Susan Brokaw Kimmons, OTR, CHT (1958-1997) received her B.S. in occupational therapy from Northeast Louisiana University (now Louisiana State University at Monroe) in 1981. For the next seven years after graduation, she practiced in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, eventually rising to the position of director of occupational therapy at Willis-Knighton Medical Center.
In 1990, she moved with her husband Stephen Kimmons ’78 (a graduate of the School of Music) to Ithaca, where he had been hired as director of alumni relations at Ithaca College, a position he held until 1998. In 1991, Susan was hired as the only occupational therapist on staff at the Cayuga Medical Center.
When Ithaca College began to discuss the possibility of adding occupational therapy to its curriculum, Susan was one of the first people called. Serving on a panel of occupational therapists that made recommendations to the College as to what would be needed for such an undertaking, she was proud to have played an instrumental role in the creation of the occupational therapy program at Ithaca College.
Susan’s professional experience ran the gamut from stroke rehab to geriatrics to head injury rehab, but at the Cayuga Medical Center, she was faced with a new and different challenge – hand therapy. Forced by these new demands into on-the-job training, she quickly realized that certification would be necessary in order for her to truly perform her duties. After studying throughout the summer and fall of 1996, she took her certification exam in November, passing it on her first attempt.
Susan had a keen interest in students, and worked closely with interns throughout her career. In late 1996 and early 1997, she entered into an agreement with the occupational therapy department at Ithaca College to accept its very first interns at the Cayuga Medical Center. Unfortunately, her untimely death in March 1997 brought this agreement and her career to an abrupt end. The flags at the Cayuga Medical Center and at Ithaca College were both lowered to mourn her passing – the only time this has happened. Memories of Susan remain strong in Ithaca and at Ithaca College – for her dedication as a professional and for her warmth as a friend.
Of Susan Kimmons, a former intern once wrote: “Susan took me on as a student and gave me a start in a profession where I feel that I can actually make a difference in someone’s life, which is a great feeling. I don’t know if I would have ever had the chance without her. She nurtured in me confidence in my abilities as a therapist as she helped me through times of question and doubt.”
Finally, here are some powerful words from a radiologist and former hand therapy patient who worked with Susan at the Cayuga Medical Center: “I knew of her expertise long before the examiners. When she first saw me I think she was a little overwhelmed with the extent of my injury but that didn’t deter her. She had the confidence to rely on her training and what she didn’t know, she’d find out. She was innovative and not afraid to try something new…. Never forceful but a gentle firmness, a gift of only a few therapists…. If I mastered something she was right back with something else to keep me from getting bored. She was able to temper my enthusiasm and goals without stifling and inhibiting my potential to get everything possible back; again a rare trait of the best therapists…. Every time I pick up a fork, a hammer, I think of her. Every time I drop something I think of her encouragement and pick it up again. When I button my shirt in the morning using the button hook she gave me, I remember…. Even now as I punch these keys because I can, Susan is watching as the tears swell in my eyes…. She gave me back my hands.”
In 2002, to mark the fifth anniversary of her passing, family, friends, colleagues and patients endowed the Susan Brokaw Memorial Scholarship as a lasting tribute to her. The scholarship was dedicated on April 29, 2002, the ninth birthday of Susan and Stephen’s daughter Emily.
Students interested in being considered for this scholarship must be interested in pursuing hand therapy after graduation and should contact the HSHP Dean's Office for the application form.