Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship

The UNC Health Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship is a 12-month post-graduate program starting in January. Applications are accepted through August 1. Accepted fellows are full-time employees and will receive full benefits and didactic instruction.


The mission of the UNC Health Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship Program is to provide a collaborative, translational experience to advance the knowledge, skills and abilities of occupational therapists specializing in mental health care to meet the health and wellness needs of the people of North Carolina and beyond.


The fellowship mentors follow the principles of Adult Learning Theory - andragogy (Knowles, 1984). Andragogy emphasizes that learners must be active and involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction. Adult learning is most effective through experiential learning where the learner engages in problem-centered rather than content- oriented learning. The theory also emphasizes that adults bring many experiences to the learning situation, which are harnessed as resources for person-centered learning. The fellowship mentors and faculty are committed to developing fellows who are recognized leaders within their specialty area of mental health care.

The core values of the fellowship program are reflected in the mission of UNC Health of becoming the nation’s leading public academic medical center by developing high-quality leaders, teachers, and caregivers.

Program Structure

The UNC Health Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship Program curriculum is designed to increase the breadth and depth of knowledge, skill, and application of occupational therapy in mental health service provision.

Fellows will develop excellence in evaluation, intervention, consultation, advocacy, teaching and the integration of current evidence into the patient care they provide. They will contribute to the profession through teaching, writing, advocacy and leadership.

The UNC Health Occupational Health Mental Health Fellowship is a 12-month program that starts in January. The fellow is a full-time employee (with competitive salary and benefits) who works three days per week providing direct patient care and participates in didactic instruction and mentor time two days a week. Additionally the fellow completes weekly learning activities in a mixed format (reading, researching, discussion, observation, online posts and teaching). Additionally, the fellow covers holidays and receives 10 paid time off days.

Didactic work is organized into learning modules spanning the 12-month fellowship:

  • 6-8 week focused learning: Orientation and Systems, Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations, Older Adults, Adults, Adolescents, Pediatrics, Academic Teaching, Clinical Education and Elective
  • Continuous learning: Research, Advocacy, Interdisciplinary Learning and Leadership

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the fellowship program the fellow will:

  • Meet competencies set forth from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) as essential skills.
  • Be eligible for fast track candidacy in the AOTA Board Certification in Mental Health.
  • Have successfully submitted a presentation to the North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association (NCOTA) Fall conference


Shelley AshcroftShelley Ashcroft, OTD, OTR/L, BCMH

Undergraduate school:

BS: Lenoir-Rhyne College

Graduate school:

OTD: Creighton University

Professional Interest:

Mental Health, Chronic Disease Management, Political and Legal, Education, Research and Leadership

Why I serve as a mentor with the UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship: 

Serving as a mentor is a great opportunity to highlight the distinct value of occupational therapy and mental health.

Kristel MaesKristel Maes, PT, DPT, Dip MDT

Undergraduate school:

KULeuven Belgium

Graduate school:

KULeuven Belgium and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professional interest:

My clinical interest is spine. In my current position as Administrator of our post-graduate programs I have a passion for education and preparing the future generation of therapists.

Why I serve as a mentor:

Research has shown that having a professional mentor is beneficial to advancing your career. From personal experience, I value the benefit of surrounding myself with others who can give me a different perspective on a patient case, problem or project. By serving as a mentor I hope to pass on my knowledge and support a fellow's professional growth.

Mentor Information


Antoine Bailliard, PhD, OTR/L, Associate Professor

Undergraduate school:

BA: Peace, War, Defense, UNC Chapel Hill

Graduate school:

PhD: Occupational Science, UNC Chapel Hill

MA: Occupational Therapy, UNC Chapel Hill

Professional Interest:

My research and clinical practice focus on improving the quality of life and community integration of marginalized populations such as adults with mental illness and migrant groups. Using participatory research methods, I have studied the relationship between the embodiment of sensory experiences and mental health. I have also studied the relationship between participation in occupation and theories of social/occupational justice. Although my clinical experience is predominantly in adult inpatient psychiatric settings, I have also worked with children and in community-based health settings. Currently, I am a research fellow at the Community Outcomes Research and Evaluation Center (COREC) within the North Carolina Psychiatric Research Center (NCPRC). I am also a consultant and trainer for the Institute of Best Practices at the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Why I serve as a mentor with the UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship: Training the next generation of researchers and clinicians is of primary importance to support our collective efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of adults with serious mental illness. In addition to its unquestionable value, I thoroughly enjoy mentoring OT fellows and guiding them on a personal journey of inquiry and discovery.

