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Durham VA Health Care System

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Geriatric Mental Health Occupational Therapy (OT) Fellowship Program

History & Purpose

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has continued to emphasize its commitment to advancing knowledge and skills of clinicians to meet the unique needs of the Veteran population. In 2017, the Office of Academic Affiliations announced a plan to pilot Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Occupational Therapy (OT) Fellowship training programs throughout the nation. The Durham VA was one of 4 sites to receive funding to establish a fellowship program in geriatric mental health beginning in 2018. The purpose of the Geriatric Mental Health (GMH) OT Fellowship Program is to provide a challenging, diverse experience in varied geriatric programs to foster a well-rounded, skilled occupational therapy clinician with the specialist knowledge to assess and treat a range of mental health disorders that impact occupational engagement and overall functioning for older Veterans.

Program Description

The Geriatric Mental Health OT Fellowship Program is a state-of-the art clinical training program that focuses on interprofessional learning and holistic assessment and intervention in the care of older Veterans at risk for or who have mental illness. The purpose of the Geriatric Mental Health (GMH) OT Fellowship Program is to advance the knowledge and skills of OT practitioners in the specialized area of OT practice in mental health, and thus improve access to the highest quality mental health care for Veterans in an aging population. Specifically, this program aims to produce an OT Geriatric Mental Health specialist with skills and attributes to meet the unique needs of older adults with mental illness to enable them to perform the occupations that they need, want, or are expected to do, and to engage fully in daily life activities in the communities of their choice.

This fellowship will provide a challenging, diverse experience in varied geriatric programs to foster a well-rounded, skilled occupational therapy clinician knowledgeable in assessing and treating a range of mental health disorders, including depression, delirium, dementia, and any accompanying physical or emotional comorbidities that impact occupational engagement and overall functioning. Following completion of the fellowship program, fellows will be prepared for American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Board Certification in Mental Health.

The GMH OT Fellowship Program also supports the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) mission and core values (Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence) through quality training and mentorship. Per the VA Office of Academic Affiliations, one of VHA's missions is to conduct an education and training program for health profession students to enhance the quality of care provided to Veterans within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare system, and subsequently serve as a leader in defining the education of future health care professionals that helps meet the changing needs of the Nation’s health care delivery system. The GMH OT Fellowship furthers the educational mission of VHA in preparing occupational therapy clinicians to serve as leaders within the ever-changing healthcare field.

Clinical Training

The GMH OT Fellowship Program is a year-long training program with a minimum of 2,080 hours of intensive clinical training, mentorship, and didactic experiences. Training will emphasize continuity of care with experiences occurring across various settings such as intensive care, inpatient medicine, inpatient psychiatry, outpatient primary care and geriatric clinics, community-based and home settings.

Quality Improvement Project

Fellows are required to develop and implement a "Quality Improvement Project" to enhance the education of health professionals and the quality of care provided to older Veterans at their site. The project may focus on a variety of dissemination efforts such as developing continuing education or research conferences for health professionals, curricula for health professions training programs, client education materials, or clinical demonstration projects. Fellows are also encouraged to take leadership roles by developing didactic projects and disseminating educational materials through a variety of efforts to enhance occupation-based services for older adults with mental health issues.

Didactic Training

A range of didactic training experiences will be provided to enhance specialist knowledge and skills related to geriatric mental health care. Didactic trainings will be primarily interdisciplinary in nature to ensure a holistic, well-rounded understanding of the mental health needs of older Veterans. Example didactic trainings include grand rounds and other presentations offered through the Duke Center on Aging and VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC); webinars and seminars focused on psychosocial rehabilitation, mental health, and dementia; an intensive interprofessional training curriculum centered on older adult care in the hospital; and other trainings of interest to the fellow.

Fellowship Requirements

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, proficient in spoken and written English, and must be graduates, or expected to graduate, from an Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredited OT educational program at entry-level Masters or entry-level Doctorate level. Applicants should also have at least one FW Level II, or at least 3 months' experience, in a mental health or geriatric clinical practice setting. A fellow will receive an annual stipend and are eligible for health and life insurance benefits. The 2019-2020 training salary is $38,246. Fellows also earn annual and sick leave and are entitled to all Federal holidays.

Links to Brochure and Curriculum Schedule:
Geriatric Mental Health OT Fellowship Brochure.pdf
Geriatric Mental Health OT 2019-2020 Curriculum Schedule.pdf

Application Process 
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications as early as possible. We will begin recruiting for the 2019-2020 fellow beginning January 2019. Applications received by February 11, 2019, will be given priority. Anticipated start date for the 2019-2020 year will be September 3, 2019.

 To be considered for the fellowship, please submit the following items:

  1. Letter of interest that describes (a) how you envision this training furthering your professional development, (b) your prior training or exposure to geriatric and/or mental health practice, and (c) your professional and research interests. Letters of interest are typically 1 page in length.
  2. Current Curriculum Vitae or Resume
  3. Graduate transcripts (unofficial transcripts are acceptable at the time of application. If you are offered an interview, official transcripts will be required at a later date).
  4. Three letters of reference from individuals familiar with your clinical work.
  5. Federal Form: Declaration for Federal Employment (
  6. Federal Form: Application for Health Professions Trainees (

Applications must be submitted electronically to with the subject “LAST NAME-GMH OT Fellowship Application”. Please attempt to send all documents as attachments in the fewest number of emails possible. If your application is accepted for further review, you will be invited to participate in a formal interview.

For more information about the program, contact:

Valerie Fox, PhD, OTR/L, CPRP
Geriatric Mental Health (GMH) OT Fellowship Director
508 Fulton Street, Durham, NC 27705 or (919) 286-0411, Ext. 174730