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Michael Justiss
Michael D. Justiss, Ph.D., founding director of TCU’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.

Michael D. Justiss, Ph.D., has been hired as founding director for TCU’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program. 

The new OTD program will meet a critical need for rehabilitation professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, the state and the nation. There is an increasing and vital need for occupational therapists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported expected job growth of 17% over the next decade.

Occupational therapists treat the physical, mental, developmental and emotional ailments that impact an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks. This program will produce those future professionals and leaders who will take the Lead On helping people adapt to disabilities and challenges to live better lives. 

“My motivation as an occupational therapist and academic leader stems from the desire to help others, promote holistic health, advance knowledge and research, inspire and mentor future professionals, and advocate for social change,” said Justiss.

 Dr. Justiss has over 23 years of health professions experience with the last 18 years in academia. He is recognized nationally and internationally for his cognitive aging, human factors and gerontechnology research with over 35 peer-reviewed publications and numerous conference presentations and workshops. 

The opportunity to be part of an institution with strong directives supporting the development of teachers, scholars and practitioners within a diverse inter-professional dynamic toward inclusive excellence is what attracted Justiss to TCU. He will begin developing the program this July with the goal of welcoming its inaugural cohort in fall 2025. 

“This program will meet the needs of our students and alums, who have asked for more opportunities for graduate professional health care training at TCU,” explains Dr. Christopher R. Watts, the Marilyn & Morgan Davies Dean of Harris College.

“A substantial number of Harris College graduates go on to study occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and other graduate professional disciplines at universities other than TCU, so this program will allow them to continue their development at our Fort Worth campus.” 

Justiss’ recent human factors research investigated assessments for identifying deficits in driving-related skills and driving performance such as impaired and distracted driving; rehabilitation and intervention strategies to maintain driving independence using adaptive equipment and active safety technologies; and use of transportation alternatives when driving is no longer a safe option to maintain independent mobility and participation in society. 

Justiss received his Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences from the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida with a Graduate Certificate and Minor in Gerontology from the Center for Gerontological Studies. He received his primary clinical training in Pittsburgh, PA, with a Master of Occupational Therapy degree from Duquesne University and holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Neuroscience and Medical Technology (ASCP) from the University of Pittsburgh.