By the 1950s, the course of instruction leading to a bachelor of science in occupational therapy consisted of a two-year pre-professional course and a two-year professional course, followed by ten months of clinical training.
An increased focus on science contributed to the maturing of the profession of occupational therapy. Advances in pharmacology (such as penicillin, the polio vaccine and neuroleptic drugs) and technological and scientific advances (such as the introduction of plastic splints and orthotics devices) changed both the types of patients treated and the methods of treatment.
Martha Matthews succeeded Erna Rozmarynowski Simek as the Elias Michael Director in 1956. She was instrumental in developing the curriculum, increasing the basic science courses, reflecting the increasing emphasis on scientific research in the study of occupational therapy. Rehabilitation techniques dealing with prosthetics training, splint construction, daily living activities, spinal cord injuries and progressive neurological disorders were added to the curriculum as well.
Drawing on her administrative experience as president of the Missouri Occupational Therapy Association and Education Secretary of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Matthews helped plan the occupational therapy facilities at the Irene Walter Johnson Institute of Rehabilitation which opened in 1959. Services of the Institute were coordinated through the Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health.