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Clinical Professor, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Director of Global Partnerships, Department of Health Sciences, UNC School of Medicine

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



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

Current Courses

OCCT 902 – Philosophy of Research – Graduate seminar investigates various philosophical concepts guiding the scientific enterprise of academic research, particularly in health sciences disciplines in Western European traditions. Explores assumptions surrounding what things are known, the nature of things to be studied, and the methods used, as they relate to decisions about research design and methods. Participants identify underlying (and sometimes unexamined) belief systems in research conducted in their own and other disciplines. Attends to ethical considerations relative to conducting and disseminating research.

OCCT 736 – OT Practice Environments. Pragmatic reasoning guides the study of practice settings. Students explore regulatory, ethical, fiscal, policy and cultural contexts of practice. The course uses a systems perspective to read and analyze traditional and non-traditional practice contexts locally and internationally. Students engaged in interprofessional and intraprofessional learning experiences to shape team based communication and collaboration.

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 729 L – Inquiry based learning serves as methodology and outcome of this student facilitated lab that integrates aging courses in the semester. An evolving narrative of an intergenerational family in rural NC serves as a basis for learning about practice in aging informed by evidence and by principles of life course theory, transactional theory and critical theory. Faculty and PhD students collaborate to deliver this lab.


  • Carolina Performing Arts Faculty AdvisoryCommittee (2019-present)
  • Relational Leadership @ Carolina. Facilitator (2021)
  • UNC Ackland Art Museum Academic Advisory Committee (2015 – 2021)
  • Occupational Therapy Journal of Research (OTJR) American Occupational Therapy Foundation. Associate Editor. (2015-2020)
  • Southern Oral History & Medical Care Advisory Committee-(2018-2020)
  • World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) WFOT Programme Coordinator, Research (2014-2016)
  • USA Delegate to the WFOT (2010-2015)
  • WFOT –Deputy Coordinator, International Cooperation Programme (2012-2014)
  • Provost’s International Affairs Advisory Council/ Global Council (2015- 2021)
  • 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

  • Quality of life during chemotherapy for older adults
  • Arts and humanities-based pedagogy
  • Interprofessional Education and Practice in Aging
  • Philosophy of Research


National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) (3/9/2021-2/28/2023) “A Nurse-Led Palliative and Supportive Care Intervention for Newly Diagnosed Adults with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”, Grant Number: 1R34NR019131 – 01A1 – $388,750 . (Co-Investigator – 10% Salary Support) PI: Byrant, Ashley Leak

UNC Arts Across Ages. Carolina Seminar 2019-2020; 2020-2021; 2021-2022.  Brings together interdisciplinary faculty to build ideas, collaborations, and strategies for UNC students and older adults to share arts experiences and make connections with each other through the arts. Massey-Weatherspoon Fund. Role: Convener/ co-convener. $1600.

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

Edited Books

Barrett, K., Coppola, S., Alvarez, L. (2020). International Occupational Therapy: Strategies for Working and Learning Abroad. Bethesda: AOTA Press.

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

Book Chapters

Farias, L., Coppola, S., Krug, G., (in press). Transformational Learning Theory. In S. Taff, M. Ikiugu, N. Pollard,  and S.Kantartzis’s (Eds.)  Theories, Models, and Concepts in Occupational Therapy: Foundations for Sustaining the Profession. Slack Inc.

Farias, L., Coppola, S., Hooper, B.A. (in press).  Culture, Situated Assumptions, and Reasoning. In B.A.Schell and J.W. Schell’s (Eds.) Clinical and Professional Reasoning in Occupational Therapy. Third Edition. Baltimore: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

Coppola, S. & O’Neill. D. (in press). Arts, Humanities and Aesthetics in Occupational Therapy with Older Adults: An Aesthetic Lens on Practice. In K. Barney & M. Perkinson’s (Eds.) Occupational therapy with aging adults: Promoting quality of life through collaborative practice. Second Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Coppola, S., Gillen, G., Schell, B. (in press). Contemporary OT Practice: A Global Perspective. In In: G. Gillen, C. Brown, & E.Ramugondo, E. (eds.). Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, 14thEdition. Wolter Kluwer.

Coppola, S., Ledgerd, R. (in press). OT Professional Organizations. In G. Gillen, T. Brown, E.Ramugondo (Eds.) Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, 14thEdition. Wolters Kluwer. Philadelphia:

Coppola, S., Alvarez, L., Barrett, K. (2020). Occupation and intercultural practice. In K. Barrett, S. Coppola, & L. Alvarez (Eds.), International Occupational Therapy: Strategies for Working and Learning Abroad. (pp 1-12)  Bethesda: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S. & Shann, S. (2020). Global organizations, policies, and initiatives for disability rights and occupational therapy. In K. Barrett, S. Coppola, & L. Alvarez (Eds.), International Occupational Therapy: Strategies for Working and Learning Abroad. (pp13-26) Bethesda: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S. & Shann, S. (2020). International perspectives on public health and occupational therapy. In K. Barrett, S. Coppola, & L. Alvarez (Eds.), International Occupational Therapy: Strategies for Working and Learning Abroad. (pp27-42) Bethesda: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S. (2020). Designing collaborative formal education events with host country participants. In K. Barrett, S. Coppola, & L. Alvarez (Eds.), International Occupational Therapy: Strategies for Working and Learning Abroad. (pp123-138) Bethesda: AOTA Press.

Coppola, S. & Higgins, S. (2019). Fieldwork Education: New and Emerging Models to Support the Future of Healthcare.  In S. Taff, L.C. Grajo, & B Hooper (Eds.) Occupational Therapy Education: Past, Present, and Future. (pp. 201-212). SLACK, Inc.

Schell, B., Gillen, G., Coppola, S. (2019). Contemporary OT Practice: A Global Perspective. In B. Schell and G. Gillen (Eds.) Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, (13th ed., pp 56-70) Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Phipps, S. & Coppola, S. (2019). OT Professional Organizations. In B. Schell and G. Gillen (Eds.) Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy (13th ed., pp 71-83). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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 ed., 271-282). Bethesda MD: AOTA Press.

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

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Sanders, K., Busby-Whitehead, J. Coppola, S., Dews, D., Downey, C., Giuliani,C., Henage, C., Holliday, A., Mitchell, S., Palmer, C., Rosemond, C., Weil, A., Williams, S., and Roberts, E. (2022) An interprofessional experience preparing a collaborative workforce to care for older adults. Gerontology and Geriatrics Education.

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.

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.