Obituary: Regina Abel, occupational therapy instructor, 70

Expert in animal-assisted therapy focused on role of animals in rehabilitation, education

Regina Abel, instructor in occupational therapy and in medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died June 15, 2021, in St. Louis, following a heart attack. She was 70.


Abel was fascinated by the interaction between animals and humans and how it facilitated rehabilitation and education. She often was seen on the Medical Campus with Dolly and Wally, therapy dogs she trained, on her way to sessions in which students learned how to help pediatric patients maximize their recovery.

Her research focused on how therapy dogs could benefit children during recovery and the impact of dog training programs in prisons. She also was interested in how animal-human interaction could help children with chronic conditions.

“Regina was the kindest soul around and had a love of animals, especially dogs,” said Lisa Tabor Connor, associate dean and director of the Program in Occupational Therapy. “She was instrumental in developing a program of animal-assisted therapy and mentored many of our students in projects on this topic. We will miss her immensely, both as a person who was beloved by all and as a valuable member of our OT team.”

The Program in Occupational Therapy will hold a memorial service at a later date. More details will be shared once they are available.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Program in Occupational Therapy in support of a scholarship fund in Abel’s name.

Read the full obituary on the School of Medicine site.

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