Where Are They Now?
EP Native Dr. Ann Burkhardt - Making a Difference
The Reporter recently caught up with East Providence native and Drake University Professor Dr. Ann Burkhardt. Burkhardt was in Philadelphia last month to present before the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Centennial Conference. Burkhardt is Chair and Program Director of a Doctoral Occupational Therapy Program at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. For 30 years she has worked as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in New York City. Burkhardt earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology / Biology at Wheaton College in 1976. In 1979 she completed a Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy at New York University. "I began at Harlem Hospital, worked at NYPH-Weill Cornell as a burn specialist, was the Chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Director of OT (with a clinical faculty appointment) in the University at NYPH-Columbia University," Burkhardt explained. "I had a private practice for many years which focused on helping people who had cancer to participate fully in their lives." Today she is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in CT, NY, MA and RI.
Dr. Ann Burkhardt has worked, studied and lived in diverse locales as she developed a meritorious career in education and occupational therapy and other fields. "While at Columbia, I did research with the School of Public Health on the topic of Sources of Independence in the Elderly, with the Sergievsky Center. I also was a part of a CDC funded grant team that did a Medical Informatics coding study to implement the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health," she said. During this time, Burkhardt returned to school and completed her doctoral degree from Creighton University at age 50 in 2004.
Dr. Burkhardt has always kept her East Providence roots close to her heart. "We lived on Rice Avenue and I attended Brightridge School and Central Jr High for one year. I was ill for more than 6 months and was tutored by an aged Mrs. Willoughby who truly changed my life. She was the mother of Russ Willoughby, an EP teacher. I graduated from the Lincoln School for Girls in Providence in 1972 and attended Wheaton College. I studied abroad in Vienna Austria and then came to New York," she added.
"My closest friends growing up were Debbie Bradley Cardoso, Donna Desrochers Cook and Valerie Starr Steele. They all remain my good friends today," smiled Burkhardt. "When Ann and I were probably around eight, I asked Mrs. Burkhardt why Ann didn't have a middle name. Mrs. Burkhardt said 'she does, it's Love.' Even Ann was curious!," said friend Debbie Cardoso. "A strange little story but it is so fitting. Ann loves everybody in her life. We've been friends since her 3rd birthday and I've always considered her a blessing in my life. And, I still think of her as Ann Love Burkhardt."
From 1979-1984 Burkhardt worked at Columbia University-Harlem Hospital Center as a Senior Occupational Therapist. She rotated through acute inpatient, outpatient, burns, rehabilitation unit and pediatrics. Burkhardt provided direct patient care with evaluations and treatment to a population with physical and developmental impairments. She also developed a computer based cognitive assessment program for adults with neurological impairments. Home assessments were provided and there was departmental in-service coordination.
"After Columbia, I transitioned to Academia full time as the Division Director of the OT Programs (BS/MS) at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY from 2005-2009." From 2009-10 Burkhardt taught at Quinnipiac University.
At one point in her career, Dr. Burkhardt moved back to Rhode Island for awhile. Her parents needed her. "The reason I left New York City was my parents. My folks were wonderful people and truly my sweethearts. My Dad developed Lewy Body disease (a neurological disease which has features of Alzheimer's dementia with Parkinson's Disease). They needed my help and I moved back home. Both of my parents continued to live at home for the majority of their illnesses. I was their caregiver. For the first two years, I directed a post-professional Master's degree program at Quinnipiac University. From 2010-2015 I left full time academia and worked clinically at two nursing facilities in Warren, RI (Grace Barker and Crestwood)," said Burkhardt. Her Dad died in 2010 and her Mom passed in 2014.
"In my career, I have cared for the indigent, the famous, those 'in the news', the rich, people from all walks of life. I love people and their own personal stories. It has been my privilege to earn a living helping others," Burkhardt said. "Often we are involved with what appears to be the ordinary, which is often truly extra-ordinary indeed. My Mom is the one who thought I should pursue OT and she was so right!"
At this point Burkhardt had been living in Bristol, RI. She had been single up until then. "After Mom's death, I married for the first time. My husband and I met in an elevator at NYPH-Columbia. We were good friends for a long while. When I spoke with him about my mother's declining health and dementia, he moved from New York to Bristol to help me to care for her. My husband, Ramon Noboa Barroso is an educated Attorney (University of Guayaquil) and an American citizen who emigrated from Ecuador."
Dr. Burkhardt has achieved much in her life. She has taught in many prestigious educational institutions, earned a doctorate, given countless group presentations and has written numerous publications - too many to mention here.
"My students in Iowa are very entertained by one single fact of my life: I published a paper with Dr. Mehmet Oz. While this is true, I think life has been more interesting and enriching by other events and opportunities, such as research, travel, presence during historically changing events like post 9/11 in NY City. I was in attendance in Harlem to see Nelson Mandela when he was released from prison during the Mayoral time of David Dinkins, being in Central Park with thousands of others after John Lennon died and pursuing my serious avocations," added Burkhardt. The Doctoral OT from East Providence also had a chance to sing in Opera Choruses in NY City, including the Grand Opera Chorus directed my Vincent la Silva from Julliard-at Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center.
Burkhardt's presentation before the National AOTA Centennial Conference chronicled another East Providence native and her worldly contributions to Occupational Therapy: "Jessie Luther was born and raised in East Providence, RI. According to the US census, Jessie lived with her parents and her sister in a house at 2098 Pawtucket Avenue in the then town, now city of East Providence. Initial list of members of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT) lists amongst its members: Luther, Miss Jessie. Jessie Luther (and her sister) attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. Jessie’s presence in the OT literature shows that she was also a leader in the profession in Rhode Island. She was an art student and later a teacher at the Wheeler School in Providence. Luther was Occupational Therapy director at Butler Hospital in Providence.
East Providence's Jesse Luther returned to Providence in 1916 after travelling the world and resumed her work and duties at Butler Hospital. She worked at Butler until her retirement in 1937. Luther was amongst the early members of the National Society for the Promotion of OT in 1917. Jessie Luther died in Providence in 1952 at age 92," - Dr. Ann Burkhardt.
Listed in multiple editions of Who's Who, Dr. Burkhardt has been the recipient of dozens of awards and citations for exemplary work and publishing in the field.
Dr. Burkhardt will be returning to Rhode Island. "My life is still changing," she said. "I am transitioning back to RI, because I have an exciting new opportunity to start up a new Doctoral Program in Occupational Therapy at Johnson and Wales University beginning in July, 2017.
Dr. Burkhardt is excited to accept a full Professorship and Direct the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program at Johnson and Wales University. And she'll be doing it a short distance from her Brightridge School, Kent Heights, EP neighborhood.