MSHA members in action.

Dr. Off

Dr. OffDr. Off is recipient of the 2016 Montana State Clinical Achievement Award.  She exemplifies the spirit of this award.

Dr. Off provides high-quality research-based services to persons with aphasia in an intensive clinic that may be seen in a large city, but rarely in a rural community.  Her patients have benefited greatly from the services offered.  She really cares for the whole person and his or her environment, not simply “fixing” a disorder, as can be seen through her unique therapeutic model.  Caregivers are incorporated into the program, they are offered social supports, and counseling services.  Within this treatment approach, Dr. Off’s research involves assessment and treatment efficacy of adults with acquired neurological disorders with an emphasis on language recovery and rehabilitation following stroke.  She is particularly interested in the correlation between behavioral outcomes and the underlying structural and functional neuroplastic changes of the brain during rehabilitation from stroke.

On of the most important parts of Dr. Off’s work is her role and mentorship with students.  First, Dr. Off provides clinical education and models best clinical practices with students from the University of Montana.  In turn, these students are now working across the state and providing high-quality aphasia services on a larger scale, not just in Missoula.

Second, one of the skills that we most admire about Dr. Off is her ability to not only engage students in clinic, but also clinical research.  Dr. Off maintains an active clinical research lab with both undergraduate and graduate student researchers and provides an outstanding research culture that generates great clinical research enthusiasm by the next generation of researchers.  Dr. Off is a prolific student mentor.  She and her students have presented 18 research talks at the state and national levels and they been recognized with state and national awards.  One of her mentees, Jenna Griffin was awarded an NIH-NIDCD fellowship to participate at the Clinical Aphasiology Conference, a competitive and prestigious organization.  Dr. Off’s undergraduate students were awarded top honors at the University Of Montana Conference for Undergraduate Research in Spring of 2015.  Her students have also been recognized by our state association.

Furthermore, Dr. Off is changing the landscape of aphasia services through her collaborations with researchers from top national institutions including Lisa Milman at Utah State University and Carolyn Baylor at the University of Washington.  Dr. Off also collaborates across the University of Montana campus and is growing a network in inter-professional education.  She collaborates with Chuck Leonard in association with the Neural Injury Center for an interdisciplinary approach to rehabilitation. Her research has been recently funded through a Clinical Translational Research Infrastructure Network (CTR-IN) mini grant.  Overall, Dr. Off’s “reach” is extraordinary in the field of aphasia rehabilitation!!

Dr. Off humbly shares directorship of the Big Sky Aphasia Program (BSAP) with UM alum, Jenna Griffin.  She credits Annie Kennedy (former co-director and friend) for initiating the program.  We believe that Dr. Off’s collaboration, research orientation, and leadership helped this program grow to its current model.  Catherine Off is the heart of BSAP!  From the initial inception, Dr. Off was instrumental in bringing a clinical research vision and interdisciplinary programming.  Dr. Off has shown wonderful skills in promoting the program, which has also led to the program’s growth.  It has been featured in popular media on Montana Public Radio, the Missoulian, the Kaimin, and Vision Magazine, and also through peer-reviewed publications.  Dr. Off’s leadership has pushed this program to reach capacity, currently hold a waiting list, and attract clients from out-of-state.  Dr. Off’s program provides a much needed service and also a cutting edge training opportunity for our students.

Overall, Catherine Off is an exceptional clinician, mentor, teacher, researcher and collaborator.