WASHINGTON --Howard University Allied Health Science graduate Arley Johnson (BS ’94) was recently named the interim site manager for Therapy Services for University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Penn Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine and Good Shepherd Penn Partners Specialty Hospital. University of Pennsylvania Health System is the state’s largest health care system with three acute care hospitals, including two regional medical centers and a multitude of clinical care providers. Johnson’s job since August is to oversee therapy services at the 58-bed rehabilitation facility, the 35-bed long-term acute care hospital and acute care services at Pennsylvania Hospital. It’s a hefty position that requires him to manage about 95 employees. Additionally, he is married with three children. Johnson says it can be difficult to maintain a balance. But to keep up with everything, he focuses on whatever is in front of him and concentrates on the task at hand.
“One thing at a time,” he said.
But there was a time when Johnson didn’t see occupational therapy in his future.
On Feb. 28, 1990, while at Howard, Johnson’s father died. The following week, he found out that he had been turned down for the program in physical therapy at Howard.
“It was the worst week of my life,” he said.
Johnson was sitting in the lobby of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences trying to figure out his next move in life, when a friend suggested that he apply for the University’s program in Occupational Therapy. He didn’t really know anything about the program, he said, but he applied, not knowing what else to do. He has since graduated from Howard University’s Occupational Therapy program, earned a master’s degree in Healthcare management in Occupational Therapy from Temple University and has quickly risen through the healthcare ranks.
He started as a staff occupational therapist at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he gained experience and found his passion for neurorehabilitation. At Temple, Johnson implemented an interdisciplinary coma stimulation program and an outpatient constraint-induced movement therapy program for stroke survivors. In 2006, Johnson was appointed to assistant director of Rehabilitation at Pennsylvania Hospital.
In his current position, Johnson handles everything from financial operations to program development . “I like to show what rehabilitation can bring to the table,” Johnson said.
“We don’t like for other professionals to place us in a box. Therapists are much more dynamic.”
Johnson is also active in other endeavors. He co-authored a book chapter entitled “Neurological Diseases” in A Practitioner’s Guide to Occupational Therapy Textbook, and he is a recipient of the Philadelphia Region Fieldwork Consortium Site Award. He served as an instructor in respite care, short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. He is a member of the Health Education Advisory Board for the Philadelphia School District and the Howard University Occupational Therapy Advisory Board. Johnson was an adjunct professor for Temple University’s Occupation Therapy program and has been a guest lecturer on occupational therapy at Howard University and Thomas Jefferson University.
Although his father wanted him to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Johnson chose Howard University.
“Howard showed me that so many other African Americans were forward-thinking and progressive,” he said. “Howard’s OT program prepared me and gave me all the skills to be successful.”
Johnson encourages aspiring occupational therapy students at Howard University to make education their top priority. “You’re learning information and skills that you’ll be using for your entire career,” he said.