MaryBeth GallagherMaryBeth Gallagher PhD, OTR/L

Undergraduate school:

BA: Elmira College, Elmira NY

Graduate school:

PhD: University of Limerick, Limerick Ireland

MA: Boston School of Occupational Therapy, Medford MA

Professional Interest:

Critical Occupational Therapy Practice in Mental Health, Professional Reasoning and Reflexivity

Why I serve as a mentor with the UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship:  I love working with people who want to make the world better through occupation! The fellowship offers me the opportunity to cultivate a perspective in others that directly influences occupational therapy practice in mental health. This motivates me to be a better occupational scientist and therapist.

GodwinKimberly Godwin, OTR/L

Undergraduate School:

North Carolina State University

Graduate School:

MS: Winston Salem State University and currently Creighton University

Professional Interest:

Mental Health, Advocacy, Women’s Health,  Research, and Clinical education with students

Why I serve as a mentor with UNC Mental Health Fellowship:

Opportunities of mentorship are beneficial both to the mentor and mentee. Collaborative mentor relationships ensure we are working towards improving the practice of occupational therapy. I enjoy opportunities to educate, provide support, and motivate practitioners to advocate for our profession at an organization and individual level.

PalpantKeara Palpant, OTR/L

Undergraduate School:

Milligan College

Graduate School:

UNC at Chapel Hill

Professional Interest:

Perinatal Mental Health

Why I serve as a mentor: 

As a participant of the UNC Mental Health Fellowship, I saw the incredible benefit that came from have dedicated mentors helping me to problem solve and grow to be a better version of my OT self.  Because I myself received great mentorship, I wish to pass that on to the fellows coming through this program.  I am also serving as a mentor in order to help promote and teach self-compassion, resilience, and care towards themselves during their fellowship year.

Darren PetersDarren Peters, MOTR/L, BCMH

Undergraduate school:

BS: Canterbury Christ Church University

Graduate school:

University of Brighton

Professional Interest:

Community mental health

Why I serve as a mentor with the UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship: I appreciate opportunities to advocate for mental health through teaching, training and mentorship to enhance the scope and impact occupational therapy can and should have in mental health. Being a mentor in the fellowship program enables me to support the development of systems, programs and therapists to support occupational therapy in mental health, especially at a community level.


Jody Bennett, OTR/L2022 Fellow Jody Bennett, OTR/L

Undergraduate school
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Graduate school
UNC Chapel Hill

Professional interest
I am excited to take part in building an expansion of community-based services for people with serious mental illness(SMI) in North Carolina, including expanded role for practitioners in the inpatient setting to support transition from hospitalization towards return to community. Interests in this area include assisting to develop inclusive community supports, providing holistic community-based care towards reduction in crisis hospitalizations, and supporting increased options for return to meaningful employment/volunteerism.

Why I chose to do a residency/fellowship program at UNC
The primary reason I chose the fellowship at UNC is the supportive learning environment, including the fellowship team and my colleagues. Through the UNC fellowship I have the opportunity to work with people across age ranges and diagnoses to gain a broad understanding of mental health practice. Experienced mentorship is provided for clinical practice, research, and advocacy, allowing for an exciting range of opportunities supportive of constant personal growth. From the first day I have been encouraged to take a leadership role in shaping the fellowship towards meeting my individualized goals for the experience. The tools and support offered through this fellowship truly provide a rich professional growth environment.

What I like about Chapel Hill, NC
Being in the Triangle Area means that there are plenty of events going on every week. I enjoy the variety of art museums, public gardens, and outdoor markets nearby. The nearby universities provide an ongoing selection of interesting academic events. It is also nice to be in the central area of North Carolina, with the beach or the mountains only being a short day trip away.

