Hand Therapists Profile: Donna Breger Stanton

Appeared in: AAHS Newsletter



I became an occupational
therapist in the '60's. I really had
no idea what I was getting into, but
it turned out to be right for me. I
worked in neuro rehab, pediatrics,
mental health, and orthopedics
until I found hand therapy working
at a hospital in Denver in the 70's;
we had so many hand patients we
were busy!

I eventually took a job in the US
Public Health Service Hospital in
San Francisco, joined the Commissioned
Corp of the US Public
Health Service and developed an
OT program there. I attended the
weekly hand clinic even though the
hand surgeon was not interested in
sending his patients to hand
therapy. After about a year he
began to notice me, and at the same
time I received referrals from the
residents. The program began to
grow. I became involved with
patients with Hansen's disease that
were seen in the SF clinic. I visited
the Gillis W Long Center in
Carville, LA and met Dr. Paul
Brand and Judy Bell Krotoski. Judy
and I continued our communication
about care and treatment of HD
and I was hooked. I eventually was
invited to work at Carville with
Judy Bell and moved to Louisiana
for 5 years. It is a time that was
most important to my professional
growth and development.

I accepted a position at the
University of California, Davis
Medical Center, Sacramento,
California where I worked as the
supervisor of hand therapy, developed
and upgraded the program
and its presence there, while
working with Robert Szabo, MD,
MPH. This, too, was an important
part of my professional growth and
development. During this time I
became quite involved with American
Society of Hand Therapists and
eventually served as ASHT president
in 2005. During my presidency I met Lynn Bassini when I
came to my first AAHS meeting.
She invited me to my first mission
with Guatemala Healing Hands
which I did for three years in a row.
Those experiences changed my life
again. I became a member of
AAHS in 2005 and have enjoyed
my experiences and opportunities
with AAHS.

I moved from UC Davis to a
position as faculty in the OT
program at Samuel Merritt University
in Oakland, CA. I have been
the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
along with teaching classes
related to modalities, assistive
technology, splinting, complementary
healthcare systems in OT, and
mentoring research groups as my
primary class, for the past 5 years.


I graduated from San Jose State
University in Occupational Therapy
in 1965 and was certified in 1966. I
attended University of Southern
California, having received a full
grant from Health and Human
Services, 1970-71. I completed my
thesis and education in 1979. I am
now enrolled in the OTD program
at Jefferson University and am
about a third of the way through. I
am truly enjoying this experience.


I work as Associate Professor,
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator,
Samuel Merritt University, OT
Program, Oakland, California.

AAHS Involvement:

For the past 3 years, I have
served on the Membership Committee
and have attended several
meetings since becoming a member
in 2005.

Best Part of My Job:

I have so much flexibility and
am able to continue my interest and
investment in clinical research at
the same time I work with my
students to complete the final stage
of their education.

Major Accomplishments:

Becoming a hand therapist,
before certification exam, along
with completing the first HTCC
certification examination, successfully.
I have several publications of
which I am very proud, particularly
research I completed with my
colleague at Carville, Bill Buford
when we studied the properties of
thermoplastic materials, which was
subsequently published in Hand
Clinics with articles also in the
Journal of Hand Therapy. I have
served on the ERB of JHT for about
10 years.

I was honored to receive the
Vargas traveling fellowship award
from AAHS. It was unfortunate
circumstance that shortly after
receipt of this award I suffered an
injury that made it impossible for
me to make the trip to Thailand
with Dr. Song. This has truly been
a disappointment I still think about.

Clinical Specialties:

I have focused on peripheral
neuropathies associated with
Hansen's disease, sensibility testing,
use and effectiveness of contrast
baths, provocative testing of carpal
tunnel syndrome.

Greatest Professional Challenge:

My greatest professional
challenge was becoming an excellent
hand therapist and understanding
the biomechanics that was
Hand Therapist Profile (continued from page 4)
a part of my job when working at
the Gillis W. Long Hansen's disease
Center, Carville, Louisiana. Dr.
Paul Brand essentially mandated
that we know and understand how
to incorporate objective measures in
our work, and employ biomechanics
to optimal advantage in our
splinting and care of our patients.
At the time it was new for hand
therapists to become more educated
in this specialty within a specialty,
and now it is a requirement just to
be a hand therapist, thanks to the
work of Dr. Paul Brand and his
inspiration to us hand therapists
that I hope is never lost.

Three Words that Describe Me:

Honest. Hard worker. Caring

Donna Breger Stanton, MA, OTR/L, CHT, FAOTA is an Associate Professor in the Master of Occupational Therapy program

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