Profiles of two students in the
Creighton University Entry-Level Distance
Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program – Alaska
Student: Sarah Thompson
Hometown: Palmer, Alaska
Undergraduate degree: Human Services,
University of Alaska-Anchorage
Being able to provide occupational therapy services to
those who would otherwise be without is a way to give
back to the Alaska community that I have grown up in.
The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program offered
by the University of Alaska Anchorage-Creighton
University Distance Initiative allowed Sarah Thompson to
remain in her home state and at her alma mater, though
she was interacting with professors based out of
Nebraska's Creighton University.
“I essentially had two sets of clinical staff
that were able to conduct our classes together with
distance and on-campus [components], and create a
learning experience for distance students that was
similar to on-campus, without ever having to leave
Alaska,” Thompson said.
Each semester consisted of five to seven classes, with
clinicals included. The three-hour time difference
between Alaska and Nebraska presented a challenge.
However, the technology component of the program
streamlined the process and proved to be beneficial for
“I am way more comfortable with the use of
computers than I was prior to this program,”
Thompson said. “This program enhanced my
experience with working in groups, as well as my
In addition, the hybrid campus/online format allowed
Thompson to create connections with established clinical
sites in Alaska, which helped her obtain a job as an OT
in her hometown at the Mat-Su School District. She has
also reconnected with Creighton University by becoming an
online teacher's assistant.
Thompson advises that potential students assess whether
or not a distance program is fitting for their particular
learning style, and to evaluate whether they will be able
to set aside adequate time to get the most out of the
course, since it involves independent learning and time
Student: Karrianna Gallagher
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Marketing-University of Arizona
This program is the absolute best decision I have ever
made. It allowed me to stay in Alaska to complete my
education and I was able to secure a job two months
before I graduated.
The hybrid learning model of Creighton University's
distance OTD program, with online lectures and on-campus
labs, suited Karrianna Gallagher's independent learning
style quite well.
“In order to complete this program, it is
necessary to be internally motivated,”
Gallagher said. “This is also true for being an
Gallagher mentioned that not having the face-to-face
interaction with instructors posed a bit of a challenge
at times; however, most professors made themselves
available for meetings via Skype as needed.
Gallagher did her fieldwork experience at Providence
Alaska Medical Center in acute care, which has recently
turned into a job. She now works there on an as-needed
basis, typically around four to five days a month.
During the professional rotation, students create an
individualized experience that can focus on teaching,
research, further developing their OT skills, or going to
another country to promote OT and provide services.
Gallagher chose to spend hers at Alaska Hand Rehab in
Anchorage, with a focus on developing her hand therapy
skills. She accepted a position there upon graduation.
Throughout her time with the program, Gallagher was
exposed to rural healthcare issues occurring within her
state. As a way to call attention to these issues, she is
currently in the process of developing a
telerehabilitation program for hand therapy in Alaska, in
hopes of addressing the shortage of hand therapists
available to serve rural communities.
“I think job shadowing in various settings and
talking with past students would be helpful for those
interested in this program,” Gallagher said.
“It's important for individuals to understand
exactly what they are getting themselves into as it is
challenging, time consuming and expensive.”
For her academic success, Gallagher received a $1,000
Scholastic Achievement Award. This scholarship is
presented annually to three, third-year entry-level OT
students who have earned scholastic achievement in the
OTD program and have demonstrated excellence in their
educational journey at Creighton University.
With innovative educational models such as this, students
are able to make a direct impact in their home
Back to: Rural Student
Profiles | Winter 2015 Issue