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Meet the Team

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the first professor paws

Niko provides a hands-on, continuing education experience for students to learn about the use of service and therapy dogs in future practice. Furthermore, Niko’s service dog demonstrations educate the community about service dogs and the variety of ways they can assist people.  OU-Tulsa is an educational leader in occupational and physical therapy by being the first university to have a full-time canine on “faculty” to assist with the education process.


Mary Isaacson

Dr. Mary Isaacson


Mary Isaacson, Ed.D., O.T.R./L., FAOTA, A.T.P. is an occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience.  She is an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Schusterman Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Dr. Isaacson’s expertise is in the area of assistive technology and applying technology to enhance people’s lives. She blended her desire to help people with disabilities live independent and fulfilling lives with her passion for animals by becoming a service dog trainer.   Dr. Isaacson first service dog trainee was Samson, a two year-old Labrador retriever who was placed with his partner, a young man with cerebral palsy, in 2011. Through this experience, she saw the difference that a service dog can make in a person’s life.  Her experience brought to light the need for increased education and awareness about the benefits of service dogs.  This awareness led to the creation of the Professor Paws Project.


Ashley Rankin

Ashley Rankin

OTS-1, Graduate Research Assistant

Ashley Rankin is a first year occupational therapy student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Tulsa. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for the Professor Paws team.  Her passion for helping people, interest in research, and love of dogs led her to this position. Ashley began working with Niko and Dr. Isaacson in September of 2017.