Barbara J. Hemphill

Photo of Barbara J Hemphill.Commitment to occupational therapy and dedication to integrating the practices of OT with those of mental health make Barbara J. Hemphill-Pearson a maverick in the profession. 

Hemphill earned a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from the University of Iowa, a master's degree from Colorado State University and a Doctor of Ministry from Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, Mich. During her career, she practiced OT and taught as an assistant professor at Cleveland State University and an associate professor at Western Michigan University. 

"One thing that is most important," says Hemphill, "is you have to have a mission. From the time I was a student, I had a commitment to the profession." She is also passionate about the relationship between mental health and OT.  She believes it's a neglected area of research, despite the fact that psychological disorders can greatly impact physical function—a primary concern of OT. 

While at Cleveland State University and Western Michigan University, Hemphill promoted student attendance at OT conferences. "Whenever I can," says Hemphill, "I encourage students to get to a conference, present and share their experience with others.  I try to encourage this because I think it is an important part of being a professional."

In 2006, Hemphill established the Barbara J. Hemphill Endowment for Student Professional Development and the Barbara Jo Hemphill Endowed Student Book Fund.  She says the inherent goal of the scholarships is to encourage commitment to the profession, which begins at the student level and continues throughout an individual's professional life. The endowments support students who attend conferences, encourage research in mental health and assist with educational expenses. 

Today, she continues to practice OT in Kalamazoo, present at conferences and publish books and articles in professional literature. Hemphill's expertise has led to the recent government appointment to the Michigan Board of Occupational Therapy.