Pat Carroll, 40, recently won the first "OT of the Year" award sponsored by the College of Occupational Therapists and Stannah Stairlifts. He is a specialist in complex disability and pain management, working with people with long-term conditions. His main achievement has been developing a model of practice that ignores traditional boundaries of health care and is driven by the individual's needs, not by diagnosis.
"I started in the army and soon realised I'd made a big mistake. But I also realised I liked working with people and wanted a career in which I could treat them. I originally looked to physiotherapy, but in the hospital I was working in, there was a very dynamic occupational therapist, and that's what turned me on to this profession.
"I'd got a degree in psych-ology, but in that field you pass treatment on to other people. The nice thing about occupational therapy is that you carry out an assessment and then treat your patient according to that.
"Most of my patients have chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis. My role is to help make their disability something that isn't central to their life but incidental to it. With MS, for instance, fatigue has a big influence in terms of the likelihood of relapse. So if you can teach someone to manage their fatigue, theoretically you avoid the relapse.
"I won't save the world through occupational therapy, but I can make a difference to some individuals' lives."
Jane Crawford-White, 47, has spent the last six years developing the role of occupational therapy at GP practices in Cambridgeshire, and providing community rehabilitation. She has been involved in projects such as stroke, orthopaedic and "rapid response" teams, and in developing intermediate care in residential homes.
"Occupational therapy has provided a flexible and varied career."
Helena Culshaw, 50, is chairman of the Council of the College of Occupational Therapists and head of Occupational Therapy Services for three Manchester primary care trusts and Manchester Mental Health and Social Care NHS Trust. "I have always enjoyed enabling people to make the most of their potential, including employment following injury or disability."
Helen Gill, Ros Munday
Helen Gill (pictured), 40, and Ros Munday, 39, are based at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. They have worked on developing "Smart", a tech- nique for detecting the smallest signs of awareness in people suffering profound brain injury. Helen says: "Accurate assessment is vital in the light of recent judicial decisions to withdraw nutrition and hydration from patients diagnosed in Vegetative State."
Maeve Groom, 61, is president of the Council of Occupational Therapists for the European Countries. She works as an independent consultant specialising in the provision of integrated therapy and equipment services.
"While we all respect the diversity of our cultures worldwide, when we get together you can actually feel the OT way of thinking threading through even our most difficult discussions and decision making. …