult Workers? Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation, 31(1), 73-82.

Grace Fisher, Ed.D., OTR/L

Grace Fisher, Ed.D., OTR/L, Professor & Department Chair

Professor
570-674-8015
e-mail: gfisher@misericordia.edu


Grace Sheldon Fisher, Ed.D., OTR/L, holds a doctoral degree in Educational Administration from Temple University ('97), M.S. degree in Human Services Administration from Misericordia University ('87), a Post-baccalaureate Certificate of Proficiency in Occupational Therapy from the University of Pennsylvania ('79), and a B.A. degree in psychology from Wilkes College ('74). She previously held positions at White Haven Center, NPW Medical Center, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, and Gannon University. Dr. Fisher teaches Research Design, Impairments and Disabilities, and Board Exam Preparation in the entry level MS programs, and serves as a faculty advisor in the graduate research series.She also teaches Occupational Science and Advanced Research in the OTD program, and serves as a doctoral capstone advisor. Dr. Fisher's professional experience includes adult and geriatric physical disabilities practice and occupational therapy management. She is certified in neurodevelopmental therapy for the person with adult hemiplegia. Recent publications of which she is a co-author are listed below.


Myers, J., Bender,M., Marquardt, T., Roche, M., Zak, J. and Fisher, G.S. (2016). Religious Sisters of Mercy and Matuska and Christiansen's life balance model. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(2), 145-155.

Fisher, G. S. (2014, September). Reflections on the information age, social norms, and professional ethics.Administration & Management Special Interest Section Quarterly, 30(3), 1–4.

Cardinale, J., Malacari, LK, Broggi, S.R., Savignano, J., and Fisher, GS. (2014). "The Model of Occupational Empowerment and Gunnarsson's Tree Theme: Intervention for Mothers in Recovery." Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 30, 43-68.


Christine German, OTD,OTR/L

Assistant Professor

Phone: (570) 674-8151

email:cgerman@misericordia.edu


Christine German, OTD, OTR/L earned her Bachelors of Health Sciences and Master’s in Occupational Therapy (’02) from Misericordia University. She continued her studies at her alma mater in both the Pediatric Certificate and then her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (’14). Dr. German has 15 years of experience in pediatrics working in both private practice and school based therapy. During this time, she supervised Level I and Level II fieldwork students and developed a love of teaching. Additionally, she developed and implemented a community based workshop program and has presented over 100 workshops for teachers, parents, and school staff on a variety of topics related to the occupational development of children through this program. Her interests include community education, promotion of wellness, and prevention of dysfunction in well pediatric populations. Dr. German is an assistant professor and teaches Introduction to OT, Conceptual Foundations, Human Development, Occupations II, Contexts and Environments, and is a research chair in the weekday program.


Ellen McLaughlin, Ed.D., OTR/L

Ellen McLaughlin, Ed.D., OTR/L, Associate Professor

Associate Professor

Phone: (570) 674-6399
email: emclaughlin@misericordia.edu


Ellen McLaughlin, Ed.D., OTR/L, BCP, associate professor, has been a faculty member in the occupational therapy department for the last twelve years. Dr. McLaughlin received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Occupational Therapy from Misericordia University and a doctorate from Rutger's University in Learning, Cognition and Development. Along with her doctoral degree, Ms. McLaughlin also received a certificate in interdisciplinary Infant Studies. She is board certified in pediatrics by the American Occupational Therapy Association.Primary teaching responsibilities of Dr. McLaughlin's are within both the undergraduate and graduate courses pertaining to pediatric intervention and occupational therapy theory. Other responsibilities include supervising student research projects and advising freshman students. Dr. McLaughlin is coordinator of the research series in Occupational Therapy.Dr. McLaughlin's clinical experience is in school based occupational therapy and early intervention programming for children with autism. Her research interests are in the areas of haptic perceptual development and accessibility issues for the disabled.Ellen McLaughlin has been involved in accreditation activities for the past 8 years, and is currently Chair of the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). ACOTE is a 21 member council that accredits 317 occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs, to assure program quality and assist in program enhancement.


