CFOT Awards at OTAC

2018 CFOT Humanitarian Award Vijay Gupta

2018 Humanitarian Award

Vijay Gupta is a violinist, speaker, and advocate for the power of music to change lives. He joined the LA Philharmonic in 2017 at 19 after completing a Masters in violin performance from the Yale School of Music, and a Bachelor’s in biology from Marist College. He served as a member of the First Violin section through 2018. As a 2011 TED Senior Fellow, he founded and serves as the Artistic Director of Street Symphony, a non-profit organization dedicated to placing music at the heart of social justice, engaging communities in greater Los Angeles experiencing homelessness and incarceration through musical performance and dialogue. In 2017, Mr. Gupta was awarded the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement award by the Longy School of Music of Bard College, and he was named a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. Vijay Gupta believes that musical engagement reconnects us to our shared humanity across vast divides, and ultimately impacts social justice. In addition, he was selected as a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow honoree.


Mr. Gupta’s schedule prevented him from attending the CFOT Awards Luncheon and Symposium to accept the award in person. Accepting this award on behalf of Vijay Gupta and Street Symphony was Benjamin Shirley, who shared his inspiring story of how Mr. Gupta and Street Symphony impacted his life, which led him to become a First Composer Fellow, and now Street Symphony's Co-Composer in Residence. It was an honor to present this award to Vijay Gupta and Street Symphony, and to share with the OT community the important work he and his organization does through the power of music, connection, and service to change the lives of others.

2018 CFOT Honored Lecturer Jerilyn (Gigi) Smith, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

2018 Honored Lectureship

The Power of Selective “Yes”


Dr. Smith has been an occupational therapist for over 35 years. She received her bachelor’s degree and post professional master’s degree in occupational therapy from San Jose State University (SJSU) and earned her PhD in Health Sciences from Touro University International.


Dr. Smith is highly regarded in her roles at the SJSU Occupational Therapy Program. As Associate Professor there, she teaches courses in practice areas, professional development, and research; and serves as a faculty advisor for student research projects. She is also the Graduate Admissions Coordinator and Advisor for the Occupational Therapy Program, and she sits on multiple committees at the university, college, and departmental levels.

Dr. Smith has written several chapters in well-respected occupational therapy textbooks. She has lectured locally, nationally, and internationally on various topics, but most extensively on occupational therapy’s role in dysphagia intervention. Dr. Smith has been an active member of both the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) since the time she was a student, serving on many different committees and in multiple leadership roles. Currently she is serving as the OTAC secretary. Her clinical experience includes working with adults with neurological disorders in a variety of practice settings and she currently works with children birth-3 years old in early intervention home care.


For those of you who did not attend the CFOT Symposium and Awards Luncheon, Dr. Smith has provided a synopsis of her presentation, The Power of Selective “Yes.”

“The theme of this year’s OTAC conference is “Building OT Capacity.” Capacity building is the process by which we obtain, improve and retain the skills, knowledge, tools and other resources needed to do our jobs competently or to a greater capacity.


“I would like to share some of my personal experiences of how saying “yes” has helped me to build my professional and personal capacity."


“My talk today is about Selective Yes, Mindful Yes, Thoughtful Yes. Yeses that spark curiosity or that generate a desire to do something that you never thought you would do. Things that will enrich you as a person and as an occupational therapist."


“It is the fear of the unknown that often leads us to say “no” without considering what saying “yes” might have to offer. Often by saying no to opportunities, we reject many of life’s brilliant chances to experience something new and possibly incredible. There is no perfect timing for saying yes. Opportunity does not wait for perfect timing."


“By saying yes, we invite possibility into our lives as well as allow ourselves the ability to learn what we are capable of and just how far we can go. Yes leads to more doors opening."


“We have a professional responsibility to be actively informed. We have powerful professional organizations that work to protect our practice and our clients. We must all say yes in some way to support these organizations that work so hard to protect us, our profession and our clients."


"Say YES to opportunities to attempt something new that you haven’t tried before. Say YES to possibilities for new adventures, challenges, and experiences. Say YES to things that help you learn something new about yourself, about others, and about life. Say YES to building friendships and connections with people you don’t yet know. Find a way to say yes."


“Yes is a tiny word that can bring big things into your life.”


Congratulations, Dr. Smith, and thank you for your inspiring and timely message.

2018 CFOT Meritorious Award Dottie Ecker, OTR, FAOTA - Photo by Nate Jensen

2018 CFOT Meritorious Service Award

CFOT presented the Meritorious Service Award to Dottie Ecker, MA, OTR, FAOTA, for her many years of service as the Nominations / Awards Chair on the CFOT board. She has contributed much to the Foundation and the profession, not only in this role, but as a practitioner, mentor to students, and clinical faculty member at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She has also served on boards of professional organizations throughout her career and received the OTAC OT Practice and Lifetime Achievement Awards; the AOTF A. Jean Ayres Award; and is on the AOTA Roster of Fellows. Dottie is also known for her smile and sense of humor, and her passion for birding. Our congratulations to Dottie, with much appreciation for her dedication and service to CFOT and the profession!


