The Intermingled History of Occupational Therapy and Anatomical Education – A Retrospective Exploration

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Patient treatment through human morality and a strong belief in the connection of body and mind birthed the premise of therapy through occupations. Understanding this connection was instrumental to the evolution of therapeutic rehabilitation. During the 18th Century a revolutionary mental hygiene movement transformed traditional methods of treatment for persons with mental illness and configured the true beginning of occupational therapy. Concurrently anatomical training was becoming more formalized within the US medical curricula. Later, the medical reform movement of the 20th Century gave structure and importance to occupations as a therapy. First mentioned in World War I, “reconstruction aides” relied on a combination of behavioral and anatomical knowledge to rehabilitate soldiers with injuries that were incompatible with activities of daily living. Eventually, these ventures contributed to the development of the American Occupational Therapy Association and a standardized occupational therapy curriculum. Since October, 1923, minimum standards of practice for occupational therapists have included a strong foundation in biological sciences that specifically address human structure, function and motion. The goal of occupational therapy has always been to provide functional skills for daily living; for this reason, anatomical education has remained a benchmark of the field. New standards and competencies have been identified through the progression, refinement and expansion of the field; yet the importance of anatomical training has not changed.