Meet the Team

My name is Laura Novak, and I am an occupational therapist at UT Health San Antonio.

I have been a practicing OT for 21 years. I entered the field in 2000, not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do. After working with several different populations, I fell in love with working with aging adults. I found that I was fascinated by their life stories and I wanted to honor them.

I worked many years in rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and long-term care facilities. As I gained more experience, I became disenchanted with the state of care of our aging population. I noticed too many incidences of persons living with dementia being placed in front of a television to watch cartoons for hours at a time with very little engagement. I decided I wanted to find a way to improve how we care for persons living with dementia. In 2016, I began the post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at Creighton University. I decided that the best way to make a difference was to further my education. This led me to UT Health San Antonio. In 2018, I was hired at UT Health as a Clinical Assistant Professor and charged with increasing clinical services offered on campus. This was partially prompted by the establishment of the Biggs Institute.

I very quickly became involved with the Caring for the Caregiver program when I met Dr. Carole White, and I was honored to be hired to work with her as the primary clinician for the grant-funded Cope. Over the past 3 years, I have had the honor of serving both the Biggs Institute and the Caring for the Caregiver programs by offering occupational therapy services in collaboration with other practitioners from the Biggs, participating in programs such as Dementia-Friendly San Antonio and Learning Skills Together, and providing mentorship to OTD students completing their capstones in the area of care of persons living with dementia.

In addition to teaching the adult neuromuscular process course, I see clients as part of a comprehensive clinic with Dr. Eduardo Zilli (neurologist) and Dr. Neela Patel (geriatrician). I also see clients for clinical driving evaluations using a driving simulator. I continue to see clients virtually as part of the COPE program, and I will increase my involvement with the Learning Skills Together program as the program expands.

In April of this year, my title changed to Assistant Professor and I began teaching our OTD students. This transition is what I have dreamed of for many years. I now have the opportunity to influence future practitioners and hopefully impart upon them the importance of incorporating caregiver needs into our practice. I also hope to help them experience the humility and lifelong enrichment that comes from working with persons living with dementia and their care partners. I continue to learn from my clients every day!

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