Hand Therapists Profile: Donna Breger Stanton

From: 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

Read more stories from the News Room.