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New award recognizes OT staff member Michelle Mahoney

“Overwhelmed,” is how receptionist and website manager Michelle Mahoney describes her reaction when she heard that the Occupational Therapy (OT) Class of 2019 had created a student award acknowledging her contributions to the school and the occupational therapy profession.

The class wanted to acknowledge the close bonds Mahoney had made with the students.  “We wanted to recognize Michelle’s enthusiastic, positive spirit,” said Laura Power (MSc (OT)’19), and the encouragement and support she provided to students. “She embodies all of the characteristics that we strive to attain as occupational therapists, and encourages everyone to be the best version of themselves,” said Cynthia Osborne (MSc (OT)’19). The Class of 2019 raised $700 to start the fund, which is now open to public donation. In Fall 2019, the first Michelle Mahoney Prize was awarded to a second-year OT student.

“She has given us the insight and wisdom to make us the best therapists possible.” – Cynthia Osborne (MSc (OT)’19)

Originally from Springhill, N.S., Mahoney is the youngest of five children. She graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and has worked at Dalhousie in various roles for over 20 years, including 10 spent in the School of OT. She sits on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals Nova Scotia and has recently been appointed to the national board.

Mahoney was born with Arthrogryposis, a rare physical condition—she was only the third known case in Nova Scotia. She has limited mobility in her arms, hands and knees, and doctors told her parents she would probably never walk, feed or dress herself. Today, Mahoney is an avid surfer and skier and takes part in the Drop Zone fundraiser for Easter Seals where she rappels down the tallest buildings in Halifax. She says with the help of occupational therapists throughout her life, she’s been able to learn to swim, ride a horse, drive a car and more. “Occupational therapists have helped me with everything from putting on my own socks to attending university.”

She is also a strong self-advocate with a determination to succeed. “I learned from a young age to advocate for myself, and I never back down from a challenge.  In fact, I love an obstacle. Just tell me I can’t do something and watch me do it.” It’s this spirit of determination, advocacy and positivity that the students wanted to recognize with the award in her honour. “She has given us the insight and wisdom to make us the best therapists possible,” says Osborne.

Although Mahoney has started a new chapter with the Schulich School of Law, she has made an indelible impact on the School of Occupational Therapy, and this award will ensure that impact continues into the future.