Susan (Sue) Coppola

CB #7122 UNC Chapel Hill
321 S. Columbia Street
Bondurant Hall- Room 2050
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7122

Phone:  919-966-9006

Fax: 919-966-9007


Faculty rank

Clinical Professor (May 2012- present)

Clinical Associate Professor (July 2002 – May 2012)

Clinical Assistant Professor (July 1996-June 2002)

Academic Fieldwork Coordinator (July 1996-2019)


Board Certification in Gerontology (2000-2018)

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Licensed Occupational Therapist (July 1985 – Present)

North Carolina Board of Occupational Therapy #202 NDT Certification: Adult Hemiplegia (May 1989)

Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association


Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy – 2017 Doctoral Project: Development of a Humanities-Informed Occupational Therapy Course on Aging Boston University, Boston, MA

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy – 1985 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Thesis: Current practice of occupational therapists in augmentative communication

Bachelor of Science in Education – 1979 Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York Special Education Interrelated Program

Personal statement

I am fascinated by questions about human occupation, and the complexity of human transactions. Why, when, where and how do meaningful occupations:

  • build our unique identities and sense of purpose?
  • connect us to other people and create supportive communities?
  • form routines and habits that orient us in time and place?
  • enable us to participate, adapt and survive within our environments?
  • promote our health, wellbeing and functional capacity?

Occupational therapy uses the power of occupation to bring about desired change. Essential features of best practice are: occupation-centered approaches, collaboration with clients, synthesis of evidence, and ethical reasoning.  Seeing the profession from many perspectives (staff therapist, administrator, consultant, teacher, researcher)  and in practice contexts from rural to urban, individual to community, and local to international contexts has built my passion for the profession.

Aging is also my passion, from individual experiences of aging to the demographic imperative of our aging societies. My dream is for a society that:

  • engages the wisdom and talents of older adults.
  • builds inclusive enviroments for active participation and social connections.
  • offers dynamic networks of culturally meaningful services that promote health, wellbeing and dignity in late life.

Courses (Current)

OCCT 736 – OT Practice Environments. Pragmatic reasoning guides the study of practice settings. Students explore regulatory, ethical, fiscal, and cultural contexts of practice. Provides generalist information and exposure to a variety of traditional and non-traditional practice contexts locally and internationally.

OCCT 729 – Perspectives on Health and Disability and Older Adults. Changes in late life health and occupations are integrated with humanities-based, inter-professional, and practice-based learning experiences. This multi-focal approach informs the science and art of practice for client-centeredness, critical thinking, and satisfaction in aging practice. This advanced course builds upon fieldwork, coursework and a companion course on aging.

OCCT 773 – Life Course III and Practice in Aging – Problem Based Learning- Facilitator/Instructor

OCCT 720 A&B- Clinical Fieldwork – Curriculum themes are put into practice in 12 week Fieldwork II experiences in practice settings. Development of non-traditional clinical sites has expanded services to under-served individuals and developed job opportunities for students upon graduation. International fieldworks have included: South Africa, Denmark, England, Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, and Thailand.


Associate Editor. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research (OTJR) American Occupational Therapy Foundation. (2015-present)

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) WFOT Programme Coordinator, Research (2014-2016)

USA Delegate to the WFOT ( 2010-2015) WFOT –Deputy Coordinator for International Cooperation Programme (2012-2014)

Contributor to Position Statements: Telehealth, End of Life, and others (2010-2016)

Committee to Develop Occupational Therapy in Developing Countries (2010-2012) Non-Governmental Organizations committee (2010-2012)

Projects to develop OT education programs in Malawi, Haiti, Guyana (2011-present)

WFOT Constitution review committee (2017-present)

American Occupational Therapy Association; Member (1985-present)

USA Delegate to the World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) (2010-2015)

Advisory Council Member, Gerontology Education and Research, Board (2008-2010) Advisory Group, Evidence-Based Literature Review – Productive Aging (2008-2009)

Advisory Committee Member, STATS Medicare Outpatient Billing (2008-present)

Chair, Board Certification in Gerontology Panel (2004-2007)

Chair, Expert Panel for AOTASB to study Board Certification in Geriatrics (2003-2004)

UNC Chapel Hill Ackland Art Museum Academic Advisory Committee (2015 – 2021)

Provost’s International Affairs Advisory Council (2015- present) Literature, Medicine, and Culture Advisory Board (2016- 2018)

UNC Association of Women Faculty and Professionals – Board of Directors (2011-2016) President (2014-2015) Vice President (2013-2014)

Research/Clinical interests

  • Preventive Home Visits for Older Adults
  • Interdisciplinary Teamwork in Gerontology
  • Fieldwork in Occupational Therapy
  • Cross-cultural and International practice
  • Community Based Services and Rehabilitation

Training Grants

Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), (2015 – 2018) “Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program” Award Number Grant 6U1QHP28733-01, Grant – $2,550,000. (5% Salary Support)

PI Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD. Falls: An interdisciplinary feasibility study of older adults’ experience telling fall narratives. (2015-2016).

PI Jane Thrailkill, Mellon Grant. Duke University- Andrew W Mellon Foundation. (14-MF-1085). ($60,000) Co-Investigator $6,000.

Writing Diabetes: An Interdisciplinary Collaboration Examining the Significance of Illness Essays for Patients, Clinicians, and Researchers. (2015-2016) PI Jane F. Thrailkill, English & Comparative Literature. UNC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research – Fostering Interdisciplinary Research Explorations (FIRE) Grant. $25,000. Consultant. Preparing Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists for Working in Teams: Focus on High Need Socio-culturally Diverse Children with Disabilities and Their Families (2012-2016) PI Elizabeth R. Crais, PhD; US Department of Education. $971,490. Co-Investigator 5% annually

Recent publications

Coppola, S., Miao, A. F., Allmendinger, C., & Zhang, W. (2017). Art in Occupational Therapy Education: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study of an Arts-Based Module. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 5(4), Article 8.

Mackenzie, L., Coppola, S., Alvarez, L., Cibule, L., Malsev, S., Loh, S.Y., Mlambo, T., Ikiugu, M., Pihlar, Z., Sriphetcharawut, S., Baptiste, S., Ledgerd, R. (2017). International occupational therapy research priorities: A Delphi study. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health 37(2), 72-81.

Alvarez, L., Coppola, S. (2017). International Practice: Ethics of Internationalization.

In J.B. Scott & S.M.Reitz (Eds.) Practical Applications for the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics (2nd Edition). Bethesda MD: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S. (2013). Deweyan educational philosophy in occupation-centered curricula. In M.P Cutchin and V.A. Dickie (Eds.), Transactional Perspectives on Occupation. New York: Springer (pp199-214).

Coppola, S., Elliott, S., Toto P. (2008). Strategies to Advance Gerontology Excellence (SAGE): Promoting Best Practice in Occupational Therapy. Bethesda: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S., Sakornsatian, S., Thongkuay, S., Trevittaya, P. (2012, November) Innovative practice in accessible and inclusive tourism. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin. 66, 43-46.

Sue Coppola