Susan Garber, MA, OTR, FAOTA
Susan Garber, MA, OTR, FAOTA

Susan Garber, MA, OTR, FAOTA


Ms. Garber is a Professor in the Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She has dedicated her career to researching prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers in people with spinal cord injuries and has made significant contributions to this field. She joined the faculty at Baylor after working as a full-time clinical occupational therapist. She spent 19 years conducting research at The Institute of Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) as assistant director for research and education in the department of occupational therapy and then 10 years conducting research through the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her research interests are in the areas of spinal cord injury, prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers, rehabilitation outcomes, technology and rehabilitation, and patient and family education. (Retrieved on April 28, 2015 from https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/b2559e16-ffed-11e2-be68-080027880ca6)

She received her bachelor of science in occupational therapy from Columbia University and her master of arts in occupational therapy at Texas Women’s University.

Ms. Garber is a recipient of the AOTA Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award, and is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association as well as the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Ms. Garber was named one of the 100 Influential People of Occupational Therapy by AOTA.

Ms. Garber is a member of the AOTF Board of Trustees and was named one of the 100 Influential People of Occupational Therapy by AOTA.

Q and A

Identify three words that others have used to describe you.  
Conscientious, focused, precise.

How do you hope to make a difference in the world through research?
Research Improves the health and recovery of patients/clients by questioning and testing existing approaches and exploring opportunities for their enhancement or effectiveness. I hope to teach health professionals how to evaluate and treat pain, especially in vulnerable populations like youths with physical disabilities.

What is one piece of advice you have for individuals considering a career in science and research?
Actually, there are two: first: have enough clinical experience to determine area(s) of interest in order to ask the right questions; second, initially, identify a mentor whose work you admire and whose work interests you. Do not try to "plug yourself into" a research project that is of no interest to you.  

Beside your own areas of inquiry, what is one research priority that you believe is important for the future of occupational science and occupational therapy?
Again, there are two: development of research skills through structured academic courses as well as during clinical fieldwork where all students should be required to develop a research project; identify a mentor with a track record in research design and implementation.

Describe the most important role that mentors played in your professional journey.
Initially, mentors outside the field of occupational therapy (engineers) included me, supported my growth and development as a researcher and challenged me to adapt traditional occupational therapy interventions to solve the clinical problems at the core of the Rehabilitation Engineering Center (effect of pressure on tissue), problems not usually part of the occupational therapy purview.

Identify a favorite occupation that renews you outside of your work.   
Travel; reading; spending time with my 5 grandchildren.

What has been the most surprising or rewarding aspects of a career in science and research?
In part, through my efforts, I have managed to bring a focus on the creation of new knowledge to the profession of occupational therapy. It is most rewarding that I have contributed to a body of knowledge that now is included in the armamentarium of innovative solutions to the clinical problems which our patients face daily.

Selected References

Clark, F, Pyatak, EA, Carlson, M, Blanche, EI, Vigen, C, Hay, J, Mallinson, T, Blanchard, J, Unger, JB, Garber, SL, Diaz, J, Florindez, LI, Atkins, M, Rubayi, S & Azen, SP; PUPS Study Group.  (2014). Implementing trials of complex interventions in community settings: the USC-Rancho Los Amigos pressure ulcer prevention study (PUPS). Clinical Trials. 11, 218-229.  

Pyatak, EA, Blanche, EI, Garber, SL, Diaz, J, Blanchard, J, Florindez, L & Clark FA.  (2013), Conducting intervention research among underserved populations: lessons learned and recommendations for researchers. Archives in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 94, 1190-1198.

Wu, GA, Garber, SL & Bogie, KM.  (2015), Utilization and user satisfaction with alternating pressure air cushions: a pilot study of at-risk individuals with spinal cord injury. Disability and Rehabilitation Assistive Technology, 2015 Mar 24:1-5. [Epub ahead of print]  

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