OT Professor Wearing Many Hats on African Research/Service Trip

Posted on July 31, 2013

As a health services practitioner and faculty member, Dr. Anne Marie Hansen, assistant professor of occupational therapy (OT), is used to juggling both short- and long-term projects.

In the last month, that has meant:

  • Helping with three or four medical emergency flights a week with Tanzania’s Flying Medical Service
  • Documenting the impact of training on the lives of disabled African adults
  • Presenting research at a national meeting in Kenya
  • Collecting information to study challenges in the OT field in Africa
  • Detailing specific issues among OT practitioners in Tanzania
  • Helping to plan an international meeting of Lay Spiritans in East Africa.

Hansen and her team—daughter Anna, a sophomore at Duquesne, and niece Kathryn Witchger—are about midway in a nine-week research and service trip to Africa, where Hansen previously had served as a missionary.

The Hansen team is based at the Spiritan Olkokola mission, where the Flying Medical Services airlift those in outlying regions to receive complex emergency surgery interventions and medical care. The Spiritans also operate the Olkokola Vocational Training Center, which works with individuals with disabilities to train them in trade and life skills. In Tanzania, those with physical or mental handicaps are often excluded from day-to-day activities and face a lonely, degrading existence. Hansen’s study will record 100 stories of struggle, triumph and hope among the center’s graduates.

Hansen also presented a study surveying OT practices in Kenya at the Kenyan Occupational Therapy Association. She continues to also develop research with collaborators at KCM College University, based on several years of data about barriers to practice, and will present at the mid-August OT Africa Regional Group Congress in Zimbabwe.

On this trip, Hansen worked in the outpatient occupational therapy department at Kenya’s largest hospital (2,000 inpatients) while researching practitioners’ challenges, presented a three-day workshop with Ugandan therapists and spent time with a women’s development project.

A lay Spiritan, Hansen met with the Lay Spiritan Associates in Uganda and Tanzania to plan an international meeting in East Africa.

“I am so grateful for this extended visit to Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to spend time with my colleagues and research participants as well as to collect data for several research projects in all three countries instead of short visits of 3-4 weeks as in the past,” Hansen wrote in an email. “I am learning so much from mothers, families and people with disabilities, the health workers, teachers, occupational therapists, pilots, missionaries, students, graduates and our many guests.”


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