for Adaptive Athletes
Get My Job: Spotlight on Industrial Design and Occupational Therapy
In this Nexus series, Get My Job, we interview alumni and faculty from one of the University’s 160-plus undergraduate and graduate professional programs. The latest installment features Mike Avery, professor of industrial design and occupational therapy. He combined his two passions to develop Jefferson’s new advanced practice certificate in using design in healthcare delivery.
Describe your career path to land in your current position.
I began my career by studying landscape architecture as an undergrad at Rutgers University and working in urban design/planning for over two years. We worked closely with various stakeholders (the community, local government, architects and developers) to rebuild aging downtowns, clean up and develop brownfields, and create new urban neighborhoods.
From there, I earned my master’s in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where I focused both on the conceptual underpinnings of the field and worked with my hands (and computer) to make. After graduating, I opened a small design and digital fabrication shop where I continued to work with clients in the realization of built work—from small furniture pieces to midsized installations.
Wanting the work to have a larger impact on people’s lives, I focused on bringing design into the world of healthcare. By completing my master’s in occupational therapy at Jefferson and working in the field for the past few years, I’ve gained insights into the needs of patients, families and caregivers. Occupational therapy also has allowed me to meld my love for making with my interest in working with people.
Students interested in crossing between disciplines are naturally eager and passionate about the work. This leads to students who desire and thrive in collaborative environments and push each other to excel.
What are your core job responsibilities today?
I bring industrial design and occupational therapy together daily. This takes many forms, including teaching interdisciplinary undergrad and grad classes and developing Jefferson’s advanced practice certificate (APC) in using design in healthcare delivery. The APC provides practicing occupational therapy practitioners and other healthcare professionals with specific knowledge in design principles and a distinct skill set in design approaches and methods that will enhance their practice and expand interprofessional collaborative opportunities.
Also, in my professional practice, I train and work with practicing therapists to take the benefits of digital design and 3D printing into the clinic.
What do you love most about your job?
That’s easy: working with engaged students. I often find that students interested in crossing between disciplines are naturally eager and passionate about the work. This leads to students who desire and thrive in collaborative environments and push each other to excel. I enjoy fostering this type of environment and working with students as they learn new skills and gain a deeper appreciation for what each member of the team brings to the table.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Balancing time requirements of my various responsibilities, but this isn’t unique to my position. As students and professionals, we all juggle personal and professional goals and responsibilities.
Both the design and healthcare communities are filled with driven individuals who care about improving the lives of others.
What advice do you have for students?
Find the right people. Both the design and healthcare communities are filled with driven individuals who care about improving the lives of others. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the assistance and efforts of the people around me. To do this, however, you need to put in the time—put yourself out there, meet new people and take risks.
In line with this sentiment, I always advise students to do good work, care about the work they do and be nice. It sounds trite, but it’s true. People want to work with those who deliver what they say they will—when they say they will—and who are pleasant to interact with.
What do you imagine the future holds for someone in your field?
With health care changing (e.g., reimbursement models, population demographics and integration of technology), there are opportunities to craft new areas of expertise for occupational therapists and healthcare providers. While I have my personal areas of interest, I know plenty of other opportunities exist for driven providers who understand how to think differently about a problem and have the tools to generate, test and deliver innovative solutions.