Lalit J. Shah, Ed.D., OTR/L

Lalit J. Shah, Ed.D., OTR/L, Professor

Professor
Phone: (570) 674-6414
email: lshah@misericordia.edu


Professor Lalit J Shah Ed.D., OTR/L, graduated in 1978 with B.Sc. in Occupational Therapy from Seth G. S. Medical College- Bombay University- Bombay, India. In India he practiced OT primarily in Orthopedics, General surgery, and Plastic surgery with specific interest in burn patients. After coming to the USA in 1982, he worked in a rehabilitation center for 2 1/2 years. He then practiced in the area of Developmental Disability and became Director of the OT Department at St. Joseph's Center in Scranton, PA. He also practiced in Home-Health care, consulted with several Nursing Homes, and worked with children in Early intervention programs. He completed his SI certification in 1994. After completing his MS in Occupational Therapy from Misericordia University, where he was awarded a Research Fellowship, he became Adjunct Professor in OT since 1989 in the weekend program. He became a full-time faculty member in 1993 and joined the University as an Assistant Professor, teaching several different courses in both the Traditional Program and Weekend Program. Following is the listing of classes taught in the past: OT 313/713 (Neuroscience Lecture/Lab), OT 312/712 (Functional Anatomy), OT 335 (Environmental Dimensions of Human Performance), OT 422/522/722 (Intervention I Lecture/Seminar /Lab), OT 423/523/723 (Intervention II Lecture/Seminar/Lab), etc.Dr. Shah graduated in 2001 from Nova Southeastern University with Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) degree in higher education. He received his tenure in 2002 and became Associate Professor. He also developed Pediatric Specialization Track in traditional OT program and is teaching classes covering topics like Sensory Integration, NICU, Pediatric splinting etc. He became Full Professor in 2007.He has served on various advisory boards in the local area agencies including PAC of VNA Hospice in Scranton, PA. His research interests include SI and application of long distance technology in the learning /teaching process. He has several extra-curricular interests and enjoys traveling and playing various sports. He lives with his wife Shakun Shah, daughter Dr. Gunjan Shah, and son Paurush Shah in Clarks Summit, PA.


Orley A. Templeton, OTD, OTR/L

Orley Templeton, OTD, OTR/L, Professor Assistant Professor
Phone: 570-674-8154
email: otempleton@misericordia.edu


Orley A. Templeton completed her Bachelor of Therapeutic Studies (’05) and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (’07) from Boston University and her Doctor of Occupational Therapy (’14) from Misericordia University. Dr. Templeton has experience working with individuals with traumatic brain injury in an inpatient acute rehabilitation hospital and with children with multiple disabilities and autism spectrum disorders at a specialized school. Dr. Templeton’s research and clinical interests include the effectiveness of vocational programs designed for children with disabilities, the development of effective occupational therapy programs for children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the use of active learning strategies to support students understanding and application of material, including the integration of technology. She is currently teaching or has taught the following undergraduate and graduate level courses: Applied Functional Anatomy, Applied Neuroscience, Impairments and Disabilities Influencing Occupational Performance, Occupational Performance Analysis, Pediatric Assessment, Occupational Science, Human Development through Occupation II, and Occupations for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition, Dr. Templeton serves as an instructor for Level I Fieldwork experiences. Together with students, Dr. Templeton, has offered a Sensory Social playgroup for children ages 3 to 5, a Handwriting Preparation group for preschool students, and sensory social group for children 3-5 years of age. In addition, she helps to run a Sensory Social Group, originally developed by Dr. Lori Charney. This is a three-week summer camp offered at Misericordia University for children with autism. She co-authored a poster presentation with Dr. Lori Charney and Dr. Ellen McLaughlin entitled “Integrating Research and Fieldwork in a Master of Occupational Therapy Program,” which they presented at the 2017 American Occupational Therapy Annual Conference (AOTA) in Philadelphia.


Kathy Hughes Butcher MS, OTR/L

Kathy Hughes Butcher MS, OTR/L, Academic Fieldwork CoordinatorAcademic Fieldwork Coordinator
Phone: 570-674-8180
email: kbutcher@misericordia.edu

Kathleen Hughes-Butcher, MS, OTR/L was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Misericordia University in 1999. Kathleen specialized in physical disabilities and geriatric practice throughout her 15 year clinical career. She has experience in the SNF, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehabilitation, home health care, and acute care settings. Kathleen currently maintains her clinical practice in the long term care and skilled nursing setting on a limited basis. Kathleen enjoyed serving as adjunct OT faculty for Misericordia University where instructed Clinical Skills, Environmental Dimensions, and Intervention II courses in the weekend OT entry level MS program. Kathleen also enjoys serving as a faculty research committee chair for students in the Research Project I and II courses of the Weekday Entry Level Master’s Program. Academic Fieldwork has been a longtime interest for Kathleen throughout her career. She has served as a Clinical Instructor to students in the adult and geriatric practice areas. Kathleen was co-author of a research publication titled, “Success of Level II Fieldwork: The Student’s Perspective” which was published in Innovations in Occupational Therapy Education after her graduation from Misericordia.

