UAlberta professor and occupational therapy trailblazer receives Alumni Achievement Award from UToronto

Sharon Brintnell recognized for life-long dedication to occupational therapy

Erica Yeung - 02 June 2017

It was a well-kept secret this week that the University of Alberta's Department of Occupational Therapy faculty and staff would come together to surprise occupational therapy professor Sharon Brintnell and celebrate her Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Toronto (U of T).

Brintnell's work as a champion for occupational therapy and rehabilitation is not a secret, and the 2017 U of T Alumni Achievement Award for Occupational Therapy recognizes her outstanding contribution and dedication to the profession of occupational therapy.

"I was very pleased and honoured to receive the award," says Brintnell, who is known as a trailblazer and leader in occupational therapy worldwide. "Whenever you receive recognition from your peers, it has a very special significance."

The awards ceremony was held on Friday at the U of T during their Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Alumni Spring Reunion Reception.

Brintnell accepted the award via video conference. She didn't know that the occupational therapy department arranged for the award itself to be here in Edmonton for her on the same day, with friends, family and Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine staff and alongside her to celebrate.

Mary Forhan, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and U of T alumna, nominated Brintnell for the award.

"It's a prestigious award recognizing her lifetime achievement in occupational therapy. She's been a role model and advocate for occupational therapy throughout the years," says Forhan. "I'm really happy she won."

Brintnell graduated from the University of Toronto in 1964 with a diploma in physical and occupational therapy. She has been part of University of Alberta since 1971, taking on various roles including chairman of the Department of Occupational Therapy for 13 years and acting dean for one year. She also served on the Vice President Academic Advisory Committee on Restructuring for three years. Brintnell has had a significant role in the faculty and department, including leading a number of accreditations of the occupational therapy program at the university in 1986.

Brintnell's dedication to occupational therapy expands international borders, having served as Vice President Finance of the World Federation of Occupational Therapy for ten years and then as President from 2008 to 2014. During her time as president, she increased the profession's impact on consultation and collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Despite her individual success and illustrious career, Brintnell continues to stay humble. Her focus has never been on individual success. Rather, it has always been about enhancing the visibility and recognition of occupational therapy as an essential health and social service.

"It isn't self-identifying or a confirmation of validation. It's always been about occupational therapy, and not about me or my research," says Brintnell.

After 53 years in the profession, Brintnell plans on retiring next year. While she doesn't know what retirement means, she sees it as a different venue to stay active.

"It's not my persona to be inactive in one way or another, so I'm sure something will find me."