Shirley O'Brien

Shirley O’Brien, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA

Foundation Professor and PPOTD Program Coordinator


  • B.S. Temple University
  • M.S. Rush University
  • Ph.D. University of Kentucky, Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation

Research/Academic Interests

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • School-based practice and pediatrics
  • Advocacy for children and families
  • The biological foundations of occupation
  • Interprofessional education


Dr. O’Brien’s work can be found in several journals including:
She has also co-authored books and book chapters including:
  • Carpenter, R., Gore, J., O’Brien, S., Fairchild, J. & Winslow, M. (2021). “Integrated Approaches for Supporting Academic Research: Models that Reveal the Future while Promoting Success.” In P. Blessinger and E. Sengupta (Eds.). The Future of Research: International Perspectives on Emerging Trends and Integrating Research-based Learning across the Curriculum. IHETL, V36, Emerald.
  • Schneck, C.M. & O’Brien, S. P. (2019). Assessment and Treatment of Educational Performance. In J.’O’Brien & H. Kulhanek (Eds.), Case-Smith's Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents, 8th ed. (pp 374-394). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
  • O'Brien, S. P. (Author) (2017). Faculty Perspectives of Teaching Online. In S. Thompson & P. Parry (Eds.), Coping with Gender Inequities (pp. 43-56). Baltimore, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
  • Shordike, A., O’Brien, S., & Marshall, A. (2011). From altruism to participations: Bridging academia and borderlands. In Kroenberg, F. Occupational therapy without borders II. 329-338.

Associations/Affiliations/Work History

  • Continuous service in the American Occupational Therapy Association, Kentucky Occupational Therapy Association, state associations, and other professional groups
  • Editorial Board member & Reviewer, The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy (OJOT)
  • Reviewer, Journal of Occupational Therapy Education (JOTE)
  • Department Committees: Curriculum Committee and OTD Subcommittee
  • University Committees: Chair of Faculty Senate (2016/2017), Academic Budget Committee Subcommittee, E-Campus Quality Workgroup, Faculty Innovation Workgroup, Joint University Budget Review Committee, President’s Research and Scholarship Fund


  • Open Journal of Occupational Therapy Editorial Board, 2021-present
  • Eastern Kentucky University Leadership Award, 2020
  • Distinguished Service Award, College of Health Sciences, University of Kentucky, 2019
  • Faculty Teaching Award, EKU, 2019
  • 2019 Ronald J. Cutter Professional Service Award presented by the Arc of Kentucky
  • University Foundation Professor, 2016-2018
  • Phi Kappa Phi, faculty honoree and member, 2017-present
  • Faculty Innovator, Eastern Kentucky University – College of Health Science 2015
  • American Occupational Therapy Foundation, Leaders & Legacy Society (Inaugural Group), 2015.
  • Jean Steffan Smith Faculty Award, 1996, 2007, 2008, 2010
  • Distinguished Education Leader, EKU Student Government Association, May 2007.
  • Service Award, American Occupation Therapy Association, 2001.
  • Honorary Member, Golden Key National Honor Society, 1999.
  • Lindy Boggs Award for Political Activity (Activism in the legislative and policy making environment), American Occupational Therapy Association, 1997.
  • Distinguished Service Award, Kentucky Occupational Therapy Association, 1994-95.
  • Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (Mentoring in education and pediatric practice), 1992.