Adjunct Faculty


Melissa Szakal, MS, OTR/L

Melissa Abrams, MS, OTR/L

Melissa is a 2008 graduate of Misericordia University's Entry-Level Master's program with a specialization in pediatrics. As an occupational therapy student, Melissa was actively involved in the department as an OT Ambassador, lab assistant for the Intervention I (Pediatrics) course in the Weekend College program and a member of Pi Theta Epsilon. Melissa presented alongside her research group "Current Practice Trends of Sensory Integration Based Treatment Approaches Used in Occupational Therapy for Children with Sensory Modulation Dysfunction" at the 2008 POTA Conference. Since graduating, Melissa has been employed as a full-time therapist in an outpatient pediatric center in southeastern PA and has also gained additional experience in the school setting. Melissa is certified in Therapeutic Listening, Interactive Metronome (IM) and IM-Home. She recently collaborated with Dr. Wendy Ross to create a situational story for Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) Autism at Bat program. Melissa discovered her interest in teaching through experience creating and presenting pediatric related inservices to pediatricians. She has also presented at the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network Child Development Conference & Expo and the Bucks County Autism Support Coalition Autism Conference. Melissa has taught pediatrics (clinical conditions) at a university in her local area and currently teaches "Occupational Performance Analysis" (assessments) course for MU's Weekend College program.


Jeffrey B. Becker, O.D.

Jeffrey B. Becker, O.D.Dr. Becker is a 1978 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and graduated from The Illinois College of Optometry in 1983. He has been practicing in Northeastern Pennsylvania for over 24 years, with a specialty practice in Rehabilitative Optometry. He is the Director of Vision Rehabilitation at the Neurosensory Center of Eastern Pennsylvania and is a consultant to the Pediatrics Department at John Heinz Rehabilitation Hospital, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Towanda Rehabilitation Hospital and Progressive Health in Pennsylvania. He also consults and manages the Vision Rehabilitation program at the Early Intervention Medical Center in Dubai, UAE. Dr. Becker in his 29 years of clinical and research experience has examined and treated over 3000 head injury, stroke, and neurologically impaired patients ranging in ages from birth to senior citizens. Dr. Becker is a Defeat Autism Now! Certified clinician and has lectured internationally about vision therapy. Dr. Becker is the medical advisor for the new Oculomotor Therapy Program for the IPAD. He is also a consultant to several government agencies and recently authored a chapter about vision therapy for autistic children.


Kristina Carraccia, MS CCC-SLPKristina Carraccia

Kristina Carraccia, MS CCC-SLP has been practicing as a licensed speech-language pathologist at the Center for Discovery for 7 years and has also spent time providing Early Intervention services. She specializes in working with children with autism spectrum disorders, severe developmental disabilities and feeding difficulties.She received her MS from SUNY New Paltz in 2008 and her BS from Ithaca College in 2006.She has completed several trainings on various feeding approaches including an intensive mentorship with Suzanne Evans Morris, a course with Rona Alexander who is a certified instructor for Neuro Developmental Treatment (NDT) which focused on feeding, swallowing and respiratory function challenges in children with neuromotor involvement, the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach and the Get Permission Approach with Marsha Dunn Klein. She is a co-founder of the Food Exploration and Discovery program which is a therapeutic program that addresses feeding challenges in children with a variety of diagnoses and difficulties in a residential, home, outpatient, and school environment.

Andrea Moon Collins, OTD, OTR/L

Andrea Moon Collins, OTD, OTR/L

Andrea Collins, OTD, OTR/L is a Misericordia Alumni, class of 2009, where she received her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy and Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She is a 2012 graduate of Chatham University in Pittsburgh where she received her Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She was recently published in the March 25, 2013 issue of OT Practice with her article entitled, "Classroom-Integrated Therapy -Strengthening Teacher–Practitioner Collaboration and Improving Student Outcomes", highlighting the graduate capstone project she completed as part of her doctorate degree. Andrea's primary area of clinical practice is in school based therapy, currently contracted to the Elk Lake School District in Dimock, Pennsylvania. She is also a member of an interdisciplinary evaluation team for Lackawanna/Susquehanna Counties Early Intervention Program. She additionally does per diem work in adult home health. She resides in Avoca, Pennsylvania with her husband, Brandon, and son, Nicholas. She teaches in the research series for us.