CFOT was proud to award $20,000 in scholarships, $3,000 in traineeships, $1,000 in research, and $1,500 in seed money requests for a total of $25,500! This was possible because of the support and contributions from California OT practitioners and others throughout the year, and the fundraising activities at conference, the silent auction and raffles at the CFOT booth, and the challenge board moving through exhibit hall. Michele Berro, Bonita Kraft, and Linda Florey matched amounts up to $500.


A huge thank you to the conference attendees who made donations as we gained a total of $3,300. Thank you also to those contributing a named scholarship or research grant and to everyone contributing auction items to our fundraising efforts. CFOT acknowledges and appreciates the dedication, support, and generous giving we have received over the past 37 years and we look forward to your continued support to promote research and the value of occupational therapy as CFOT moves forward with its mission.


In 2016, CFOT embarked on a plan to ensure that it can continue to provide scholarships and support OT researchers in California and enhance its growth to advance and promote the profession of occupational therapy into the future.


If you would like to join the CFOT Legacy Circle, make a contribution of $2,500 — in installments over five years or as a lump sum, and you will be recognized as Charter Members of the CFOT Legacy Circle and continue to receive special commendation by CFOT.


The contributions in the endowment fund are invested so they grow in value each year. The earnings from these investments may be used each year to support California OT practitioners and students with scholarships and/or research funds, or it may be reinvested for added growth. Please join the pioneers who have started the Legacy Circle with a full contribution.


Charter members of the CFOT Legacy Circle:

Michele Berro
Linda Florey
Evelyn Jaffe
Susan Knox
Bonita Kraft
Bonnie Nakasuji
Heidi Pendleton
Shawn Pbipps
Winifred Schultz-Krohn      
Julie Shaperman



  • Janice Matsutsuyu Scholarship
    Nensha Kamara – Samuel Merritt University
    David Saldana – University of Southern California
  • Jaffee Graduate Scholarship
    Prisca Wu – University of Southern California
  • Knox-Kirsch Scholarship
    Kacie Conn – San Jose University
  • Ardith Breton Scholarship
    Erin Lubniewski – San Jose State University
  • Fred Sammons Scholarship
    Elissa Lee – University of Southern California
    Callie Woods – Cal State University Dominguez Hills
  • North Coast Medical Scholarships
    Jessalyn Gagui – Samuel Merritt University
  • Wilma West Scholarship
    Darla Gary – San Jose State University
  • Dr. Martin Shaperman Scholarship
    Niki Peterson – University of Southern California
  • Michele Berro Scholarship in memory of Mary Ann Epstein
    Tracy Tang – University of Southern California
  • Every Child Achieves, Inc. Scholarship
    Madeline Horn – San Jose State University
  • Fran k J. Biehl Opportunity Scholarship
    Kimiko McNeil – San Jose State University
  • Chuck Strauch Scholarship
    Danielle McCullough – University of Southern California



  • Janice Matsutsuyu Traineeship
    Sherry Younsei, - CBD College
  • Los Angeles Consultants Group Traineeships
    Chaztel Bonifiacio – Sacramento City College
    Jikko del Rosario – Stanbridge University
    Amanda Martin – Gross mont College
  • CFOT Traineeships
    Breana Fulinara – American Career College
    Lindsey Sambar – Santa Ana College


  • Luis Arabit Research Grant in memory of Consuelo and Marialuz Arabit
  • Jean Koketsu, OTR, OTR/L
    “A description of pre-sleep routines of adults using graphic and Interview methods”
    University of Eastern Kentucky
  • Dominique Comot, MA, OTR/L
    “Improving oral health among underserved minority populations in Los Angeles: Exploring oral health knowledge, attitudes, and practices among Latino and African-American parents and caregivers of children with and without autism”
    University of Southern California
A previous research grant recipient with her poster presentation


  • Lily Nichols & Alyssa Moore
    “The effects of a simulation laboratory experience compared to didactic teaching on interdisciplinary social problem solving in graduate school occupational therapy students”
    San Jose University
  • Yasaman Danesh-Panahi, Jaclyn Nemzek, Tanya Ruangtragool, Deborah Haratoonian, Jennifer Yim, & Tiffany Lua
    “Validating the occupational therapy homeschool screening checklist (OTHSC): A pilot study”
    Loma Linda University
  • Rachel Bishop, Kacie Conn, Kaylene de Bord, Darla Gary, & Samantha Santos
    “The experience of homeless mothers in an occupational therapy leisure craft group”
    San Jose University
  • Megan Karpf, Brianca Hutchins, Morgan Jardon, Molly Jow, & Tiffany Yu
    “How do mothers of preterm infants perceive their competence in meeting infants’ occupational needs upon arrival home following an extended neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay?”
    San Jose State University
  • Anna Ghezzi, Nicole Gorman, Susan Hannibal, & Hallie Hicks
    “Infant massage for stress reduction among homeless mothers”
  • Eddie Chu, MA, OTS
    “Measuring executive function: Reliability and validity of the Weekly calendar planning activity (WCPA) in college students”
    University of Southern California


Enhancing Quality and Knowledge of Occupational Therapy Services Through Support of Occupational Therapy Research and Educational Endeavors

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