LEWISTON — Raha Daud was on a high school field trip to Massachusetts General Hospital when she decided to become an occupational therapist.

Abshiro Noor, right, adjusts a hand splint Tuesday afternoon on Raha Daud during their Occupational Performance Through Adulthood class at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College on Westminster Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Daud, then a student in Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s nursing assistant program, always saw herself in the medical field. After talking with an occupational therapist at the hospital, she realized it was the right fit.

“I just knew from that day on that I wanted to be an occupational therapist,” she said.

Daud is a masters student in the University of Southern Maine’s occupational therapy program based at the Lewiston-Auburn Campus. She and her classmate, Abshiro Noor of Lewiston, said it’s great to be able to study occupational therapy in their hometown, with family and friends close at hand.

“It makes things a lot easier,” Noor said.

Occupational therapy is one of several health care programs offered at L-AC, a number which administrators plan to grow in the coming years. As part of a redevelopment process, the campus aims to strengthen its undergraduate and graduate health care programs, and redefine its role in the Lewiston area.


Recently, USM President Jacqueline Edmondson announced the university’s intent to build a ‘health education corridor’ at its Lewiston-Auburn campus.

“A corridor is about making connections, and my vision for L-AC is that we will make strong connections between USM and the Lewiston-Auburn area through health professions education,” she said.

Through the corridor, administrators plan to bolster existing programs, bring additional programs to the campus and help local employers recruit skilled professionals to meet their staffing needs. The initial focus is on health science programs, but the campus ultimately plan to grow its social and behavioral science programs as well.

This project is in response to a 2021 needs assessment prepared by Rebecca Swanson Conrad, an Auburn-based consultant with experience in business and higher education. She found that while the Lewiston-Auburn community is large enough to support a university campus, the number of people who earn a bachelor’s degree has remained low.

Part of the problem stems from insufficient local investment in L-AC and underdeveloped recruitment partnerships, Conrad reported. She also determined that many people in the community believe that a four-year degree is inaccessible due to financial, transportation and child care barriers.

“This report had significant community input and provides a solid road map for us, and the recommendations align with ideas I heard from health and business leaders I met with in the fall semester,” Edmondson wrote.


In addition to creating a health education corridor, administrators are working to create partnerships with Central Maine Community College to encourage students earning associate degrees to continue on to undergraduate programs at L-AC. Another possible partnership with Bates College would create pipelines for students to enroll in the Muskie School of Public Service master’s programs in public health and public policy.

Instructor Mary Anderson, middle, guides students Emma Paquette, left, and Sierra Duggan as they make a wrist splint during their Occupational Performance Through Adulthood class at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College on Westminster Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Edmundson wrote that she is “encouraged” by interest in the Lewiston-Auburn region by faculty at the Muskie School.

A recent change in the university system accreditation means that L-AC can offer a greater variety of programs previously only available at other campuses in the state.

The first of these programs, a dental assistant program from the University of Maine at Augusta, began in 2021.

L-AC is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with UMA and the University of Maine at Presque Isle to add medical technology and physical assistant programs.

These programs should provide pipelines for further study at USM, Edmondson wrote.


L-AC is one of three colleges campuses in Lewiston and Auburn that offer degrees in health care. Central Maine Community College in Auburn has some associate-level health care programs, and the Maine College of Health Professionals in Lewiston offers associate and undergraduate degrees.

Edmundson said she believes the growth at L-AC will prove to be complementary to health care education programs which already exist in the two cities.

“I am very proud of the fact that we have a strong relationships with CMCC, and I am hoping to develop a similarly strong relationship with the Maine College of Healthcare Professionals,” she wrote. “There are tremendous needs for nurses and other health care professionals, and I believe we are only able to meet these needs if we work together in strategic ways.”

L-AC’s redevelopment will be led in part by Netty Provost, the coordinator of undergraduate nursing education at the University of Southern Maine, and Conrad, who remains a consultant to the campus.

In July, Provost will become the director of L-AC, an addition to her current responsibilities.

Mary Anderson, a professor in L-AC’s occupational therapy program, said she’s excited to see more health care programs offered in Lewiston.


One of the occupational therapy program’s strengths is in its community collaborations. Students provide care for patients at an on-campus, student run occupational therapy clinic. They also partner with Acadia Academy to offer services to students in need.

These are the kinds of partnerships administrators say they want to create for new and existing health care programs at L-AC.

“I think being in the L-A community is wonderful to make those connections because it’s not too big,” Anderson said.

She believes new health care programs at L-AC will further enhance the occupational therapy program by creating more opportunities for her students to collaborate and learn from students in related programs.

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