SHP Alumni Awards

Melissa Thurlow, 2023 SHP Distinguished Alumnus

Melissa (Missy) Cathcart Thurlow, MBA, OTR/L, CHT

2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

This award, the highest bestowed by the School of Health Professions Alumni Association, is presented annually to one alumnus who has made major contributions to the health professions through commitment of excellence, research, education, community service and leadership roles.



About Mrs. Thurlow

Melissa (Missy) Cathcart Thurlow was born and raised in Shreveport Louisiana. After high school, she attended Baylor University pursuing therapy. Her interest was piqued after watching a late 1960s TV series, Ironside, where a police inspector was paralyzed in the line of duty and subsequently, used a wheelchair.  A recruiter from UTMB visited Baylor to talk to interested students about their allied health programs. Occupational Therapy (OT) would prove to be her perfect match for years to come while UTMB would become her place of study. During her time there, she enjoyed all that Galveston and UTMB had to offer. Thurlow is a proud alumnus of the Class of 1981.

With a degree in hand, Thurlow headed back to her Louisiana roots and took a position in Baton Rouge as a specialist in burn and upper extremity rehabilitation.  She enjoyed working in a multidisciplinary setting of Physicians, Nurses, Physical Therapists, OTs, and Psychologists with a dedicated team approach to best serve their patients. There she found a love for this special population as well as Cajun food.

A move to Atlanta had her earning her Neurodevelopmental (NDT) certification and her experience in Atlanta has been extensive.  Thurlow assisted with opening an in-patient rehabilitation unit for cerebrovascular, head trauma as well as orthopedic injuriesWhile working with a hand surgeon in 1992, Thurlow became a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT).  A position in several outpatient rehabilitation clinics had her specializing in shoulder, elbow, and hand therapy.  Currently, at Peachtree Orthopedics, a physician-owned practice, Thurlow collaborates with the physicians and the patients to give the best care to achieve great outcomes.  While raising her family, she also received a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Brenau University.

Thurlow believes that staying active in your chosen profession state-wise and nationally is the best form of giving back. She has donated many hours to mentoring and training OT students from universities across Georgia and maintains membership in the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT), American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH).  She currently serves as the ASHTs 2023 annual conference chair, Accreditation Evaluator for AOTA, Ambassador for Georgia with the National Board of Certification for OTs, and the President of the Georgia Hand and Upper Extremity Special Interest Group. Thurlow loves getting friends and classmates together by helping organize the UTMB OT Class of 1981 reunions.

By serving the OT community well, Thurlow has received several prestigious awards. In 2023, she received the Master of Health Sciences Award given by Brenau University and in 2019 she received the Paul Brand Humanitarian Award given by ASHT.