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Photo: Erica Lång
Maria Larsson Lund will be the new professor of occupational therapy at Luleå University of Technology. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

New Professor wants to meet the needs of society

Published: 8 January 2016

In the beginning of year 2016, Maria Larsson Lund will assume as new professor in occupational therapy at Luleå University of Technology. By giving students opportunities for lifelong learning and conduct research that changes organizations, she wants to develop future occupational therapists and occupational therapy.

– It feels special and fun. There is a greater responsibility to pursue issues and seek funds, but it also means to create opportunities for others, says Maria Larsson Lund, who previously worked as associate professor in occupational therapy at Luleå University of Technology.

Investment in digital competence

Knowledge of occupational therapy is increasing in demanded in both new and traditional venues. Maria Larsson Lund believes that it is important to respond to the needs of society. Digitalization is changing people's activities, homes and workplaces, even the whole society becomes more and more technology based. Because occupational therapists work with people's activities, the approach needs to evolve to meet these changes. Occupational therapists also need to use more and more digital tools in their work.

Now, a long-term investment is made in the occupational therapy program to strengthen digital competence as a tool for student learning, but also for the future profession.

– To educate future occupational therapists, it is important that the education lays a foundation for a knowledge-based profession that is socially relevant and person-centered. Digital competence is a key factor for lifelong learning as knowledge and needs change very quickly in todays society.

Wants to build learning networks

There are also thoughts that the students should be encouraged to develop personal learning networks and be included in the academic context during their education. This is done by creating social networks that enable collaboration between students in the different grades, alumni, professional occupational therapists and researchers.

– The idea is to create learning network that runs by itself and lays the foundation for lifelong learning.

Research based on the needs of society

The research in occupational therapy at Luleå University of Technology is still quite young, and Maria Larsson Lund wants to continue to build up the subject with her colleagues.
– We want to build a research corresponding to the needs in the community and in harmony with the department and the areas of excellence in research at the university; innovation in Enabling ICT and Attractive Community building. It is known that ill-health in the population increases, more and more people are living a stressed and unbalanced life and more people with disabilities are living at home. New knowledge about how engagement in activities can be strengthened to promote health in communities is therefore important.

To succeed, it is important to build networks within the university and strengthen the network of county councils and municipalities, but also the national and international cooperation. In order to compete for research funds, Maria Larsson Lund means that a good idea is required that clearly shows how knowledge should be implemented in an organization. Here is the cooperation with the county councils and municipalities important because that is where both the data and the patients come from. Then the knowledge will be transferred to develop the organisations with joint forces.

Today, the research in occupational therapy has international contacts with Scandinavia, Europe and North America, but Maria Larsson Lund wants the contacts is to lead to concrete partnerships.

– The international contacts already exist, but they must result in common publications and approvals at our common applications.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for you as a new professor?

– The research and obtaining funds so we are able to build up research in occupational therapy and develop the knowledge needed. The outside world is constantly changing and new knowledge is constantly  needed about how human activity is influenced and how activities can be supported. We also need more funds to put it into practice.

Where do you see that research and education in occupational therapy is in five years?

– In the education, I think we are in the forefront. We are already very far ahead, but I think we will be unique when we have developed digital competence in our education as part of lifelong learning. The research requires more work and it is difficult to control. It depends on which external fundings we get, so it is difficult to predict.