Keli Mu, PhD, OTR/L, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, recently received the International Service Award at the 2017 Annual Conference and Expo in Philadelphia from the American Occupational Therapy Association. The citation on the award reads: “Exemplary global service for education and health.”
The International Service Award recognizes occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants who demonstrate a sustained and outstanding commitment to international occupational therapy service; promote and advance occupational therapy abroad in regard to occupational health and/or occupational justice in underserved countries to promote a globally connected community; and provide incentive to extend international relationships and contributions to address global health issues.
Born and raised in China, Mu witnessed people with disabilities who needed care and service. This profoundly influenced his desire to help others, resulting in his pursuit of education in the United States. Mu ultimately acquired a PhD in psychological and cultural studies and a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy.
Mu joined the faculty at Creighton in the late 1990s„ continuing to be passionate about the rehabilitation needs in China and other countries in the global community. In 2008, he launched the China Honors Interprofessional Program (CHIP) at Creighton, and remains the director of the program. CHIP is a cross-cultural program that promotes international collaboration between Creighton’s health science schools and medical universities and hospitals in China. The program gives Creighton students opportunities to interact with health care professionals from a different culture and experience a new health care perspective.
CHIP collaborations include student and faculty exchanges between Creighton and counterparts in other countries, which have grown exponentially.
Mu is an avid researcher and advocate for the occupational therapy profession and has published extensively. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed research articles and is a frequent presenter at national and international congresses and conferences. Mu has served on the editorial boards for a number of journals, including Occupational Therapy International. Mu contributes to the development of international rehabilitation programs and has served as an expert on numerous panels. Given his multiple relationships and contributions to other institutions, he has received honorary professorships from Sichuan University and Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University in China and holds an honorary professorship from Yamaguchi Health and Welfare College in Japan.
“I am amazed at the magnitude of Dr. Mu’s work facilitating the growth and advancement of rehabilitation in China and other countries,” said Helene Lohman, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, professor of occupational therapy. “These efforts have resulted in improved health care, education and practice. Health care professionals in China and globally, as well as Creighton University faculty, staff and students, have benefited from Dr. Mu’s work with international student and faculty exchanges.”
Serving people and empowering others is Mu’s lifelong passion.
In 2014, Mu was appointed Creighton’s director of international relations for health sciences. As director, Mu provides service at a global level with universities, colleges and medical centers in China and Japan and oversees service projects in the Dominican Republic, Chile and South Korea. Initially, providing service in China was Mu’s main focus because of his personal background, but his efforts coincided with the growing rehabilitation fields beginning to develop in other parts of the world.
Five years ago there was not a separate occupational therapy profession in China, but rather a general rehabilitation degree. Now there are five World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) certified occupational therapy schools in China and with Creighton’s occupational therapy program interfaces with all of them (Fujian University of Traditional Medicine, Kunming Medical University, West China College of Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Capital Medical College).
Currently, therapy practice takes place primarily in hospital settings and not in community settings. Through years of networking and effort, Mu created a linkage among seven medical universities (the five listed WFOT-accredited programs, and Nanjing Medical University and Hebei Medical University) along with hospitals. This linkage enhances occupational therapy and rehabilitation education in China and leads to increased global awareness of other cultures among faculty and students at Creighton.
“Completing part of my professional rotation in Shijiazhuang, China, will be one of my most momentous memories that will stay with me forever,” said alumna Anissa McGee, OTD’16, who participated in a Creighton exchange program in China. “This experience increased my confidence as a student and as a future health care practitioner.”
In 2016, Mu initiated international Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degrees at Creighton. Chinese students come to Creighton for didactic coursework and then complete their clinical experiences in China. With credited education, the graduates of these programs will become educators and clinical leaders in China to spread occupational therapy and meet the rehabilitation needs of the growing Chinese population.
Beyond China, Mu is expanding his international outreach to other countries with memorandums of understanding with universities in South Korea, Chile and Japan, and is in further discussions with other universities in China, the United Kingdom and Denmark.
Mu supports and participates in other service opportunities that encourage student and faculty involvement within Creighton’s occupational therapy program. One ongoing and unique program is a three-week service experience in the Dominican Republic. There, students provide health-related education and intervention with multiple community partners supplemented by personal growth opportunities through structured reflection. These service opportunities are centered in various orphanages and homes for older adults.Students learn to creatively provide service with very limited supplies in the Dominican Republic and experience the culture by staying with local families.
Recently, Rene Padilla, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, executive director of the University’s Global Engagement Office, along with Mu, participated in the Nebraska Governor’s Trade Mission to China. The Trade Mission Delegation, led by Gov. Pete Ricketts, visited Xian, Shanghai and Hong Kong in China to explore, develop and strengthen trade, and promote collaborations and exchanges in agriculture, industry, education and health care.
Padilla and Mu joined over 40 delegates across the state and took part in a variety of events and activities sponsored by the trade mission and local Chinese governments. Additionally, Padilla and Mu visited existing and future Creighton partners in these Chinese cities to develop and enhance partnerships and collaborations.
“Dr. Mu is an excellent choice for this prestigious award. He has been involved in the development of our school’s China initiative since 2006 and, more recently, he has focused on interprofessional educational activities across our health science programs in China as well as in Japan, Chile and Korea,” said J. Chris Bradberry, PharmD, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, “Dr. Mu is an outstanding individual and the international connections he has developed are significantly important to our school and University.”