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SLU Occupational Therapist Receives NBCOT Impact Award for Reentry Work

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc. (NBCOT) announces Christine Hayes Picker, a certified occupational therapist at Saint Louis University, has won the 2022 NBCOT Impact Award. 

This award recognizes certified occupational therapy (OT) practitioners who demonstrate exceptional professional commitment through their dedication, hard work, and outstanding OT skills to improve their clients’ overall life satisfaction. 

Hayes Picker’s colleague Lisa Jaegers, Ph.D., associate professor of occupational therapy and director of SLU’s Transformative Justice Initiative, nominated her for the award. 

“To be nationally recognized by our accrediting board demonstrates how the profession of OT is broadening its areas of practice and recognizing work with people incarcerated," Jaegers said. “It also showcases Occupational Therapy Transition and Integration Services (OTTIS) as a program for people who are underserved.”

The Transformative Justice Initiative bridges correctional workplace health to the reentry needs of people held in jails and prisons. Health promotion programming such as OTTIS is designed through community-based needs assessment. The initiative is supported by SLU’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Doisy College of Health Sciences.  

Hayes Picker received the NBCOT Impact Award for her work over the past five years, assisting people to successfully transition to the community after incarceration. Hayes Picker is the program manager and community transitions occupational therapist for SLU’s OTTIS, which falls under the Transformative Justice Initiative.

Hayes Picker says receiving this national award reinforces the role and duty occupational therapists play to promote justice and equity by supporting historically marginalized communities so that every individual can thrive.

“The OTTIS program embodies SLU’s mission in many ways through our direct client services, collaboration with partners to solve systemic barriers, and to train our current and future providers to do justice-based work,” Hayes Picker said. “At OTTIS, we constantly ask ourselves, ‘How can we have a larger impact? What more can we do?’ It is of the utmost importance that SLU continues to serve justice-involved community members as we seek to fulfill our Jesuit mission. I encourage every SLU community member to reflect upon their role and what they can do to support this population.”

In her role, she addresses the whole person through career exploration, employability, goal setting and vision statements, personal development, life skills, and money and home management. She helps clients foster their self-efficacy, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and skills in reentry and everyday life. The clients she has supported through the process of reentering the community after serving long-term prison sentences have found safe and secure housing and gained employment, and can boast zero recidivism, rearrests, or parole violations. 

“Her encouragement, positive energy, mentorship, and professionalism have helped me to become a responsible and contributing member of society,” said a client who celebrated his first freedom anniversary on Feb. 5, 2022. “I pray that a wider prison population gets the opportunity to work with this OTTIS program. There is no doubt that Missouri’s high recidivism rate will decrease drastically.”

Hayes Picker is an exemplar of exceptional professional commitment in her work for occupational justice for people who are incarcerated. Her community-based OT practice at the individual, group, community, and educator levels has directly and indirectly impacted clients’ life satisfaction.

Jaegers adds she also demonstrated exceptional professional commitment through developing continuing education courses, teaching many fieldwork students, and contributing to scholarly presentations and manuscripts.

"Christine meets everyone she encounters exactly where they are, encourages them to be confident in their skills and abilities, and helps them use and grow those skills to reach their full potential," a former fieldwork student shared.

Hayes Picker earned her national OT certification in 2017. She is an advocate for criminal justice OT practice, collaborating with community partners in this area and supporting the provision of OT reentry services in prisons and jails in the U.S. She is a current Justice-Based Occupational Therapy International Network member.

The Doisy College of Health Sciences has provided students with the tools and education to become well-prepared health care professionals since 1929. Doisy College offers hands-on experience through accredited clinical education programs in a variety of areas, including athletic training, communication sciences and disorders, health information management, magnetic resonance imaging, medical laboratory science, nuclear medicine technology, nutrition and dietetics, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant, and radiation therapy.