Dr. Jon Edenfield Earns University of St. Augustine’s Health Sciences 20th Anniversary Occupational Therapy Professional Program Award
By Christina Swanson
Out of 1,400 occupational therapy graduates from the University of St. Augustine for Health Science’s (USAHS) Occupational Therapy (OT) Program — 20 years’ worth — one graduate stood out from all the rest. DR. JON EDENFIELD OTD, OTR/L, founder and director of Great Strides Rehabilitation Center in Mandarin, was presented with the 20th Anniversary Occupational Therapy Professional Award from the university’s Board of Directors for his outstanding commitment to the occupational therapy profession in leadership, advocacy, service, scholarship, mentorship and innovation.
Edenfield and his family were flown out to Carlsbad, CA, to receive this one-time award in celebration of the 20th anniversary of occupational therapy at the university, and the 100th anniversary of occupational therapy as a profession.
After earning his undergraduate degree in OT at the University of Florida, Edenfield attended and completed his masters at USAHS when the OT program was in its infancy, graduating in 2000 where he was presented with the outstanding OT student award. After working with special needs children he saw that most require multiple types of therapies with specialists typically at different locations. That’s when Edenfield created Great Strides — a comprehensive rehabilitation center for children – providing unique interdisciplinary teams of specialists at one rehab and special education facility so parents can meet their child’s varied needs in one location. He also earned his doctorate from USAHS, researching his capstone project for three years, titled “Pilot Study: The physiological effects of animal assisted therapy on children with autism spectrum disorder.”
This pilot study was based on working with Nantuckett, after he completed the year-long process of acquiring and learning how to work with a service dog. “We came to the conclusion that having children interact with the dog before their sessions, whether therapy or educational, meant they would be more alert and receptive to learning and communicate and behave better,” said Edenfield.
In only 13 years, Great Strides has grown from a one-room space to a 19,000 square foot new building employing 85 specialists and assistants, helping children with disabilities from birth to 21-years-old. Great Strides also has after-school programs with speech, behavior and music therapies, with specialists also working with medically fragile daycares and schools.
“My biggest triumph is to take a family that has just found out that their child has been diagnosed with a disability, and give them a road map of help so they know that it is going to be OK,” said Edenfield. “Their life may be different than their original paradigm but they and their child are still going to have a good life.”
As Edenfield approached the podium, the USAHS presenter praised him for “upholding the legacy of the university with his innovative and broad range of programs helping special needs children.” The award ceremony also honored exceptional USAHS faculty.