KGI opens new building, moving forward occupational therapy and physician assistant programs

Many people holding a large red pair of scissors cuts a KGI ribbon.
KGI cut the ribbon on Building 555, a space that will facilitate new degree offerings set launch in the fall. (Courtesy: Keck Graduate Institute)

Updated March 28 at 7:25 p.m.

On March 9, Keck Graduate Institute celebrated the official opening of Building 555, which will facilitate KGI’s new degree offerings: a Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and a doctorate in occupational therapy. The first cohort for the program will be welcomed in the fall.

The new facility, at 555 Arrow Highway, contains four new labs and classrooms which will give students access to simulated patient exams and virtual 3D anatomy models, among other resources, according to KGI. The school is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.  

Although the building is currently open, KGI spokesperson Lauren Porta said she doesn’t expect classes to begin inside until the new programs take off in the fall. 

“I imagine the rooms will continue to be used for events/meetings/summer programs until then,” she told TSL in an email.

The OTD is a three-year program that will involve “active-learning, hands-on lab and fieldwork experiences and team collaboration” in order to foster “compassionate, ethical practitioners who act with authenticity and integrity in every step of the occupational therapy process,” the department’s website said.

The new doctoral program has applied for accreditation by American Occupational Therapy Association but has not yet been approved by the AOTA or the Western Association of Schools & Colleges, according to KGI.

Christy Billock, who was hired in 2019 as the director of the OTD program, was recently selected for the California Foundation of Occupational Therapy Honored Lectureship, according to a March 7 KGI press release

The new masters is a 27-month program intended to prepare students through hands-on volunteering to provide compassionate care to patients of diverse race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, age and socioeconomic status, according to the department’s website.

“These experiences will also allow our graduates to recognize health disparities and work towards achieving health equity,” the website said.

Sonia Otte, a former physician assistant, was hired in 2020 to direct the MSPA program.

The building will also host the college’s admissions and financial aid staff.

KGI hopes that the launching of Building 555 will begin a new era of opportunities for students and the healthcare workers of the future.

“This is not just about our new building; this is about the growth and success of KGI and the communities we will impact with the start of our new physician assistant and occupational therapy programs,” Porta said.

These programs are emerging amid KGI’s efforts to train culturally competent health care workers for the local community — especially via its new medical school, which currently offers a Master of Science in Community Medicine.

KGI’s School of Medicine is searching for a new dean after Dean David Lawrence announced he was stepping down from his role on March 10, citing the need to spend more time with his family. Lawrence assumed the role in March 2020 when his predecessor resigned after only six months on the job. 

Correction: A previous version of this article included the phrase “physician’s assistant.” Per the American Academy of PAs, the correct term is “physician assistant.” The article also previously said Sonia Otte is a practicing physician assistant, but she is no longer practicing, per a spokesperson. TSL regrets the errors.

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