Yakima, WA – Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) has hired Dr. Heather Fritz as founding director of its developing School of Occupational Therapy. With the addition of the proposed school (subject to grant of authorization for the Washington Student Achievement Council), PNWU aims to expand on its mission of training and educating health care professionals emphasizing service in rural and medically underserved communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“I am very excited to work with and learn from a group of highly talented and committed PNWU faculty, administrators, and students, as well as passionate community partners in the service of a mission and vision that I believe,” said Dr. Fritz. “I embrace the opportunity to develop future occupational therapists, leaders, and change agents in the Yakima Valley and beyond.”
As a clinician since 2007, Dr. Fritz has worked with a range of clinical populations. Her current clinical interest is in community-based preventative occupational therapy for older adults. She is a certified health coach and especially interested in growing occupational therapy’s role in the primary care setting. As a researcher, Dr. Fritz has studied how individuals may prevent or delay chronic conditions or disability in later life. Currently, she is focused on frailty prevention and chronic condition self-management among socially disadvantaged populations.
“Dr. Fritz is a highly respected scientist, practitioner, and educator who will lead PNWU’s developing School of Occupational Therapy in service to rural and medically underserved communities of the Pacific Northwest,” said Dr. Michael Lawler, president of PNWU. “We are very pleased to welcome her to our community.”
Dr. Fritz received her M.S. in Occupational Therapy from Winston Salem State University and her Ph.D. in Occupational Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology. She has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Her research has been funded by multiple foundations as well as the National Institutes of Health. Since 2015, Dr. Fritz has been the principal or co-investigator on research awards totaling over $1,200,000. She presents her research nationally and internationally. As director of the Habits, Occupation and Participation Lab at Wayne State University, Dr. Fritz has mentored numerous students in the conduct of community-based research and delivery of preventative occupational therapy. Dr. Fritz is an associate editor for OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health.
“The addition of Dr. Fritz to our PNWU team is a tremendous step forward in our development of the University as a leader in graduate health education,” said PNWU provost and chief academic officer, Dr. Edward Bilsky. “Dr. Fritz brings her considerable experience and expertise in both occupational therapy and occupational science to the campus. She shares our passion for addressing challenges in improving healthcare and health outcomes for rural and underserved communities in the Northwest and will add creativity and fresh perspectives on how we can achieve our mission and vision.”
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