This Old House

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The University’s newest graduate program in occupational therapy is set to begin with the first cohort in June. Students can complete Arkansas’ only master’s program in two years, allowing them to enter the workforce sooner and helping address a shortage of health care professionals across the state. 

In addition to classroom and office space in the newly renovated Health Sciences Building South Main Campus on Main Street in Searcy, a house on campus is being remodeled to simulate a typical Arkansas home where students can practice hands-on skills in a real-world setting. Located at 609 E. Center St., it previously housed offices such as parking and transportation and student health services, but in the late 1980s it was home to Arvis Ganus, younger brother of President Clifton L. Ganus Jr. 

Due to epilepsy, a childhood accident and surgery, Arvis suffered brain trauma that affected his intellectual development. Despite this disability, the family provided ways for him to participate in normal life. Young Clifton included Arvis in all his activities — even taking him to boy scout camp though Arvis was not a scout — so he would never feel limited. Arvis was especially quick with arithmetic, and his parents gave him a job in their restaurants in New Orleans so he would have a role to play in the family business.

After their parents died, Arvis was cared for by his brother James and sister-in-law Doris for several years before he moved to Searcy in 1987. Living on Harding’s campus gave him a community as well as independence, and he enjoyed taking walks and getting to know students and faculty. He lived in the home until his death in 1993. 

When the faculty discovered this house had already served many occupational therapy needs, though unofficially, it seemed like the perfect fit.

“I was thrilled at the prospect of utilizing this home for contextual learning,” assistant professor Melodie Mauney said. “The historical connection with the Ganus family enriches our connection to the Harding community, merging past and present, theory and practice while creating an immersive and inspired educational experience.”

Occupational therapists provide independence for their patients, helping them learn or regain skills or make modifications to their spaces that facilitate normal activities. They help increase patients’ quality of life, give them a sense of purpose and support their dignity. 

In the same way the Ganus family and Harding community included Arvis in daily activities and helped him live a mostly independent life with dignity, the occupational therapy program seeks to train students who will serve their communities with compassionate and competent care. 

 

Check out our occupational therapy program on KATV!

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