Washington People: Kathy Kniepmann

Inquisitive, compassionate OT faculty member inspires prospective, current students

Kathy Kniepmann
Kathy Kniepmann, associate professor of occupational therapy, greets admitted students Jan. 24 as part of Admitted Students Day for the School of Medicine's Program in Occupational Therapy. (Photo: Matt Miller/School of Medicine)

Kathy Kniepmann has been a curious learner her whole life.

As a grade-schooler, she attempted her first research projects — offering the family dog a choice between clear water or water dyed with food coloring, and watering plants with clear, sugar or colored water so she could compare the results. As it happened, the dog would run away and Kniepmann was too impatient to track the plants’ progress, so results were never published.

But the seed was planted, so to speak. Kniepmann — now associate professor of occupational therapy (OT) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis — knew she wanted to learn and make things grow.

Her path to Washington University began in seventh grade, when she qualified for the St. Louis Science Fair held at the Field House. “I remember walking around the campus. My jaw dropped, and my eyes popped open,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is such a fabulous place, and all this learning is going on here — maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to take a class here.’ ”

She was lucky enough to take lots of classes at the university, earning undergraduate degrees in English literature and occupational therapy. She then added master’s degrees in education and public health from Harvard University before returning to Washington University for her doctorate in occupational therapy.

Kniepmann, also an associate professor of neurology, now teaches on both campuses, mentors students who help her address family caregiving for relatives with stroke, and serves as a faculty associate in a residence hall on the Danforth Campus. She also leads planning and implementation of recruitment activities for the Program in Occupational Therapy.

“Kathy is our student-recruitment rock star,” said Lisa Tabor Connor, the Elias Michael Executive Director of the Program in Occupational Therapy. “She has an uncanny memory, an inquisitive nature and loves to learn about prospective students’ lives and professional ambitions. Our students tell us that her interactions with them before and after committing to the OT program were instrumental in them joining the program and feeling welcomed to our community.”

Visit the School of Medicine site to read the profile, where Kniepmann discusses her life, her career and what all this learning has brought her.

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