Dr. Michael McKinnis, fondly nicknamed “Dr. Mac”, is an associate professor in the occupational therapy department. Not only does he teach for CUW OT, Dr. Mac is an alumnus of Concordia University Wisconsin’s occupational therapy program!

His clinical background is acute care occupational therapy, specializing in fall prevention. Dr. Mac started with the OT department in 2007 as an adjunct instructor, and then joined as a full-time professor in 2013. In May 2021, he completed his PhD in Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

What do you love about the CUW OT program?

I have been involved with Concordia’s OT program in different roles for the last 16 years. The one constant of our program is change. We are always adapting to stay up with the latest in education and the OT field. Our latest change was the development of a new OT curriculum. The new curriculum allows our students to build fundamental skills in advocacy, leadership, integration of faith and practice, best practice and professional and clinical skills. The first year allows the students to develop a strong foundation in these key areas. The 2nd year allows students to stand on this foundation as they expand their knowledge and explore opportunities in the field of OT. 

What is your area of expertise within Occupational Therapy? Share a little bit about the ways you involve students/community?

My areas of expertise are teaching in simulation lab, fall prevention, and interprofessional education.

Simulation Lab

My experience in multiple adult areas of practice provides me the clinical background for teaching in our simulation lab. In January of 2023 we opened our brand-new simulation lab. The new space allows student to experience a “real world” hospital room equipped with hospital beds, vital monitors, medical lines, and chair lifts. The students, often working in pairs, receive the case study prior to lab which allows them to develop a plan. Each week the simulation is designed with a variety of patient diagnoses, vital signs, patient psychosocial factors and is portrayed by a standardized patient actor.

This lab offers students the opportunity to work in real-time on interview skills, provide evidenced-based assessments and interventions. The session is completed with a debriefing session. This is one of the most important parts of the lab. The students participate in the feedback process with faculty and peers. This safe space allows them the opportunity to reflect on what went well and discuss areas of growth. This reflective exercise helps the students improve with communication, therapeutic use of self, and critical thinking skills. The new lab also offers the ability to record the sim session and allows students the ability to review the session at a later time.

As a professor, sim lab allows me to engage with students as we discuss important questions about the patient and OT practice. It is one of the best modalities to teach and assess clinical skills. The lab allows a paper case to come alive.  Where else can you learn and interact with a “patient” a day after a heart surgery? It’s a safe place to learn because regardless of the outcome, everyone including the patient goes home at the end of the session! 

Fall prevention

My two other areas of expertise, fall prevention and interprofessional education, are often combined. People will often ask me, “Why do I care about fall prevention?” My passion for addressing fall prevention comes from a desire to see older adults have an increased quality of life. I hear stories all the time about someone’s relative falling and injuring themselves. The number is too high. It is estimated in the United States that an older adult dies every 20 minutes from a fall and roughly 25-33% of older adults sustain a fall each year, decreasing qualify of life and increasing health care cost (CDC, 2023). In Wisconsin, it is estimated that over 270,000 adults 65 and older fall each year (CDC, 2023). This means my neighbors are having unnecessary injuries from a fall.

Interprofessional education

Evidence-based practice recommends an interprofessional team to address this concern. OT is one of the disciplines uniquely qualified to assess and educate older adults on how to decrease falls in their home and community.

As a leader in falls prevention, I use my skill in this area to help meet our university and OT mission of serving and empowering communities. My desire to serve communities has been put on hold for the last few years due to the global pandemic. I was very happy this year when things began to return to normal. In September of 2022 I was able to connect with older adults as part of Milwaukee County Falls Prevention Coalition (MCFPC) fall prevention event. This spring, I was able to share the updated fall prevention guidelines with Concordia physician assistant students. I was able to connect with the area community by presenting at Stepping On and providing at the fall prevention session for the National Council on Aging (NCOA) Aging Mastery Program.

In addition, I love when I am able to mentor students and bring them along with me to events. Nicole Jandre was able to assist me in giving talks to the physician assistant students and the Aging Mastery Program. During fall prevention week in September of 2023, I will be leading a group of OT students to participate in the MCFPC fall prevention event.