Howard University’s Occupational Therapy Students Lobby for Improved Healthcare Access for Hill Day

Occupational Therapy Students

WASHINGTON – (October 1, 2018), Today, Howard University’s Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) second-year graduate students will join over 500 occupational therapy practitioners, educators and students from all over the country to visit legislators on Capitol Hill as part of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Hill Day. Howard University has participated for 10 years at the annual Hill Day, using the opportunity to bring important concerns straight to District of Colombia, Maryland and Virginia lawmakers’ offices. Each of the 30 graduate OT students will meet with various legislative offices to advocated for OT services.

“The OT department at Howard is uniquely privileged to be among few providers of occupational therapy graduate students in the nation’s capital,” said Felecia Banks, Ph.D., chairperson and associate professor of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

“We are in a key position to teach our students how to act as agents of change in healthcare services and policy, especially with diverse and underserved populations where participation in occupation has been marginalized and access to quality health care has been restricted or denied.”

Scheduled visits include Maryland U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes’ office, as well as other senators and representatives in Maryland and Virginia. Howard students will advocate for improved access to health care and share how occupational therapy can improve recovery outcomes while cutting costs, helping many return to being active members of society.

Students will focus on three main points:

  • Supporting the inclusion of provisions to promote non-pharmacological treatments for pain management within the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) Act (H.R. 6)
  • Gaining Congressional support for occupational therapy in Medicare Home Health (Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act, S.977/H.R 6225)
  • Supporting robust funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Graduate President of the Howard OT Program, Courtney Pennill, attends AOTA’s 2018 Hill Day with her peers and professors, using it as platform to voice her concerns for the profession and the minority community.

“As an African-American female I am honored to have the opportunity to lobby for AOTA on such pressing issues that are important for our clients and community,” said Pennill.  

“I want to inform state and federal individuals who are in positions of power as to why they need to support the Occupational Therapy profession’s stance on the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act, IDEA funding, and our distinct value in addressing pain management. More importantly, bringing awareness on how legislative leaders can advocate for the underserved population. These are all in line with my aspirations and the Howard University’s vision, which is to become a change agent and ultimately lead and serve the underserved communities nationally and abroad.”

According to the AOTA press release, nationwide, more than 213,000 occupational therapy practitioners help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Legislation supporting access to occupational therapy and rehabilitation services can reduce overall health care costs by facilitating independence among patients. An independent study found that occupational therapy reduces hospital readmission rates and costs to patients.


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(pictured above: Howard University Department of Occupational Therapy second-year graduate students on Capital Hill - courtesy of Marchelle Putney, Ph.D.)


About Occupational Therapy Program

The Howard University Occupational Therapy (OT) Program, founded in 1974, offers a fully accredited program leading to an entry-level master of science degree in Occupational Therapy (MSOT). The department is uniquely privileged to be among few providers of occupational therapy graduate students in the nation’s capital. The OT program at Howard has a rich history of excellence in leadership, graduating highly sought-after therapists, and developing national and international health professionals. Our distinguished faculty is committed to helping students achieve their goals, and preparing future leaders in health care.

In 2016 U.S. News and World Report ranked the Howard University Occupational Therapy program among the top 100 Best occupational therapy graduate programs in the nation. We are nationally known for our commitment to diversity and minority education, and are the first historically Black college and university to have an accredited occupational therapy program. To learn more, visit


About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 70 Fulbright Scholars and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.  For more information on Howard University visit

Media Contact: Imani Pope-Johns,