Sandra Pelham-Foster, OTD, MPA/HA, OTR/L

Phone Number: 

I was educated in South Africa receiving my bachelor of science in occupational therapy at the University of Witwatersrand, at a time when many changes were occurring around the world, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of the Apartheid System. Professors told us, at that time, that we would never be sorry that we have chosen occupational therapy as a career.

This has never been truer than in my life and my career. Occupational therapy has been the profession that made it possible for me to work and ultimately come to live in the United States. Occupational therapy has made it possible for me to experience incredible diversity across the world. In my work as an occupational therapist I have provided services to the rural people of Northeastern South Africa, implementing a World Health Organization mandate; I have worked with families in Oregon and Washington, in the metro areas, rural areas, and up and down the I-5 corridor. I have provided services to individuals and families who were adjusting to the changes within the logging industry here in the Northwest. More recently travelled to China to work with disabled children and provide staff training to hospital personnel.

I have made the Northwest my home. During this time I worked in the areas of physical disabilities, in local hospitals and skilled nursing rehab centers, the education system, school systems and early intervention programs.  In 1998 I transitioned to work in a local developmental and evaluation clinic for children. In 2001 I graduated from Portland State University College of Urban and Public Affairs with a degree of master's in public and health administration and in 2002 I opened a private practice, Optimum Performance Therapeutics, which I continue to run. During these years I developed a specialty focus in the area of pediatric feeding skills and development. This area of practice requires an understanding of family systems and emotional and psychosocial dynamics within a family and for the child. I have a continued interest in the mental and emotional health and wellbeing of both child and adolescent populations. I supervise innovative practice projects within the occupational therapy program developing services to this population.

During the past 20 years I have built relationships with people through the many places in which I have worked and committees and organization in which I have volunteered my time. These endearing relationships have provided me with an incredible network in the therapy community. This network has proved to be invaluable in my role as the academic fieldwork coordinator at Pacific University.

My work with Pacific University, Occupational Therapy Program started in the late 90s when I first became a fieldwork educator and supervised level I, level II and innovative practice students. I began directly working for Pacific University in 2002, serving as an adjunct professor teaching classes on the Profession of OT and later teaching the pediatric content in the curriculum.  I assumed the position of assistant professor, in the role of academic fieldwork coordinator in 2006. During this time I have worked to build bridges with community practitioners and the Pacific University School of Occupational Therapy. In the past four years I facilitated more adjunct teaching opportunities for practitioners within the program and doubled the fieldwork opportunities for students.  I have developed international fieldwork opportunities in six foreign countries.

I currently hold the position of the chair of the faculty of the College of Health Professions at Pacific University. I serve as the vice president of the Occupational Therapy Association of Oregon. I serve on the Oregon State Regional Committee for Orthopedic Impairments and more recently I have been invited to serve as a member on the NW Commission of Universities and Colleges Accreditation Committee. 

I coordinate the experiential program for 360 graduate students, in the newly designed and initiated College of Health Professions Inter Professional Course offered to all first year students within the college. I teach course on leadership, professional behaviors, and pediatric interventions. I teach and manage all the fieldwork seminar courses relating theory to clinical practice throughout the three years a student is in the program.

My research focus is the continued analysis and development of the transition from didactic to experiential learning of the student, as well as improvement in communication and supervisory skill development for students and practitioners. I continue to develop this focus in my role as an AOTA Trainer for the National Fieldwork Educator Training Program, initiated by AOTA in 2009.

In my personal time, I enjoy outdoor activities; I am an avid gardener and enjoy landscape development. I am a very creative person involving myself in many home and self-help projects as well as hand arts, often making items rather than buying them. Occupational Therapy is more than a career for me, it is a way of life.


2001 | Master's, Public Administration/Health Administration, Portland State University, Ore.

1989, B.S., Occupational Therapy, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Recent Accomplishments/Awards

2004 | Service Award; OTAO

2003 | Occupational Therapy Month; Mentor Award; Providence Health System

2002 | Presidential award for special recognition to an occupational therapist; OTAO

2001 | Service award; OTAO

2001 | Recognition for going "above and beyond" to promote the profession of Occupational Therapy; OTAO

2000 | Clinician of the Year, Pacific University

2000 | Service award; OTAO

1999 | Service award; OTAO

1999 | Special recognition for high quality specialized multidisciplinary care to children with special needs; Providence Health System

1998 | Service award; OTAO

1997 | Service award; OTAO

1996 | Service award; OTAO

1995 | Certificate of Excellence; Flexibility above and beyond the call of duty; Providence Health System

1994 | Service award; OTAO

Office Location: 
Health Professions Building 2 365
Area of Study I Teach (Graduate/Professional):