OT Weekend Student Invents Modern Solution to Pandemic Problem
Brown Develops “Ear Savers” with Use of 3-D Printer
by Nick McAdam '21, Public Relations Intern
Many health care workers continue to log in long shifts during the pandemic. While the constant wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) may protect them, it also irritates the back of the ears, sometimes rubbing them raw.
Utica College graduate student Ann Marie Brown saw both the problem and a solution. Using a 3-D printer, she fashioned a small device that is worn on the back of a person’s head, with a clip on each end to hold the ear loops of the mask. This extends the length of the loops, removing pressure off the ears while still offering the same protection.
“I was humbled by the support for my little project,” Brown said. “The generosity and support from the faculty and staff at Utica College for the surrounding community are unparalleled.”
The 37-year-old grad student held a sales position at a local steel company until 2018, when she started her prerequisites for the occupational therapy (OT) program at UC. Her inspiration stemmed from watching how instrumental occupational therapy was in the treatment of her father, who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a farm accident a few years earlier.
She recalls how the OTs worked to find adaptations so that her dad could regain his personal identity.
Brown then sat down with Nancy Hollins, professor of OT, to discuss next steps. She is now in the college’s Weekend Program, which is a great fit for her. She can work at her degree at her own pace, while still earning a reliable income.
“Right now, I’m out on my Level II pediatric fieldwork, which is a 12-week fulltime internship where I am putting theory and coursework into practice,” Brown said. “Every day is a new challenge, and I’m applying what I’ve been taught and learning even more! After this, I will be placed at a different site, where the focus is on providing occupational therapy services to adults.”
Brown’s invention has been published by the Student Journal for Occupational Therapy (SJOT) in a recent article titled “Farewell to Ears: Hearing the Call and Answering” found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of the peer-reviewed journal.
Linnea Franits, professor of occupational therapy, said, “This is what it’s all about. Ann Marie stuck with the project and experimented with new ideas. It is so encouraging to see our students grow and make an impact.”
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