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Dr. Vikas Sharma Named Program Director for KGI’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program


Dr. Vikas Sharma, OTD, OTR/L, has been named Program Director for Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) Program. He has been an occupational therapist for more than 28 years.

Sharma moved to the U.S. from India in 1996. Initially, in his career, he primarily worked as an occupational therapist and as a director of rehabilitation in skilled nursing facilities throughout Southern California.

In 2013, he enrolled in Pennsylvania’s Chatham University, receiving his doctorate in occupational therapy. His motive was to pursue teaching to give back to the profession. He soon moved into academia, becoming a full-time professor at Irvine’s Stanbridge University in December 2015. There, he taught many clinical conditions, ethics, and leadership courses.

“There was always a leadership aspect in the back of my mind,” Sharma said. “It’s important to me to help others grow and achieve their professional goals.”

In 2019, he was named Interim Program Director for Stanbridge’s occupational therapy program and quickly learned the new skills required to lead in an academic environment.

“I learned how to run the accreditation reports and manage different problem-solving aspects with the students and faculty, helping them to develop their professional plans,” Sharma said.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, he had to adapt to moving classes entirely online. He then became Stanbridge’s full-time Program Director in 2021.

Now, in this role at KGI, Sharma will act as a liaison between the administration, students, and faculty.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the type of work KGI does,” Sharma said. “I think it’s the best place for me to grow professionally. I love the mission of lifestyle medicine, which the founding program director established in the curriculum.”

His specific responsibilities include helping faculty recruit, working on the program’s self-study component, and helping KGI prepare for accreditation. Additionally, he will be teaching a psychosocial class.

For the upcoming academic year, he is excited to enrich students and faculty with his extensive wisdom as a clinician and an educator. He is committed to helping the program continue to evolve while ensuring alignment with KGI’s overall mission.

“An important question to consider is, ‘How can we improve the program further, even though there’s a set curriculum?'” Sharma said. “‘Can we make changes based on students’ feedback?’ It’s an evolving process. There’s no status quo. If there’s one thing COVID has taught us, change is always constant.”

His goal on a systemic level is to make continuous improvements by evaluating the program in a manner that incorporates input from multiple committees, including the Curriculum, Program Evaluation, and Graduate Study committees.

On a personal level, he plans to attend conferences and pursue lifestyle medicine training to increase his knowledge in this area, which he can then pass on to faculty and students.

“Holistic medicine is so important, especially when it comes to occupational therapy,” Sharma said.

“We need to see the person as a whole, rather than segregating the person into physical or cognitive components.”

Lifestyle medicine is a philosophy that Sharma embodies in his own life. He has two children—a 20-year-old daughter pursuing a biology degree at UC Irvine and a 14-year-old son who is passionate about engineering.

“My goal is to balance my personal and professional life, taking care of my responsibilities as a father and a husband,” Sharma said. “At the same time, I’ll be working with the students, faculty, and the administration here at KGI and ensuring that I give the best to all the people around me.”

He believes that the importance of balance became particularly evident when COVID-19 started.

“It ended up becoming a mental health crisis because many people did not know how to maintain that balance,” Sharma said. “But I think we have entered a time now where we know how important mental health is to all of us.”

Sharma acknowledges that while we all experience ups and downs in life, a balanced perspective, as encouraged through lifestyle medicine, equips us with the tools to navigate challenges better.

“I want to educate people on how to maintain that balance in your life so that you are happy and successful, and no matter what you do in your life, you are always excited and always get the best out of it,” Sharma said.