Karen Kangas, B.S., OTR/L

Karen Kangas, B.S., OTR/L

Karen Kangas, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist in private practice specializing in evaluation and treatment of complex, unique, "difficult /complicated" patients (all ages, but especially pediatric patients ) throughout the state of Pennsylvania, for seating, positioning, access, and mobility especially with patients who may need powered mobility and assistive technology, as well as regularly teaching workshops throughout the USA (and overseas, if requested). She is an occupational therapist who provides treatment and consultation as a Seating, Positioning, and Mobility Specialist, Assistive Technology Specialist, and Clinical Educator. Karen has a B.S. of Science in Occupational Therapy from Temple University, 1973. At Misericordia University Karen teaches a course in the post professional pediatric certificate program called "Seating in Pediatric Practice."


Kimberly Kubistek, OTD, OTR/L

Kimberly Kubistek, OTD, OTR/L

Dr. Kimberly Kubistek received her BS degree in Physical Education and Sport Science from Indiana University of Pa, and her Masters and Clinical Doctorate degrees from Misericordia University. Dr Kubistek is the Coordinator of the Occupational Therapy Department at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Current research and quality improvement projects are focusing on preterm and term infant feeding.


Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L

Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/LAmy is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Eastern Michigan University, owner of AJLamb Consulting, Chair of the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC) and Vice President Elect of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She brings with her the valuable combination of clinical practice as a registered occupational therapist combined together with health care policy experience at the state and federal levels. Her research is centered on leadership development including the role of mentoring in developing leadership skills in the profession of occupational therapy.

Amy received both her Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy and her post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degrees from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Her policy start developed from her doctoral rotations serving as a health policy administrator to Representative Fran Bradley in the Minnesota House of Representatives who served was the Chair of the Health Policy committee. In 2000, she established AJLamb Consulting and the Nebraska Occupational Therapy Association retained her services for professional advocacy; she served as their paid lobbyist for 8 years. Since that time, she has been sought out by other organizations for her relationship building skills, organization of grassroots efforts, and drafting of policy briefs. Her consultation experience ranges from advocacy, strategic planning and implementation, health policy review, grant writing, program development and enhancement, marketing and direct client intervention.

Amy's clinical practice spans from school based pediatrics, acute care, home health, and elders in independent living, assisted living and skilled facilities. Prior to her current position she was a Rehab Director with Brookdale Senior Living managing the outpatient therapy clinics and home health rehabilitation services in assisted living and independent living communities in the Denver Colorado area.

In 2012, she joins the AOTA Roster of Fellows as an Outstanding Advocate and Political Action Leader. In 2011, she received the Lindy Boggs advocacy award from the American Occupational Therapy Association for her leadership in advocacy and political action in the profession of occupational therapy. Therapy Times included her on their Most Influential list for 2007 for her contributions at the state and federal level in advocacy and health policy development. She has strong roots in service to the profession at the state and national levels. Amy served as Legislative Chair of the Nebraska Occupational Therapy Association from 2000-2009, Nominations Chair of the Nebraska Occupational Therapy Association from 2003-2006, and Vice President of the Colorado Occupational Therapy Association from 2009-2010. Her volunteer leadership positions with the American Occupational Therapy Association highlights include Chair and Region IV Director of the AOTPAC, Chair of the Wellness and Prevention Subgroup of the Presidential Health Care Reform Ad-Hoc Committee, and Mentor in the Emerging Leaders Program.

Amy regularly travels across the US and uses distance technology to promote involvement in state and national associations and speak to the health policy issues impacting practice and provides participants with practical ways to get involved in the process and make their voices heard. Amy currently resides outside of Dexter, Michigan with her husband Nathan and their two children Gabby (10) and Josh (8).


Jessica Piatak, OTD, OTR/L

Jessica Piatek


Jessica has been practicing as a pediatric occupational therapist since graduating with her MS in Occupational Therapy from Duquesne University in 2000. She obtained her BA from the University at Buffalo and her doctorate in occupational therapy from Misericordia University. Jessica specializes in working with individuals with autism and feeding in a variety of settings including school, home, residential and outpatient settings. Jessica is the cofounder of the Food Exploration and Discovery Feeding Program and the Clinical Mealtime Specialist at the Center for Discovery. In addition, she has completed various trainings regarding feeding therapy including a mentorship with Suzanne Evans Morris, the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach and the Get Permission Approach with Marsha Dunn Klein.


