Thomas Fisher, PhD, OTR, CCM, FAOTA, named one of the 100 Most Influential People in occupational therapy during its first century as a profession, will become the new dean of the Vera Z. Dwyer College of Health Sciences at Indiana University South Bend in July. “There are a lot of good things happening in the Dwyer College and IU South Bend,” Fisher commented. “I’m excited and honored to be a part of it.”
Fisher has nearly 20 years of experience in higher education, most recently as professor and chair of occupational therapy at the Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) since 2003. After choosing to pursue a deanship, he received three offers, but decided to remain in the Indiana University system. “IU is the right fit for me. I am an alumnus and lifetime member of the IUAA,” he commented. “IU’s goal is to have a strong health presence in its communities. Partnering with the IU School of Medicine–South Bend, the Dwyer College has an opportunity to contribute to this initiative in the Michiana region.”
Trained as an occupational therapist, Fisher is the first non-nursing practitioner to lead the Dwyer College, which includes the School of Nursing, Radiological Sciences, Dental Education, Clinical Laboratory Science, and Health Sciences. “My job will be to provide the leadership and administrative vision for the Dwyer College, while supporting the IU South Bend Strategic Plan,” he said.
In addition to 14 years at IUPUI, Fisher also held faculty positions at the College of Health Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University and the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky. Moreover, Fisher has 18 years of experience as a practicing occupational therapist, case manager, and director of rehabilitation services.
Fisher earned his PhD in Educational Psychology and his Educational Specialist degree in Educational and Couseling Pyschology from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He received a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in Educational Psychology from Purdue University and a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis. He is also a certified case manager, with a small practice managing cases of persons with traumatic brain injuries.
According to Fisher, the movement in health science education is toward interprofessional training. “The nutritionist, the occupational therapist, the nurse, the medical student all learn with each other and from each other in a more structured learning experience,” he explained. He likes that Dwyer College is wanting to move in this direction too.
Fisher also appreciates the welcoming atmosphere at IU South Bend. “Throughout the interview process, I experienced Hoosier hospitality. It was well organized, and the people I met were all very warm and inviting. It was an atmosphere I was seeking.”