Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

Muriel Driver Memorial Lecturer
Dr. Bonnie Kirsh

Friday, May 29th 15:30
Fairmont Winnipeg, Wellington Ballroom


Bonnie Kirsh received her BSc in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto (U of T) in 1977. She returned to U of T and its Ontario Institute for Studies in Education graduating with a Master’s in Education in 1983, with a PhD in Psychology in 1999.

Bonnie’s extensive career in occupational therapy began in 1977 with clinical positions, evaluator and community occupational therapist and staff occupational therapists at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (QSMHC). Bonnie’s clinical expertise and growing scholarly abilities were quickly recognized and she was appointed as a Clinical Associate in the Occupational Therapy Department at U of T, became the Director of Rehabilitation at QSMHC in 1991

Bonnie’s academic career in occupational therapy began with her appointment as a Tutor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at U of T in 1992, Assistant Professor in 1999 and in 2006 she was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor. Her knowledge and expertise in the area of work, and disability in general, was recognized by an appointment as an Adjunct Scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto in 2006. Bonnie currently holds cross appointments in the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She has been an Adjunct Professor at the Dalhousie School of Occupational Therapy since 2007. Bonnie has been a mentor for many students, junior colleagues, clinical associates, and teaching assistants.  Colleagues seek her out for her wise counsel, insight, and sound judgement.

Bonnie has achieved national and international stature as a leading scholar in the areas of promoting employment and return to work in the general context of disability; and advancing the social and occupational participation of people with serious mental illness. Her scholarship has been widely recognized. She has been invited to present her research at national and international conferences, and she has had robust funding from high profile national research agencies. She has an exemplary record of peer-reviewed and other publications (70+) and receives many invitations to collaborate on national research projects. Perhaps the most telling example of her reputation came with her invitation to join the workplace advisory committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2007 as she was the only occupational therapist in the country invited to join a Commission committee. Since that time she has served as a principal investigator on the Commission’s anti-stigma initiative as it relates to workplaces, and as an investigator in their high profile At Home/Chez Soi and Aspiring Workforce initiatives.

In all of her endeavours, she has been highly regarded by her colleagues; she engenders great respect and is an inspiration to her students and all others who work with her. Through her clinical and academic work, she has greatly expanded the profession’s body of knowledge, helped build research capacity in mental health, and influenced policy development and services in the community. She has raised the profile of occupational therapy in mental health across many disciplines and within various contexts, including the general public. She has helped bring the role of occupational therapy in mental health to the national stage through her work with the Mental Health Commission and with the Canadian Mental Health Association. She has influenced the paradigm of practice in occupational therapy through her work in spirituality.

Bonnie Kirsh is an advocate for the role of occupational therapy in mental illness and continues to make outstanding contribution to our profession.

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