Dorich Joins CHS Students for Awards Ceremony Tuesday

Her reaction to award: ‘I was truly astonished’

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Jenny Dorich, PhD, MBA, OTR/L, CHT, was looking for the perfect situation as a graduate student.

She needed a school that could challenge her, one that was interdisciplinary with a cohort of students. She wanted a university that could accommodate a part-time student, with a curriculum that could offer distance, as well as in-person learning.

She found it all in the College of Health SciencesRehabilitation and Health Sciences PhD Program. Now, when she and her fellow classmates will be honored at the annual CHS Student Awards Ceremony, Dorich will take home the Robinson Graduate Award for Research Creativity.

“My mentors in the program allowed me to develop a research program that met my career goals and the clinical questions that were relevant to me,” she said.

And, as she prepares for the awards ceremony, we got a chance to learn more about her research, her goals at expanding the knowledge base for pediatric hand therapists, and just how this program helped her become “a better person.”

Here’s 5 questions with Student Award Winner Jenny Dorich, PhD, MBA, OTR/L, CHT:

1. Why did you come to UK’s RHB program?

I had been an occupational therapist practicing in hand therapy for over 15 years when I decided to enroll in UK’s RHB program. In my later years of practice, I had begun participating in research related to the pediatric hand therapy population I serve in my job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCHMC). This experience ignited my desire to develop the skills necessary to become an independent researcher. In the past decade, the field of pediatric hand therapy has emerged as a subspecialty area of hand therapy and has experienced substantial growth.  The profession lacks a strong base of evidence to guide practice, and I have a desire to enhance our care for this patient population. I feel one of the best ways to achieve this is to produce high quality evidence to guide therapy practice.

2. What got you interested in your research?

I have always been inquisitive. I tend to look at situations and think in questions. I suppose that is why I just couldn’t accept a dilemma I was seeing in my clinical practice. In providing hand therapy care to kids with hand impairments I was seeing that the kids were reporting they continued to have limitations in their hand function when the tools we were using to assess their treatment outcomes were indicating that the kids had achieved a perfect score, indicating they were performing well.  This made me question if our tools are really assessing the treatment outcomes the kids desire from hand therapy.

3. What do you hope to gain from that research?

Through my dissertation work I have identified the outcomes that pediatric hand therapy patients desire from therapy. I have applied this knowledge to develop a draft set of questions for measuring treatment outcomes that align with those which the kids desire. I have completed the first stage of developing the validity of this tool for application in the pediatric hand therapy population. Upon graduation, I will engage in additional research to establish the reliability and validity of these questions so that pediatric hand care professionals can adopt using the tool. Thus, my goal is to create a measure we can use in routine care that is measuring our treatment outcomes against the yardstick our patients’ desire. 

But my vision is much bigger than just completing this work that I have started with my dissertation. Several years ago, a mentor taught me the to/for rule: “It is not about what we can do to them [our patients]; it is about what we can do for them.” It is this principle that guides me both in my clinical practice and in my research. I have a found that I have a passion for mixed methods research (MMR) and that MMR has untapped applications in healthcare to ground research more solidly in being patient centered. We can learn so much from our patients to improve our delivery of care and thus enhance our patients’ quality of life. This is my motivation.

4. How does it feel to win the award?

I was truly astonished to learn I won this award. I have worked full time while in this program. I am also the mother of three boys. It has taken grit to realize this personal dream. Much has happened during the five years I have been in this program. I lost my father-in-law to Alzheimer’s during COVID. I had to home school my kids during the time I was doing my qualifying exams. Just like everyone else, life goes on while you are a student. I have just been focused on executing quality research and letting the outcomes of my work guide me as to what the next step should be. Throughout my research, I have been motivated by the kids I work with. In my dissertation study they were active participants in designing the set of questions I am developing. They were amazing. They engaged in the work and in doing so the tool is better than anything I could have designed without their investment.

So, winning this award makes me so thankful to the therapists and patients who wholeheartedly engaged in participating in my research. They are the ones who have made this tool. I have put the research methods in place to allow for it to happen, but it would not be what it is today without them. It’s like an orchestral work – the composer writes the music, but the musicians are who makes the music come alive. The therapists and patients who participated in my research have made this what it is. So, it makes me happy and grateful that this work is getting recognized, because I think it recognizes the value of the patients’ and therapists’ engagement in my research.

5. Anyone in CHS you’d like to thank?

I have been impressed with all the faculty I have had the opportunity to learn from in the RHB program. I have been challenged to grow in ways I could not have imagined. I thank all of the faculty for their dedication to not just teaching us but stretching us. I am especially grateful to my committee members: Dr. Stephen Glasser, Dr. Dana Howell, Dr. Timothy Uhl and Dr. Camille Skubik-Peplaski. They have each contributed uniquely to my professional development during my course of study. I am especially grateful to Dr. Skubik-Peplaski, my committee chair. She has been an exemplary mentor and taught me how to be a better mentor to the students I teach. I would also like to thank Dr. Esther Dupont Versteegden. Her leadership skills are inspiring to me. From her I have witnessed how someone can practice the art of holding high standards while being a servant leader. I admire how she is not afraid to ask the hard questions, challenging each of us to be even better than we thought possible. Furthermore, she has been genuinely caring and supportive to us as we have navigated our time in the program, especially during the challenges of COVID. My teachers and mentors in the RHB program not only have developed me into a stronger researcher, then have helped me become a better person. I am truly thankful to them and their dedication to my growth and development.

Student Awards Ceremony:

4 p.m., Tuesday, April 26
Worsham Cinema
Gatton Student Center

Our Congratulations to all Student Award Winners!


Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service
Breona Link, CLM

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service
Onieta Sewart, PAS

Marie C. Vittetoe Award for Excellence in Service to the Community
Sajidah Omran, PT

Outstanding Graduate Student in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Lillie Reinhart, CSD

Human Health Sciences Student Academic Award
Abby Ayers, HHS

Clinical Leadership and Management Involvement Award
Garrett Anspach, CLM

Medical Laboratory Science Faculty Award
Morgan Garrett, MLS

Center for Rural Health Medical Laboratory Science Faculty Award
Michael Marshall, MLS

Physical Therapy Outstanding Student Award
Emily Weiss, PT

Physical Therapy Outstanding Student Award
Davoud Saghaian, PT

Robinson Graduate Award for Research Creativity
Jenny Dorich, RHS

Physician Assistant Studies Award
Brooke Smith, PAS

Physician Assistant Studies Award
Cory Ramsey, PAS

Scarlett Parsley-Hooker Award
Bailey Osbourn, CSD

Human Health Sciences Involvement Award
Madison Shely, HHS

Clinical Leadership and Management Academic Award
Madeline Meyer, CLM

Eileen Van Dyke Rural Service Award
Ronald Karcz, Jr., PAS

Outstanding Graduate Student in Athletic Training
Emalee Johnson, AT

Outstanding Graduate Student in Athletic Training
Stephanie Snyder, AT