Dr. Nicolaas van den Heever Receives OTAC Practice Award

Nicolaas van den Heever, West Coast University’s Dean of Occupational Therapy Program, Honored with Prestigious Statewide Award

Nicolaas van den Heever, OTD, BOT, OTR/L, founding dean and director of the Occupational Therapy Program, is this year’s honored recipient of the Occupational Therapy Association of California’s (OTAC) Practice Award.

On Oct. 23, 2014 Dr. van den Heever received the award which recognizes an OTAC member who has made “significant contributions to the advancement of occupational therapy in the areas of therapeutic practice, education, communication and/or community service.”

“This honor serves as confirmation of my years of leadership and advocacy for occupational therapy,” Dr. van den Heever said. “I believe it’s emblematic of my commitment to — and strong identification with — the field of OT.”

A Trailblazer in his Field

The first male occupational therapy graduate in his native South Africa, Dr. van den Heever has more than 32 years of experience in a variety of practice areas: from mental health, wellness, cognitive rehabilitation and to aging in place, to sensory integration, skilled nursing and community-based treatment — and in a wide range of practice settings: the military, rural villages in Africa and China (for the World Health Organization), large psychiatric hospitals and industrial units, orphanages, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and in private practice.

Before joining West Coast University in 2012, he spent three decades in the health care field as a clinician, consultant, rehabilitation director and hospital administrator; as a business development and marketing professional; and as a professor and department chair at the University of Western Cape in South Africa.

A Speaker and Advocate

Earning his post-professional occupational therapy doctorate from the University of St. Augustine, Dr. van den Heever has been an international, national and local speaker on the topics of rehabilitation for adults and children, stroke prevention, stroke and brain injury rehabilitation, and return-to-driving rehabilitation. Dr. van den Heever recently presented at the 16th International Congress of the World Federation of Occupational Therapy in Yokohama, Japan.

A board member of the California Foundation for Occupational Therapy (CFOT), he also served as a board member and regional director for OTAC. Currently he is the editor of the AOTA’s Administration and Leadership Special Interest Group quarterly.

Among his many accomplishments, Dr. van den Heever played a key role in founding the first multidisciplinary community-based OT curriculum and fieldwork training program in the world, securing a $1 million grant for a home-to-home survey of 250,000 households in a “squatter” community in South Africa. The result was multidisciplinary, community-based intervention programs that helped establish primary care services within this community.

“I trust this award will help move West Coast University ever closer to the forefront of occupational therapy education,” he said. “It’s indicative of the high level of quality and commitment our OT program brings to our students and to our community.”

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