Joan Surfus,B.S., OTR/L

Joan Surfus,B.S., OTR/L

Joan Surfus, MS, OTR/L received her bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University and her master's degree from Misericordia University, both in occupational therapy. Her focus of practice has been in pediatrics with an emphasis in feeding & dysphagia, and sensory integration. Joan teaches regularly on these subjects both nationally and internationally. In addition to being adjunct faculty at Misericordia University, Joan is currently clinical faculty at two other universities, teaching in the areas of sensory integration, childhood development, pediatric intervention, and dysphagia, She has co-authored "Sensory Integration: Answers for Mealtime Success, a parent-friendly booklet on the contribution of sensory integration and praxis to feeding and eating. Joan spends the majority of her time off volunteering abroad, teaming up with a pediatric neurologist and psychologist in Russia, working with children and staff at a school for special needs in Honduras, and staff and post-institutionalized children in Romania. Joan is a graduate of the Misericordia University OTD program and is an OT supervisor and feeding specialist at Pediatric Therapy Network, in Torrance, California.


Jennifer Rugletic Washko MS, OTR/L

Jennifer Rugletic Washko MS, OTR/L

Jennifer is an alumnus of College Misericordia, graduating class 1999. She has a master's degree in occupational therapy and a bachelor's degree in general studies. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Jennifer has been a research reader for a group studying the "Eligibility and Discharge Criteria for School Based Practice under IDEA." Jennifer also published a paper in the journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health with her research group as part of her Master's thesis titled, "The Immediate Effects of a Group Based Horticulture Experience with People with Chronic Mental Illness."Her primary practice area is in pediatrics, particularly, school based occupational therapy with children 5 to 21 years of age. Jennifer also works per diem at a local outpatient rehabilitation center in hand therapy, neurological, and pediatric service lines. She has been teaching, as an adjunct faculty member in the MU Occupational Therapy Department since 2005. As an instructor, in the introductory course (OT 103) at Misericordia University, she is passionate about spreading the good word and knowledge of the awesome profession of occupational therapy and connecting students to be committed to their course of study in the Occupational Therapy curriculum at MU. Jennifer believes in the inherent mission of Misericordia University and loves what it offers to our students. "MU is like home to me!" Jennifer has also taught OT 330 Conceptual Foundations as well as HP 450 Pediatric Assessment.Jennifer was born and raised in Northeast Pennsylvania. She loves the area and the seasons it brings. She resides in Swoyersville, Pa. with her husband, Jimmy and English Springer Spaniel, Mazzie.


Lauren Zack, OTD, OTR/L

Lauren Zack, OTD, OTR/L

Lauren Zack, OTD, OTR/L, graduated from Misericordia University in 2011 with a bachelors degree in psychology and a masters degree in OT. Lauren has been employed full-time by Rehab Care at Timber Ridge Health Care Center, working primarily with the geriatric population, since the summer of 2011. Shortly after graduation, she began the OTD program at Misericordia University, focusing on geriatrics, and she graduated in 2013. Lauren presented her OTD capstone project, regarding the development of a memory fitness program for older adults, at the AOTA conference in 2013. Dr. Zack supervises clinical research projects conducted by students, including her work with memory fitness programs in local nursing home settings.


Christopher Dunbar, OTD, CHT

Christopher Dunbar, OTD, CHT, earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Wilkes University and two master's degrees (in occupational therapy and organizational management) from Misericordia University. In 2010 he earned the designation of Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) and continued his education at Misericordia, graduating with a clinical doctorate in 2011. He specializes in hand and upper extremity injuries and is a clinician at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. His clinical specialty is in working with hand and upper extremity injuries. Dr. Dunbar has been an adjunct professor at Misericordia and at the University of Scranton.


Johanna Milot, OTD, OTRL Johanna Milot

Dr. Milot began her occupational therapy career as a COTA/L,
graduating from Lehigh Carbon Community College with
Associates in Applied Science Degree in Occupational Therapy in
1996.As an alumnus of Misericordia University she earned her Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences and Master's degree in Occupational Therapy through the Occupational Therapy Weekend Program 2002 and Pediatric Certification in Occupational Therapy in 2005. Dr. Milot also completed her Occupational Therapy Doctorate degree in 2015 at Misericordia University. She spent 19 years in the PA Public School System and Early Intervention Program working with a variety of specialized and inclusive programs for children ages three to 21 years old. Dr. Milot was approved as a provider and her Capstone Project "Developmental Handwriting for Teachers" was approved as an Act 48 Credit course by PaTTAN. Dr. Milot supports the inherent values of Misericordia University of mercy, service, justice and hospitality by volunteering in the community here in Northeastern PA. She has a passion for providing Occupational Therapy services within the community by servicing underserved populations. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association. Dr. Milot resides in Hazle Township, PA with her husband, Fran, three children, Salina, McKenzie, Zeke, and service dogs Annie and Andy.

OT Staff

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