The first group of Rush University occupational therapy doctoral program graduates knew they wanted to lend a hand. They ended up giving an entire arm.
Through fundraising efforts, the class donated a sophisticated synthetic arm to future Rush occupational therapy students in honor of Beverly Myers, who died in 2018 after 27 years of teaching and more than 40 years practicing in the field at Rush.
“When professor Myers passed away, it was right round the time our class started talking about what we want our legacy to be as the first group to graduate from Rush University’s occupational therapy doctorate program,” says Lauren Adrian, who was the president of Rush’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) at the time. “We realized how significant her presence was and how much we were missing out on by not having her as a teacher, so we wanted to do something to honor her dedication to past students. She was such a pillar of the institution.”
Armed for learning
Students usually use cadavers to help them learn about the muscles, veins, arteries, tendons and nerves in the body. But students in other fields use the cadavers, too, and the physiology of the arm is such an important focus in occupational therapy that it makes it difficult to have a perfect specimen available whenever it’s needed.
With the synthetic arm that was donated, students now have a low-maintenance anatomical model that can be used in different classes to give future students easy access to gaining the detailed knowledge they need about one of the most complex parts of the body — a part that particularly intrigued Myers.
“She taught classes on the anatomy and kinesiology of the arm, and she was a certified hand therapist, so the students’ gift really spoke to Bev’s passion,” says Molly Bathje, PhD, MS, OTR/L, assistant professor, Department of Occupational Therapy at Rush, and co-adviser of the SOTA group.
A lasting legacy
Myers had an unquestioned dedication to the field and her students. In 1985 and 2013, she was named Illinois Occupational Therapist of the Year. And in 2013, she received the Rush University Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching.
She was the Rush Alumni Group faculty adviser and was instrumental in developing an occupational therapy alumni fund, which supports Rush students and alumni in their professional development.
“She cared deeply about her clients and students,” says Linda Olson, PhD, OTR/L, chairperson and program director for the Department of Occupational Therapy at Rush University. “She was the quintessential mentor and continued mentoring her students long after they graduated. She once needed a splint for a broken arm after being injured in a car accident. One of her former students was her occupational therapist and was nervous about working with her teacher. Bev’s response was, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll walk you through everything.’”
Myers’ dedication to occupational therapy helped lead to a donation that will help teach future leaders in the field for years to come.
“Bev would be thrilled with this donation,” says her sister, Jan Myers. “She loved gadgets and was passionate about how the human body worked and principles of movement. It was the lens through which she viewed the world.”