Dr. Coker-Bolt begins Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award Program at University of the Southern Caribbean

Center for Global Health
May 03, 2022

Headshot of Patty Coker-BoltDr. Patricia Coker-Bolt, Ph.D., Professor of Occupational Therapy in the College of Health Professions, is currently in Saint Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago, where she will begin her Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC). Dr. Coker-Bolt was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award in the fall of 2021 to expand service-learning programs, support graduate occupational therapy (OT) education, and mentor junior faculty in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT).

Working with the University of the Southern Caribbean will not be Dr. Coker-Bolt's first Fulbright experience. She has won numerous Fulbright Awards for global health programs. In 2016, she was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Award to consult in curriculum development and matching international faculty experts to teach course content on the first Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy educational programs in Haiti. In 2019, she was awarded a second Fulbright Specialist Award to help build capacity for adaptive sports activities for adults and children with disabilities at the Volga Region State Academy of Physical Culture, Sport, and Tourism in Kazan, Russia.

Dr. Coker-Bolt has not only been recognized for global work but was also nominated for the 2022 Educator, Mentor Clinical/Professional Award for the MUSC Health Science Foundation and in 2019 was awarded the MUSC College of Health Professions Distinguished Alumnus Award. She began teaching Occupational Therapy for the MUSC College of Health Professions in 2001 and is the Curriculum Coordinator for Occupation Therapy entry-level programs at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Her work with programs abroad often utilizes this experience in curriculum design. 

Students work with local healthcare professionals in Vietnam. 
MUSC Health Professions students watch a demonstration with Vietnamese health professionals.

Dr. Coker-Bolt's research focuses on infant and childhood development, specifically various forms of intensive therapy models for infants and children with congenital or acquired hemiplegia, cardiac defects, and autism. Through work, she also looks for ways to help her community. In 2011, she received the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF)/Patterson Foundation Award for Community Volunteerism. Developing critical thinking skills in students through community-based learning is a critical part of her academic focus. Her global health research has provided MUSC College of Health Professions students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in health care abroad.

From 2016 to 2019, Dr. Coker-Bolt worked in Vietnam as a consultant on a US Agency for International Development-funded grant with Humanity & Inclusion to develop and publish rehabilitation guidelines for the care of children with cerebral palsy. This project not only involved training workshops for Vietnamese therapists on new evidence-based practices but also provided an opportunity for MUSC students to collaborate with local Vietnamese professionals on therapeutic techniques for children. 

Volunteers and students work with Days for Girls in Haiti. 
MUSC students assist with the Days for Girls program in Haiti.

Passion for global health research is evident not only in her numerous Fulbright Awards but also through research supported by MUSC Center for Global Health Faculty Pilot Research Grants. In 2016, she received a grant for her project "Menstrual Education and Personal Hygiene Supplies to Empower Young Women in Haiti" with the goal of translating the Days for Girls International program for menstrual education and feminine hygiene education into a program appropriate for Haiti, potentially improving the lives of hundreds of women throughout the country. Providing another opportunity for local training, MUSC Health Professions students were on-site to assist with the program and learn from Haitian colleagues and the community. 

The Center for Global Health asked Dr. Coker-Bolt to reflect on her experience in global health research.


Tell us about your Fulbright Scholar Award project.

The aims of my Fulbright U.S. Scholar proposal are to expand service-learning programs, support graduate occupational therapy (OT) education, and mentor junior faculty in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC). The MSOT is the only graduate program in the Caribbean region approved by the World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT). The program is one of the main institutions in the region where faculty from other surrounding Caribbean, Central American, and South American OT programs can receive a graduate OT degree. For this reason, the MSOT program at USC plays a critical role in increasing the quality of OT education in this region of the world. The MSOT program strives to “promote social justice by enabling people to participate as valued members of society despite diverse or limited occupational potential”. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar award will allow for the exchange of educational innovations while establishing a sustainable, long-term professional connection between MUSC and the highly regarded Trinidad graduate OT program.

What sparked your interest in working on global health issues? 

Dr. Patty Coker Bolt treating Ethiopian patients with cerebral palsy 
Dr. Coker-Bolt works with a patient in Uganda.

My first international experience occurred in 2004 when I was a member of a healthcare team providing services to children who lived in orphanages in a rural area of South Africa. I realized during this experience, and many others since that time, that I enjoyed working alongside my international colleagues to support and help improve the quality of life of adults and children in underserved areas of the world.

Why do you believe it is important to study global health?

The pandemic has shown us that health care crises will cross international borders. Global health can refer to any health issue or concern that impacts many countries and being a global citizen involves supporting global health solutions to critical health care problems. I feel we have obligations to improve health and health equity for and with one another in the U.S and abroad.

What would you say to students or colleagues who may have an interest in working on global health issues?

I believe it is important to understand the current needs of populations and communities in underserved areas and to work with in-country collaborators to support and enhance healthcare for those in need. It is important to build long-lasting relationships with providers in other countries. You should be prepared to listen and learn from your in-country collaborators to develop and deliver successful programs in other countries.

What do you find most impactful about traveling and working abroad?

I have gained valuable knowledge during my international work which has increased my understanding of the impact of culture, traditions, and value systems on the education of future practitioners and the delivery of quality healthcare services in other countries.

Learn about the global health opportunities available in the MUSC College of Health Professions and funding opportunities through the MUSC Center for Global Health.