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A true gift

OT alumna helps others return to life

Mother. Wife. Occupational Therapist. Floridian. Caregiver. Great listener. Clinician of the Year.

Numerous descriptions can be given to Laura Dawson, OT, ’06, an ATSU alumna who leads a busy life but still finds time to offer a helping hand to those in need, be it in her personal or professional life.

A normal day for Dawson consists of exercising, taking her baby, Carly, to the babysitter, working eight hours, picking up Carly, making dinner for her husband, fitting in a bath and story for Carly, and finally relaxing.

Her own hectic personal schedule means she especially enjoys focused time spent with geriatric patients at Gentiva Home Health in Kissimmee, Fla., where diagnoses range from orthopaedic injuries to cancer.

“I love to work with patients on a one-to-one basis,” Dawson says. “It allows me to focus on their individual needs, roles, and habits in their environment.”

Dawson’s love for her career stems from her education at ATSU, and she cites knowledgeable faculty, location, community recognition, and career readiness as a few of the reasons she chose its OT program.

“The faculty’s knowledge and hands-on experiences made the program stand out from the others,” she says. “I would definitely recommend the program; I felt well prepared when starting my OT career. The exceptional faculty made me the therapist I am today.”

The therapist she is today is one who received the titles of Clinician of the Year for 2009, Shining Star Award for 2009, and the Pinnacle Award for 2009 — awards from Gentiva that she considers the greatest achievements in her career thus far.

“It reinforces everything I learned in school about the body-mind-spirit connection and how finding purpose is what motivates people,” Dawson says. “We must never underestimate the power we have as healthcare providers, and how small things we take for granted can change a person’s life.”

Dawson has changed many lives in her career, the biggest and most recent being Joette Tindell’s family. Tindell’s parents were severely injured in an automobile accident in 2005, leaving them with traumatic brain injuries. In 2010, Dawson was assigned to the Tindell family, where her work changed their lives for the better.

“She walked into our home and changed the life within not only my parents, but within our entire family,” Joette Tindell says. “She energized us with ideas, researched resources, and took the time to find exactly what made my parents tick and how to motivate them. She did whatever it took. She encouraged them and demanded of them, setting the challenges within a reachable goal that gave them self-confidence. Honestly, she gave us the confidence we needed to carry on her endeavors.”

Dawson’s education allowed her to find workable solutions for the Tindell family. She reached through to her patients by finding what they related to, which for the Tindell family was technology and the arts. Years of experience allowed Dawson to recognize the importance of listening to families and their needs.

“I used observation to make discoveries about the patients and to open the lines of communication,” she says. “I learned how the small things in life are what are really important. I enjoyed working with this family and loved how they embraced the foundation of occupational therapy.”

The feelings are mutual. Tindell, so impressed by Dawson’s work, wrote a letter to Gentiva Home Health explaining her family story and appreciation for Dawson and occupational therapy.

“She took the time to share herself in her work, and now we all have a better understanding of occupational therapy,” Tindell wrote. “She has touched our lives in a way that every clinician should. It’s not about learning skills to return to work, it’s teaching the skills in such a way that one can get on with the business of living. It’s about learning the skills to return to life.”

For the Tindells, Dawson is more than a mother, wife, occupational therapist, Floridian, caregiver, great listener, and clinician of the year – she is a gift of hope.

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