OT professors Heather Fritz, Malcolm Cutchin to depart Wayne State for Pacific Northwest University

Heather Fritz and Malcolm Cutchin
Heather Fritz and Malcolm Cutchin

Assistant Professor Heather Fritz and Professor Malcolm Cutchin of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences are leaving Wayne State to accept new positions at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU). The Yakima, WA, university educates and trains health care professionals emphasizing service among rural and medically underserved communities ­– a mission that suits the pair’s experience and efforts here in Detroit.

Fritz will help PNWU establish a new School of Occupational Therapy, serving as its founding director, while Cutchin will become the university's director of academic research and partnerships.

“Both Malcolm and Heather enriched our Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program in so many ways,” said Program Director Doreen Head. “They both made major contributions to the transition from the BS/MOT degree offering to the development of our full MOT program. And their expertise significantly enhanced the research component of the program through curriculum development, research experiences and research assistant opportunities.”

Fritz’s research has been focused on addressing disparities among socially disadvantaged populations, including racial and ethnic minorities as well as rural and low-income populations. She is currently the PI on a two-year, externally funded study through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to develop and refine a program designed to reduce/delay the progression from prefrailty to frailty among prefrail older African Americans. The study is the first of its kind to address prefrailty among an at-risk, prefrail African American population. Her latest NIH/NIA R15 funded project focuses on addressing challenges that older African Americans face with chronic condition self-management, issues that exist at the intersection of age and race.

“I'm going to miss my Wayne State family and students, and I'm grateful for being able to start my career at Wayne State,” she said. “The opportunity at PNWU is so unique that I couldn't pass it up.”

Cutchin examines social determinants of health, especially the environmental influences on stress and well-being in different populations. He is co-PI on an NIH/NCI R01 funded project assessing the neighborhood/community, interpersonal and personal level influences on the health-related quality of life for African American cancer survivors, and on a National Institute of Justice study examining the role of neighborhood environments on the stress, health and behaviors of police officers who patrol them.

“I've gotten to work with and know some incredible people over the last 7.5 years on the Wayne State campus,” he said. “I'm grateful for the friendship and collegiality of so many from whom I have learned so much.”

Cutchin is a co-investigator and core co-leader for Wayne State’s Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES), and the pair both hold joint appointments in Wayne State’s Institute of Gerontology.

“Committed to service and collaboration, Malcolm and Heather had an impact on not only our MOT program but throughout the college, the Institute of Gerontology, IBio and Wayne State as a whole,” Head said. “Because they enjoy traveling the world, they can combine work with pleasure as they relocate to a beautiful part of the country they love. We celebrate and wish them well in their new academic opportunities and research endeavors.”

Founded in 1944, Wayne State University’s occupational therapy degree program was one of the first established in the country. With this foundation of rich history, our experienced and well-funded faculty pursue innovative research on the medical campus of a nationally recognized research institution in the heart of Detroit, as well as in major hospital systems across the street and around the region.

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