SMU eNews

OT Professor Honored for Advocacy Work

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) Professor Guy L. McCormack recently received the Luella Grangaard Political Action Award from the Occupational Therapy Association (OTAC) of California for his advocacy work in promoting the field of occupational therapy.

McCormack was honored at the 35th annual OTAC conference in Pasadena on October 6. 

"I was very honored," said McCormack, who serves on the OTAC executive board.  "It makes you feel appreciated for the hard work that you do. We're not paid for the work we do, so it's all done for the greater good."

McCormack meets with state legislators, sometimes bringing his students along, to educate lawmakers about the OT profession and discuss legislation involving autism, older adults, health insurance reimbursement, and healthcare reform.

"We're just making sure OT is on their radar screen," he said.

McCormack is also busy with research, including studies of children with autism. Working with SMU students in the Master of Occupational Therapy Program as his research assistants, McCormack uses neurofeedback training to help increase the children's attention, and improve their behavior and ability to interact with others.  The patients play computer games while the researchers measure their brain waves with an electroencephalogram (EEG). Using "operant conditioning," the children receive immediate feedback if they stop paying attention because the game stops immediately.

Five years after starting the research, McCormack said he has found "statistically significant" improvement in many children after 15 weeks of neurofeedback training.  The professor also works with older adults in cognitive decline at a skilled nursing facility, incorporating specially designed computer games to increase the neuroplasticity in the patients' brains.

In addition to receiving the award, McCormack and two of his students, Karen Sommers and Morgan Inouye, presented a workshop titled "Occupational Driven Computer Assisted Cognitive Remediation" at the OTAC conference.

McCormack, who started the MOT Program in 1994, left SMU for a few years to teach at the University of Missouri. But he returned to SMU nearly three years ago to help develop a doctoral program for the OT department.

"It's great to be back at Samuel Merritt and I'm looking forward to what we can accomplish over the next few years, and the research we can build," said McCormack.

Professor Guy McCormick