Think Tank Invites von der Heyde


ST. LOUIS — Think tanks often are associated with military or government policy matters. But a renowned group of hand therapists has formed their own think tank and they have asked Rebecca von der Heyde, OTR/L, CHT, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Maryville University, to join them for a two-day summit later this year.

von der Heyde has become more prominent in the field of hand therapy over the past several years through her numerous humanitarian trips to Guatemala to help treat children with congenital hand conditions, serving as an affiliate director on the board of the American Association of Hand Surgery, and her presentations on hand therapy theory and practice at national and international conferences. Through these activities, she has met many of the most respected hand therapists in the United States, many of whom comprise the membership of the Hand Therapy Think Tank. “I feel like a rookie member. These are people I consider to be role models,” von der Heyde says.

She is one of 20 hand therapists who have been invited to spend two days with the Think Tank in September in Ithaca, N.Y. Ithaca is the home of Cornell University but von der heyde said the organization has no connection to that university or any other academic or professional organization. “That’s one thing that’s so appealing about this group,” she remarked. “It’s free of politics and other bureaucratic limitations. It’s an opportunity for hand therapists to check their egos at the door and say to the others gathered, ‘Here’s the work I’m doing, here’s what the literature says, what do you think?'” The group plans to specifically address the topic of osteoarthritis of the hand, von der Heyde added.

She says that with the American healthcare system operating more and more like a business model, it’s imperative for those in the field of hand therapy, as well as in all areas of rehabilitative care, to offer evidence to insurance companies and government programs like Medicare that their practices are based on well-documented, empirical studies. “Frankly, we (hand therapists) have been behind the 8-ball in this area,” she commented. “We need to research the efficacy of our interventions, contribute to the publication of therapeutic outcomes, and continue to increase standards of practice in hand therapy.”

Maryville University is a private institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,422 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers. Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.