Racism and Occupation

Earn 1 hour of continuing education by joining the OT Potential Club after listening to this OT Potential Podcast course on Racism and Occupation.

Racism and Occupation with Khalilah R. Johnson and Ryan Lavalley
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The article we are looking at today challenges us to look critically at occupation—and how it can be used as a tool for justice or injustice. 

The reality is that many of us have narrowed our view of occupation into the medicalized and individualized categories of ADLs. 

But, we know from research (and lived experience!) that occupation is much more complex, interconnected, and powerful.

The authors outline for us how occupation has played a role in systemic racism in the US. This history and present must be understood and confronted if we are to live our shared value of justice within occupational therapy, and move toward antiracist transformation. 

After a brief review of this article, we will be joined by the authors Ryan Lavalley, PhD, MOT, OTR/L and Khalilah R. Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L to discuss the practical implications for your occupational therapy practice. 

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Primary Journal Article Explored

When you log in, be sure to check out the OT Potential Club’s written breakdown of the following research article. Then, share your questions and thoughts with fellow practitioners.

Lavalley, R., &; Johnson, K. R. (2020). Occupation, injustice, and anti-black racism in the United States of America. Journal of Occupational Science, 29(4), 487–499. 

Supporting Research and Journal Articles

Johnson, K. R., &; Lavalley, R. (2020). From racialized think-pieces toward anti-racist praxis in our science, education, and Practice. Journal of Occupational Science, 28(3), 404–409.

Salsberg, E., Richwine, C., Westergaard, S., Portela Martinez, M., Oyeyemi, T., Vichare, A., & Chen, C. P. (2021). Estimation and Comparison of Current and Future Racial/Ethnic Representation in the US Health Care Workforce. JAMA network open, 4(3), e213789. 

More Supplementary Materials 

Learning Objectives

  • You will be able to recognize the historical and sociological relationship between occupation, everyday living, and the construction of racism in the United States of America.
  • You will be able to identify actions you can take within your occupational therapy practice and community to work against racism


Intro (5 minutes)

Breakdown and analysis of journal article (5 minutes)

  • Introduction to occupation and racism
  • Building on the politicization of occupation
  • What was the intent of this paper?
  • An occupational perspective on the history of racism
  • The struggle for justice continues
  • Implications for occupation
  • Conclusion
  • Takeaways for OT practitioners

Discussion on practical implications for OTs (with Ryan Lavalley and Khalilah R. Johnson) (50 minutes)

  • How did you first find OT? 
  • How did you become interested in research? 
  • How do you bring together your training as an occupational scientist and passions as an occupational therapy practitioner?
  • Why is this historical perspective important in general?
  • Why might this historical content make some occupational therapy practitioners uncomfortable?
  • What are the concrete implications for the occupational therapy profession today?
  • How can occupational therapy practitioners use this knowledge to inform their practice and justice work?
  • What gives you hope in this work?
  • Where do we go from here?

Contact Hours

1 hour (0.1 AOTA CEUs). Released online from Aurora, NE.

This course on Racism and Occupation is AOTA approved!

Target Audience/Educational Level

Our target audience is occupational therapy practitioners who are looking to learn about Racism and Occupation.  The educational level is introductory.

Instructional Methods/Registration/Special Needs Requests/Cancellation Policy

This course is an independent/self-study course delivered via podcast on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. Explore your listening options on the OT Potential Podcast page.

If you need accommodations to take this course, please contact us and we will address your needs on an individual basis.

If this course were to be canceled, please see our cancellation policy on our terms page.

Course Completion Requirements

In order to receive a certificate for this course, you must first listen to the podcast in its entirety. Then, you will need to take the test (found at the top of this page) and earn 75% or higher. If you pass, a certificate will be automatically generated and sent to your email.

Financial and Non-financial Disclosures

It is the policy of OT Potential to disclose any financial and non-financial interest the provider or instructor may have in a product or service mentioned during an activity. This is to ensure that the audience is made aware of any bias of the speaker.

We here at OT Potential have no financial stake in this topic.  Our guests, Ryan Lavalley and Khalilah R. Johnson, also have no financial disclosures. 


Ryan Lavalley, PhD, MOT, OTR/L

Ryan Lavalley, PhD, MOT, OTR/L

Ryan  is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Science in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Dr. Lavalley has nearly 10 years of experience in community practice of occupational therapy. Broadly, his practice and research sits at the intersections of aging, housing, and anti-oppression. In 2021 as a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Lavalley was honored with the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award for Partnership from the Carolina Center for Public Service. He is the primary lead for the department’s Community Practice Lab and has experience conducting community program development and evaluation in partnership with multiple partners including non-profits, local governments, and community institutions. His research has explored collective processes of everyday life and the sociological implications of doing together in community, including both positive outcomes such as language inclusion and negative outcomes such as racism.

Further, Dr. Lavalley is an active member of the occupational science and occupational therapy community. He is currently the Research Chair for the Society for the Study of Occupation: USA, a coordinating member of the International Social Transformation through Occupation Network, and the Chair of Operations for the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD).  Personally, Dr. Lavalley is proudly queer, originally hails from West Virginia, and enjoys gardening and anything outdoors.

Khalilah R. Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L

Khalilah R. Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L

Khalilah is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Science in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She also serves as an affiliate research faculty member in the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention at Virginia Commonwealth University. Broadly, Dr. Johnson’s research sits at the intersections of critical qualitative methodologies, intellectual and developmental disabilities, health equity, disability and social justice. Additionally, she is involved in research aimed to address pathways to occupational therapy education for Black students and racial equity in occupational science and occupational therapy curricula. Her research interests are informed by 16 years of clinical experience spanning Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. 

Dr. Johnson is an activist scholar. She was named the 2022 Hortense McClinton Outstanding Faculty Award by the UNC Alumni Association, the 2021 MLK Unsung Hero by the UNC Office for Diversity and Inclusion and UNC Office of the Provost, as well as recognized by the Brenau University Alumni Hall of Fame. Additionally, she is a member of the inaugural cohort of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Equity Scholars for Action grantees. Dr. Johnson sits on the boards of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation Scientific Advisory Council, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Autism in Adulthood, and the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity.

This course was designed to meet your continuing education requirements

We designed the courses in the Club to meet the requirements for “online” and “independent/self-study” courses. For more details read our blog post: Can I earn OT CEUS from a podcast? To verify the requirements from your specific state (within the US), check out our post, OT Continuing Education Explained. If you are outside of the United States and have questions, please contact us.

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