Genevieve Romeo

2021 Fellow Genevieve Romeo, OTR/L

Undergraduate school: Ursinus College

Graduate school: UNC Chapel Hill

Professional interest: Community Mental Health

Why I chose to do a fellowship program at UNC: I chose to do this fellowship because it will give me the opportunity to grow as a clinician, to learn from a variety of mentors, to develop my 'toolbox' of interventions, and to hone clinical reasoning skills in an environment that fosters reflective practice.

What I like about Chapel Hill: Chapel Hill has pleasant weather, free buses, many lovely hiking trails, and excellent frozen yogurt. It's a great place to raise a family. I moved down here from the NYC area in 2002 and I've never looked back.


2019 Fellow Zachary Schafer, OTR/L

Undergraduate school: Sacred Heart University (2015)

Graduate school: Sacred Heart University (2018)

Professional Interest: Mental Health; Community Based Care; Research; Teaching/Academia

Why I chose UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship: The UNC Mental Health Fellowship is a unique opportunity given the pairing of a top-notch hospital system with a prestigious academic university. Each mentor is unique in both personality, therapy style, and expertise. The one-on-one time with them is invaluable. The patient population is diverse and covers the lifespan. The team your work on is large, diverse, and includes many disciplines. In addition to the clinical experience, you also get an opportunity to collaborate, teach, and research alongside the faculty of a top tier Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy program.

What I like about Chapel Hill: Chapel Hill, with the school and its rich history, there is an immediate sense of family and community. You feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself, which makes the transition easier. Triangle brings in people from all over, so there is a good mix of southern culture and diversity. Chapel Hill has plenty to keep you busy and is an excellent location to explore the state of NC. Durham, Duke, and Raleigh are all within 45 minutes and you can get to the mountains or the coast in 3hrs either direction. Much of the town is walkable, public transportation is free and the airport is close by too.

Keara Palpant2018 Fellow Keara Palpant, OTR/L

Undergraduate school: Milligan University

Graduate school: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professional Interest: Working with underserved populations, which right now looks like the adult mental health population, including perinatal mental health. 

Why I chose UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship: I chose the UNC Health Mental Health Fellowship because I was looking for a way to continue my learning and challenge my thinking straight out of graduate school.  I thought choosing to do a fellowship would be a good way to transition into practice as it would incorporate aspects of graduate school (critical thinking, research, reading and applying evidence based research) that were already routine for me, while also allowing for independent practice and mentorship.  I chose mental health because psychology has always been an interest of mine and it is such a unique, specialized area of OT.  Now I can say that the fellowship was a wonderful way to transition to practice, provided amazing mentorship, majorly challenged my thinking, and made me so passionate about mental health OT that now I am continuing to work in this field!

What I like about Chapel Hill:  Everything.  Chapel Hill is a small town and has all the benefits of a small town, while also having the rewards of being close to large cities and having a university attached to it.  There is something for everyone.  If you like to hike and be outdoors, great.  If you enjoy going out, great, that is definitely that available.  If you need a coffee shop to study, there are like 50 (kidding probably more like 15).  The UNC Botanical Gardens is my favorite place to go.  I also highly recommend just walking through campus.  If you want to get away from the college scene, definitely go explore Durham.  Actually, you should just go explore Durham no matter what.

Admission Information

Submission for applications will close on August 1, 2022.

Please go here to complete the application and submit the following to us via email:

1. Resume or CV

2. Personal Essay
Please answer the following questions. (Typed, 250-500 word limit for each question)

  • Why have you chosen to pursue a fellowship program?
  • What makes you a strong candidate and a good fit for the UNC Health Mental Health Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship Program?
  • What do you hope to gain from our fellowship program?

3. Three professional letters of reference sent directly by the reference to clinicaledreq@unchealth.unc.edu

We will invite strong candidates to visit Chapel Hill for an interview and tour of the fellowship work and education sites on Friday August 26th. Decisions will be made within 2 weeks after the interview date. The fellowship program will begin in January 2023. Fellows must have a North Carolina OT license prior to January 1.

