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Lyla Spelbring Lectureship News and History

Keynote Speakers


2017:   Winnie Dunn Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA,  "When We Emphasize Strengths, Possibilities are Endless."

Abstract : There is an increasing focus on the power of considering people's strengths as we support them to live their best lives. We will explore the core concepts of a strengths based approach to serving others. We will hear from people who have conditions about how they see their own lives, and then we will review the evidence that supports a strengths-based approach. We will practice talking and writing in a way that reflects our focus on strengths while still being responsive to payers and those we serve. Strengths have the power to transform all of us; it's more fun this way!

Glen Gillin2016:  Glen Gillen, EdD, OTR, FAOTA, "Cutting Edge Occupational Therapy: Connecting Philosophy, Evidence and Practice"

Dr.  Gillen is an Associate Director, Professor of Regenerative and Rehabilitation Medicine (Occupational Therapy) at Columbia University Medical Center Programs in Occupational Therapy, Columbia University.  His lecture highlighted the progress that the occupational therapy profession has made in utilizing evidence to not only support our past and current professional philosophy but to inform practice as well. Barriers to using our philosophy and evidence to support practice were discussed. Finally, the reality of occupational therapy practice was described and critiqued.

2015:  Dr. Charles ChristiansenDr Charles Christiansen

Dr. Charles Christiansen is currently founder and principal of a life transition company based in Rochester, Minnesota. Prior to this he served as CEO of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation for seven years before retiring in June 2015. He academic career has spanned over 30 years and included roles as Provost, Vice-Provost, Dean, and Department Chair at several universities. He is a widely published author and editor of books as well as over 100 articles, chapters, editorials and abstracts. 





2014:  Dr. Betty Risteen Hasselkus,OTR, "Everyday Occupation:  The Heart of Research and Practice." 

Everyday occupation is increasingly being recognized as worthy of close attention, complex in its meanings, and of personal and social value in our own and our clients’ lives.  At the same time, occupational therapy and occupational science trends in the past decade have led to 1) enriched theories of occupation, 2) greater emphasis on globalization in the profession, 3) a gradual shift in our research, education and practice away from an almost exclusive focus on individuals to a more inclusive focus on family groups, communities and social systems, and 4) newly developing occupational concepts within the profession such as occupational deprivation and occupational injustice.  Using examples from her own research and practice, Dr. Hasselkus will probe into the meanings of these four trends and their potential to generate research ideas and new understandings of occupation and our work in the world of health care and well-being.


Dr Suzanne Peloquin

2013:  Dr. Suzanne Peloquin, OTR, "The Occupational Therapy Genius: Affirmations of Our Transcendent Ethos."

The guiding beliefs of the profession have led many occupational therapy practitioners to implement powerful examples of successful practice both across the world and over time. Stories drawn from those examples honor the profession’s ethos and showcase the genius of our practice. Hearing such stories can be an uplifting affirmation of our value and importance in the world. In the spirit of Lyla Mae Spelbring, this lecture offers such an affirmation.


2012:  Dr. Anne Fisher, OTRL "Realizing Lyla Spelbring's Legacy:  Being Occupation-Centered - Implementing Occupation-Based and Occupation-Focused Services."

Abstract: Since the beginning of our profession, engagement in occupation has been valued as our primary therapeutic agent as well as the goal of intervention. While there are few today who would not support this idea, we continue to struggle with implementing our beliefs through “what we do” and “how we do it”. Contributing to this problem is our failure to use terminology in a manner that clearly defines what and how we do what we do in occupational therapy research, education, and practice.

In this lecture, I will first discuss some key occupational therapy terms and propose that they represent an occupation-related taxonomy that we can use to more clearly define and describe for ourselves and others what we do and how we do it as occupational therapists. Then, with a goal of fostering critical self-reflection, I will go through the stages of the occupational therapy process outlined in the Occupational Therapy Intervention Process Model (OTIPM) and demonstrate how a more precise use of this occupation related taxonomy can facilitate maximizing the power of occupation in practice.

2011:  Dr. Carolyn Baum, "Discovering and Disseminating the Power of Occupation."

Abstract : This lecture will honor Lyla Spelbring, a professional that knew what needed to be done to improve the daily lives of people- engage them in occupation.  The knowledge and the language exists to conceptually ground occupation in health.  It is possible to describe what occupational therapists uniquely bring to the health care system.  “Our” time has come. Advances in knowledge and growth in the population with chronic diseases and disabilities demands a profession that helps people manage their own health needs and gives them the skills to maximize their ability to manage home, work and community lives. This was the dream of our early leaders, particularly the second generation of our field.  We had to get through the “objective” medical model phase- and now we are offering leadership to our health care systems to improve people’s lives and to build healthy communities because we bridge between biomedical and population health.


2011:  This year the Eastern Michigan University Occupational Therapy Program celebrated its 70th Anniversary with a two day event, which included an Alumni Cocktail Reception and a program of scholarly presentations which included the Inaugural Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Lectureship in Occupational Therapy.  The lectureship was named in honor of the late Dr. Spelbring, Professor Emeritus and former director of the Occupational Therapy Program, and was made possible by the efforts of a dedicated committee composed of alumni, faculty, students, and friends of the program.

With the fundraising efforts of the OT student body and the contributions of over 200 donors, over $30,000 was raised, making the endowment of the lectureship a reality. This lectureship will offer countless occupational therapists a means of enhancing their knowledge and strengthening their ties to both the program and university.

Lyla Spelbring

Lyla Spelbring, known as Spelly to her friends, was born and raised in Clinton, Illinois. At the age of 20, she knew she wanted to join the military. On her 21st birthday, November 10, 1943, Lyla joined the Marine Corps. As a member of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve she was stationed in Hawaii and was selected for advanced training in the motor transport school.  After six years in the Marine Corps, Lyla decided to use her GI bill. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Western Michigan University in 1951. Almost immediately after this, upon seeing a picture of a U.S. Army occupational therapist, she enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant implementing treatment programs for war veterans.  Lyla served 6 years in the Marines and a total of 21 years in the Army during World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam War. She retired from the Army in 1982 with the rank of Colonel.

She returned to Western Michigan University in 1959 to complete her Master’s degree in Education.. While working as the Director of the OT Program in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Lyla began a PhD program. She received her doctorate in Medical Care Organization in 1981 from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation “ Loss and Resumption of Role Activities Following Stroke ” is still cited today. Lyla left U of M to begin a career in academia at Eastern Michigan University. From 1974-1984, she served as the Director of the Occupational Therapy Program, the Director of Associated Health Professions, and Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

Lyla was the consummate professional. She lent her expertise to committees on the local, State, and National levels. Wherever she served, she made a difference. Her work was acknowledged through numerous awards. Dr. Spelbring was named a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1973, and in 1971 she received the Award of Merit. In 2002, Western Michigan University’s Department of Occupational Therapy inducted her into the Outstanding Alumni Academy.

In retirement, Lyla remained an active member of her community, engaging in meaningful occupations and spending time with friends and family. She loved genealogy and in 2010 she received the Lucy Mary Kellogg award from the Michigan Genealogical Council for her outstanding contributions. She also served as a volunteer driver for Livingston

County Catholic Social Services. Until her death in 2011, Lyla pursued life Lyla with vigor and enthusiasm, and she remained true to her favorite saying, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way”.


The Occupational Therapy Program is part of the School of Health Sciences, 313 Everett L. Marshall Building, 734.487.4096