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OTR Creates International Interprofessional Mentorship Program for New Clinicians

Kate Barlow is an OTR from Massachusetts who developed an international mentorship program for OT practitioners around the world.

Kate Barlow

Kate Barlow, OTD, OTR/L, IMH-E®

Associate Professor, American International College

Location: Massachusetts

Certified in 1998

2022 NBCOT Innovation Award Winner

An Opportunity to Learn on a Global Scale

Kate Barlow, an OTR from Massachusetts, developed the International Interprofessional Mentorship Program. The program began in June 2019 when new clinicians in Ghana and Guyana were seeking mentorships after they became the first graduates of their countries’ OT programs. The program currently has over 150 mentee participants across 28 countries. Dr. Barlow recruits subject matter experts from around the world to conduct monthly virtual presentations on topics that mentees request. Each presentation is followed by a question-and-answer session as well as an informal meet-and-greet. Over the past three years, 44 online mentorship meetings have been held spanning a wide range of topics, including sensory modulation, wheelchair seating and positioning, dementia, burns, spinal cord injury, dysphagia, and more.

By providing mentorship and increasing the knowledge of occupational therapists in low- and middle-income countries, the program hopes to improve the quality and integrity of OT services. The mentorship presentations are posted online, so U.S.-based clinicians can also learn from the group. Clinicians from the U.S. and abroad benefit from learning about the cultural differences in practice on a global scale and the different preferences and needs of the diverse populations occupational therapists work with.

Dr. Barlow’s mentorship work extends beyond the virtual presentations. In 2020, she assisted a mentee from Uganda with publishing his research on OT programs in Africa. The mentee’s research was showcased in the July 2021 edition of the Occupational Therapy African Regional Group newsletter.

“I love the mix of theory/research and clinical expertise. Working with a population with unique and complex needs, I love learning based on the clinical expertise of what has worked/not worked for other individuals. I’d like more on pediatric feeding, children with severe motoric needs, oral motor exercise, etc! Thanks for a great program!”

Mentorship Program Participant

“I generally love the program and it has really helped me become a better OT practitioner. As a community worker, I find the variety of topics very useful and hence recommend that the procedures continue.”

Mentorship Program Participant

Focusing on Evidence-Based Practice, Equitable Services, and Global Outreach

In 2020, Dr. Barlow conducted a research study to examine the efficacy of the mentorship program. The results demonstrated that the program improved therapists’ perceptions of their clinical confidence. Mentees reported that the mentorship program helped with accessing resources, provided up-to-date information, and assisted with selecting treatment approaches, which supported their requests for evidence-based practice. The results of the study were published in the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) Bulletin in January 2022.

The mentorship program has proved to be a much-needed service, and the goal is that it will continue to be sustainable and increase access to more therapists around the world. To that end, a proposal has been submitted to the WFOT for the organization to adopt the mentorship program. Eventually, Dr. Barlow hopes the program can expand to offer regional meetings in different languages and time zones.

Dr. Barlow is passionate about global outreach and the importance of mentorship. In 2020, she presented on the mentorship program at the International Conference on Integrated Care, and the abstract was published in the International Journal of Care in 2021. In August 2022, she presented on the mentorship program at the WFOT Congress in Paris, France, and met with mentors and mentees from the program. Dr. Barlow has dedicated her time and expertise to the advancement of occupational therapy.

A woman and a man who is slightly behind her pose in a conference hall.
Mentee Joseph Nshimiyimana from Rwanda and Kate Barlow
A man and two women pose around a table in a conference hall.
From left to right: Mentor Lyle Duque, MSc, OTRP, Kate Barlow, and mentee Epiphanie Murebwayire from Rwanda

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