Two inaugural occupational therapy doctoral candidates Chanequa Thomas, left, and Jennifer Allison, get better acquainted during opening reception.

Brenau Occupational Therapy Doctoral Candidates Step into ‘That Uncomfortable Place’ of Pushing Boundaries to Help Refine Their Profession

Sep 5, 2014
Brenau Staff

Brenau University officially welcomed eight candidates to its newest doctoral program Friday at the official celebration to launch the degree in the School of Occupational Therapy.

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate program is part of the university’s expanding focus on post-professional health science graduate studies. Brenau graduated its first candidates from the Doctor of Nursing Practice program in May. It recently started accepting applications for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which hopes to launch its first classes in 2015.

Rosalie Miller, director of Brenau's new occupational therapy doctoral program, hands out portfolios to the first eight students in the program.
Rosalie Miller, director of Brenau’s new occupational therapy doctoral program, hands out portfolios to the first eight students in the program.

The doctoral candidates in the occupational therapy program represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and interests in the profession, said Gale Hansen Starich, who is dean of both the College of Health Sciences and the graduate school at Brenau.

In welcoming them to the high-level graduate studies program, Starich told the candidates that they “are about to get to that uncomfortable place” where to learn and help expand the body of knowledge in their profession they will have to “push the boundaries” of everything they have learned thus far both academically and in their professional lives.

Brenau’s three doctoral programs and the master’s degree programs in disciplines like applied gerontology, clinical psychology, occupational therapy, nursing and health care management positions the university as a leader in health care professional preparation among higher education institutions in the Southeast.

“You might find one or two of these programs in other universities,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader, “but you will not find them all anywhere else but Brenau.”

Brenau’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools last March, which was also around the time of the 15th anniversary of Brenau’s first graduating OT class in the spring. Brenau’s program was one of the first in North America to require master’s-level studies for its occupational therapy program, even before the master’s degree in occupational therapy was a basic requirement for professional certification.

Dr. Irma Alvarado, associate professor of occupational therapy and graduate coordinator at Brenau, was on hand to welcome the first eight students in Brenau's new occupational therapy doctoral program.
Dr. Irma Alvarado, associate professor of occupational therapy and graduate coordinator at Brenau, was on hand to welcome the first eight students into the program.

The OT master’s program is not restricted to Brenau’s main Gainesville campus. It is also offered at the North Atlanta/Norcross campus. However, since the doctoral program is almost a totally online degree that requires very little on-campus class attendance it is for all practical purposes available everywhere. That’s a great attraction for candidate Lovett Lowery, who lives in south Alabama and works a full-time job. “Since I have only an undergraduate degree, I knew that I would need additional education to advance in my profession,” she said, “so this is a perfect program for me.”

Lowery, a native of Goshen, Alabama, where she currently resides, works as an occupational therapist at Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center, a 234-bed long-term care facility. She is a graduate of Tuskegee Institute.

Here are brief profiles of the other candidates:

Allen K. Patmon from College Park, Georgia, graduated with a M.S. in occupational therapy from Brenau in 2013. He earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Georgia State University. He is a licensed occupational therapist at Ansley Park Health and Rehab in Newnan, Georgia, and he has done field work at various health organizations since 2010, including Southland Rehab and Health, the Fulton County Public School System, and Piedmont Hospital.

Ann Monroe Tuemler lives in Atlanta. Her experience includes working as an occupational therapist at Cobb County Schools in Marietta. She received a M.S. in occupational therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is currently developing a program called Standards in a Box, a vocational program for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities, as well as a Waiting Curriculum based on Waiting is a Life Skill.

Chanequa L. Thomas earned both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy from Brenau in 2002. She has more than 13 years of occupational therapy experience in a pediatric setting, seven years of experience in an educational setting, and five years of experience working with children in an outpatient hospital setting. This includes her work in the DeKalb County School System, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Kidsplay Therapy Services. She lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Gainesville resident Haylee S. Gamble has performed as an occupational therapist at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center as well as at ProTherapy in Gainesville. She was the recipient of the Brenau University Faculty Excellence Scholarship and the Georgia Hope Scholarship, and she was a member of the Brenau University Occupational Therapy Student Association plus various sorority and honors societies.  She received both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Brenau as well as professional certification in 2009.

Jennifer Allison received a B.S. and M.S. in occupational therapy from Brenau in 2003. She is a part-time clinical instructor in Brenau’s School of Nursing, teaching courses focused on clinical reasoning with adolescents and adults that have mental/developmental disabilities. She has also worked in occupational therapy at Gwinnett County Public Schools, All About Kids Therapy Services and Gateway Domestic Violence Center. Her master’s thesis was published in 2003, and Jennifer has presented at multiple state and national conferences. She resides in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

A supervisor at the West End Co-op and Peace Rehab Center, Kimberly R. Bridges from Greenville, South Carolina, graduated from Brenau this year with an M.S. in occupational therapy. She has applied recreational therapy and art therapy to patients of head trauma at Roger C. Pearce Hospital. She also has past experience as a youth director helping to heal abused children. From 1990 to 2002 she led a mission project called “Casas por Cristo,” in which her group constructed new homes for underprivileged families in Mexico.

Sara C. Propes of Atlanta, Georgia, attended at Brenau University’s Norcross campus and received a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2013. She also has a Master of Science in audiology from the University of Utah. In 2004 she participated in the Mozambique Audiology Project for which she provided audiological services to school-age and adult patients in underprivileged areas with little or no health care. She has been an OT at Fulton County Public Schools and the Gateway for Domestic Violence Center. She has been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology.

The School of Occupational Therapy is located at Brenau East at Featherbone Communiversity, 1001 Chestnut St. SE in Gainesville.

To learn more about Brenau’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate program, visit or contact Director of Doctoral Programs Rosalie Miller at