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Connor named head of occupational therapy program

Expert in stroke recovery served on OT faculty from 2001 to 2014

April 2, 2019

Courtesy of Lisa Tabor Connor

Lisa Tabor Connor, PhD, noted for her extensive research into recovery from stroke, will be the next executive director of the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She will begin her new role July 1.

Connor currently is chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy and associate director of research programs at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. There, she built a new department and an OT doctoral program.

“I am excited to welcome such a proven leader to the school’s outstanding Program in Occupational Therapy,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor of medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “Dr. Connor’s extensive experience in research administration, interdisciplinary team development, research and clinical networking, and mentorship of student and junior faculty make her a wonderful match for leadership of our program.”

Connor is no stranger to Washington University, having served on the faculty from 2001 to 2014. In addition, she received a doctorate in experimental psychology and a master’s degree in occupational therapy (OT) from the university. She completed National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral fellowships at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Boston University.

“I am thrilled to be returning to my hometown to take the helm of the finest OT program in the country,” Connor said. “I look forward to building further on the program’s excellence at the dawn of its second century. I am especially grateful to Dr. Carolyn Baum, who has led the Program in Occupational Therapy since 1988. In that time, Dr. Baum has nurtured the educational, clinical and research programs with the highest possible standards of excellence and with indelible impact, as exemplified by the program’s No. 1 ranking nationally.”

With more than 25 years of experience as an educator and academic researcher, Connor is well-regarded for her research to understand the neural, behavioral and social determinants of stroke recovery, with a particular focus on people who lose the ability to speak and understand language, a condition called aphasia. Her early work focused on memory retrieval mechanisms and modifiers in healthy aging, as well as understanding, in older adults, declines in the ability to move from abstract concepts to spoken words.

As a faculty member at the School of Medicine, Connor worked with the lab of stroke rehabilitation expert Maurizio Corbetta, MD, a professor of neurology, on the use of neuroimaging to study mechanisms of language recovery in people with stroke and aphasia. Her research has led to new tools for assessing neurorehabilitation and for administering tests to people with aphasia, providing data for modeling recovery and community participation in stroke survivors, and optimizing the delivery of rehabilitation interventions.

The goal of Connor’s work is to create evidence-based, targeted interventions to enable stroke survivors to participate more fully in community life.

Connor is an internationally recognized speaker and has authored many peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. She has served as a consultant to several national programs in occupational therapy, and as a reviewer of journals focused on neurorehabilitation and speech-language pathology. She now serves on the executive committee of an NIH-funded interdisciplinary faculty training grant in neurorehabilitation.

Connor will take over for Carolyn Baum, PhD, the Elias Michael Director of the Program in Occupational Therapy. Baum, who has headed the 100-year-old program for 31 years, is stepping down from her post to focus on research.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.