MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 22, 2014

NSU shows new occupational therapy lab

Knee problems drove home the value of Northeastern State University’s new occupational therapy program for one administrator.

“I had knee surgery right after Christmas, and the students look at me thinking, ‘This is why we are here,’” said Dr. Tim McElroy, dean of NSU’s Muskogee campus.

McElroy joined NSU officials and Muskogee leaders Monday for the grand opening of the Gailey Family Living Skills Lab at NSU-Muskogee.

The lab, which features a kitchen, home appliances, a bed and a bathroom, is funded by $200,000 from the family of Marilyn and the late Jesse Gailey. Jesse Gailey was a 1964 NSU graduate and a 12 year-member of the NSU Foundation. He was president of Totah Telephone Co. for 32 years.

Gailey’s son, Mark, said his family valued education and recognized the importance of occupational therapy.

“My mother has been arthritic for as long as I can remember,” Gailey said. “And education has always been important in our family. My father used to sell encyclopedias, and whenever we had a question, that was where he would send us.”

NSU’s occupational therapy program is one of only two master’s degree OT programs in Oklahoma. The program opened with 12 students last January at NSU-Muskogee, program director Judy Melvin said.

“Our students have done things in the community already,” Melvin said, listing Tahlequah Community Hospital, a VA medical center and the Cherokee Nation as examples of where students worked.

Melvin said Oklahoma ranks at the top of states needing occupational therapy professionals.

“During the economic downturn, health care was the one area that saw job growth,” Melvin said.

She praised the “village” of supporters who helped make NSU’s program possible. In August, the City of Muskogee Foundation donated $900,000 for the program’s startup costs.

Classrooms at NSU-Muskogee have been converted into an anatomy lab and a cadaver lab as well as the living skills center, she said. Melvin said space soon will be renovated for a fabrication lab and a lab featuring therapy tables. She said a pediatric therapy lab could be added this fall.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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