Abby Hammons has a lot on her mind as she prepares for her freshman year at the University of Oklahoma.
But one thing she doesn’t need to worry about is getting into the occupational therapy master’s program at the OU Health Sciences Center after she completes the prerequisite work.
She checked that off her list months ago.
Hammons, 17, is one of seven students who secured a spot in the program this spring through an early admittance option for outstanding Oklahoma high school seniors.
Officials started the early admit option in 2003 because they were losing Oklahoma students to other states, said Susan Tucker, assistant dean for student affairs at OU’s College of Allied Health.
“It is a big deal. These programs are competitive,” Tucker said.
To gain early admittance, high school students must have at least a 3.5 grade-point average, have completed at least three science credits with a B or better and do 10 hours of observation in occupational therapy. Hammons did her observation at The Children’s Center in Bethany.
Students complete their first three years of study on the Norman campus, then come to the Health Sciences Center for the remaining three years.
Hammons and her classmates will begin the occupational therapy master program in the summer of 2017, the same year the profession turns 100, Tucker said.
“It’s exciting for these students,” she said.
Hammons said knowing the program is holding a place for her removes the stress of competing for a spot against 400 other students down the road.
“It does keep them focused. It keeps them motivated,” Tucker said.
Occupational therapy — like many health fields — is one of the fastest-growing professions, Tucker said.
“Most people don’t know what an occupational therapist is,” she said. “We’re grounded in working with people in the environments where they work, live and play.”
An occupational therapist might work with children who have learning disabilities, physical disabilities and behavioral problems; people who have suffered a traumatic injury or a stroke; or older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. The therapist helps them with everyday activities like school and social situations, work, household chores and personal care.