Rehabilitation Sciences Doctoral Program

About the Faculty  

Doris Pierce, Ph.D.

Professor and Endowed Chair,

Occupational Therapy

Eastern Kentucky University

Doris Pierce, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA is the Endowed Chair in Occupational Therapy at Eastern Kentucky University, in the United States.  This unique, fulltime, non-administrative position has five goals: to produce scholarship in occupational science and therapy, to provide students with opportunities to work with a nationally known scholar, to seek and manage grants, to facilitate the development of the scholarly culture of the Department, and to enhance the reputation of the Department.  Dr. Pierce’s teaching is focused within the required disciplinary coursework of occupational therapists in the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences Program. 

 Dr. Pierce has been an occupational therapist for twenty-five years and has been involved with occupational science for twenty.  Her practice background is in community-based private practice with infants and young children in the diverse area of greater Los Angeles.  In recent years, she has been the Project Director of an interdisciplinary training grant preparing occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers to provide services to adolescents with mental health needs within the rich culture but limited resources of Appalachian Kentucky. 

 Dr. Pierce was privileged to have been the junior member of the faculty group at the University of Southern California who designed and launched in 1989 the Ph.D. in Occupational Science.  She subsequently entered its first class and completed her Ph.D. in 1996.  During her doctoral work, she was fortunate to work closely with many leaders in occupational therapy, including Florence Clark, Ruth Zemke, and Diane Parham, as well as serving for two years as a graduate assistant to Jane Goodall.  Her first faculty appointment was as an associate professor at Creighton University, where she contributed to the launch of the first entry-level doctorate in occupational therapy.  She moved to Eastern Kentucky University in 2000, to assume an appointment as the Endowed Chair in Occupational Therapy. 

Educational Focus

I regularly offer two classes specifically designed to meet the needs of occupational therapists in the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences Program for an understanding of the underlying theory and research upon which occupational science and occupational therapy are built, which meet the requirement of the Program for 9 credits of disciplinary coursework: OTS 882 Advanced Occupational Science, and OTS 883 Change and Complexity in Occupation-based Practice (syllabi available upon request).  As an active researcher, I also regularly supervise Ph.D. students within one or more of my research teams each semester, to fulfill their required 9 credits of research experiences within RHB 789 Research Practicum.  I also teach co-teach a Ph.D. proseminar, OTS 770 Surviving and Thriving in Academic Culture.  I am highly invested in the growth of occupational therapists within the Ph.D. Program and continually seek out ways to enhance their learning experiences as they are transformed into researchers through a highly customized program of study that matches their interests.

Scholarly Interests

Dr. Pierce’s occupational science research thus far has addressed the following: definitions of occupation and activity; descriptions of infant-toddler interactions with the home environment; video methods for occupational science and therapy research; internationally comparative research on food preparation for annual celebrations in elder women of rural Kentucky, New Zealand, and Thailand; development of occupational programming for children with obesity and sleep apnea and for adolescents at risk in nontraditional educational settings.  In 2003, she published Occupation by Design, an introduction to occupational science and its potential for therapy.  She served as Chair of the Charter Group to Establish the Society for the Study of Occupation: USA in 1999, and served as its Chair-elect and Chair, 2003 to 2005.  Her enduring interest is in how occupational therapists think about and use occupation.


Myers, C., O’Brien, S., Pierce, D., & Thompson, M. (2007).  Using Occupation by Design to synthesize across multiple models for services to children and families.  In S. Dunbar (Ed.), Occupational therapy models for intervention with children and families.  Thorofare, NJ: SLACK, Inc.

Munier, V., Myers, C., & Pierce, D. (2008).  Sources of power in therapeutic applications of object play with young children at risk for developmental delays.  In L. D. Parham and L. Fazio (Eds.) Play in occupational therapy practice.  St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

O'Brien, S., Pierce, D., Shasby, S., Cunningham, R. & Schneck, C.  (2007).  Measuring time use in an academic setting.  Occupational Therapy in Health Care, New Direction in Occupational Therapy Education, 21, (1/2). 

Pierce, D. E. (2003).  Occupation by design: Building therapeutic power.  Philadelphia: F.A. Davis. 

Pierce, D. E. (2003).  How can the occupation base of occupational therapy be strengthened?  Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 50, 1-2.

Pierce, D. (2004).  Desembaracando ocupacao e actividade.  Revista do Centro de Estudos de Terapia Ocupacional, 8 (8), 13-26.

Pierce, D. E. (2004).  Maternal management of the home as an infant/toddler developmental space.  In C. Royeen (Ed.), Pediatric Issues in Occupational Therapy: A Compendium of Leading Scholarship.  Bethesda, MD: AOTA

Pierce, D. E. (2005).  The usefulness of video methods for occupational therapy and occupational science research.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 9-19.

Pierce, D. E., & Marshall, A. (2003).  Staging the play: Maternal management of home space and time to facilitate infant/toddler play and development.  In S. Esdaile and J. Olsen (Eds.), Mothering occupations: Challenge, agency, and participation.  Philadelphia: F. A. Davis.

Shordike, A., & Pierce, D. (2005). Cooking up Christmas in Kentucky: Occupation and tradition in the stream of time.  Journal of Occupational Science, 12, 140-148.

 Click here to read my curriculum vitae.