With questions, please contact clinicaledreq@unchealth.unc.edu.

Diversity Statement: The UNC Health System and the UNC School of Medicine are committed to valuing all people throughout our organization, regardless of background, lifestyle, and culture. A diverse and inclusive work environment for staff and culturally appropriate care for our patients, are essential to fulfilling our UNC Health vision of improving the health of all North Carolinians.

Equal Employment Opportunity: UNC Health is an equal opportunity employer. As such, UNC Health offers equal employment opportunities to applicants and employees without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or political affiliation.

Fellowship Q&A

How does mentored time work?

Mentor time is an opportunity to meet 1:1 with the mentor for the module you are completing. All the mentors have expertise in the module they teach. You can use this time to discuss articles and assignments for the fellowship. You can discuss patient care and difficulties you are having, you can have them observe you and give you feedback. You can discuss new ideas or projects. Essentially, this time is yours. You and your mentor decide together how to best use this time to facilitate your growth. What mentor time looks like will probably change from module to module as different as your needs change and each mentors their own styles The only predetermined structure for mentor time is guaranteed minimum of 4 hours per week.

How did you adjust to living in Chapel Hill?

Adjusting to living in Chapel Hill is easy.  Between the University community and the infamous “southern hospitality”, you will immediately feel like a part of the family. The University brings in a lot of diversity and re-locators from all around so you are bound to find people you get along with. There are museums, performing arts centers, bars/restaurants, and woodsy outdoor trails. You can enjoy the nightlight of a college town, get a five star meal, go to a farmers market, or spend a day on the river. Most things are walkable and the public transportation is free.

What qualities would make a successful fellow?

Creativity - the fellowship has a loose structure. The colors are provided but the canvas is blank. A successful fellow is not afraid to step outside the box, express their ideas, and inspire those around them.

Organization - the fellowship comes with a lot to be accomplished and a lot of freedom with how you do it. Self-care and maintaining a healthy life-balance is important too. A successful fellow is good at organizing, prioritizing, and managing time.

Humility - the fellowship is an opportunity to solidify strengths and acknowledge areas for growth. A successful fellow is open to feedback, flexible in their thinking, and vulnerable to making mistakes.

Teamwork- the fellowship is all about collaboration. You are an active member of the fellowship team, rehab team, and the interdisciplinary treatment team.  A successful fellow respects others, builds relationships, and communicates their needs effectively.

Passion - the fellowship is a lot of work and burn out can happen. A successful fellow has an unconditional passion for the profession, the patients, and personal growth that supports their perseverance through the inevitable challenges.

Describe a day in the life

A day in the life of a fellow can be split into workdays, half didactic days, and full didactic days:

1)      Workday looks like morning triage with the team, checking emails, and meetings if necessary. We talk over the plan of care for the day and go off to their assigned unit for most mornings to do evals, treatment, document etc. You break for lunch mid-day and then return to do patient care for the afternoon.

2)      On the half-didactic day, you chose to dedicate the morning or afternoon to doing fellowship responsibilities. The other half is a typical workday.

3)      On the full didactic day, you have the complete day to dedicate to fellowship duties.

The days of the week that these happen is flexible and subject to change.

Didactic responsibilities may include: readings, assignments, projects, research, mentor time, etc. In addition to your fellowship duties, you will have an opportunity to attend the didactic class for the Psychiatry Residents 1x per week. In this class, you get to learn alongside the residents and be a voice for OT as a member of the interdisciplinary team. 

Information on Student Affiliations

Rehabilitation Therapies, Therapy Services Educators
Kristel Maes, PT, DPT
Amber Corbin, MA, CCC-SLP
Contact Us

UNC Wellness Resources

Darren Peters and MaryBeth Gallagher are Occupational Therapists on the UNC Mental Health Therapy Team. They have designed a curriculum to foster resiliency and a list of well-being resources offering support during this global occupational disruption.

Wellness Resources

Learn the 5Cs and stay well at home and work!. #OTresiliency