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Meet the Team

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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.


Shelby Dickerson

Shelby Dickerson is the graduate research assistant for the Professor Paws Project. She began working with Niko and Dr. Isaacson in February of 2019. She has a Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy from Oklahoma State University, and is in her second year as a Master of Occupational Therapy student. Shelby is passionate about helping people live their lives to the fullest and advocating for the needs of her future clients. She lives this out through the Professor Paws Project by providing education to the community about service dogs and the variety of ways they can help people with disabilities. Shelby has recently been working on the 1,000 Strong campaign by doing presentations about service dogs and occupational therapy careers at middle and high schools across the Tulsa area. Shelby states “being a part of the Professor Paws team allows me to combine my love for dogs and passion for helping people, and has also helped to improve my public speaking and research skills.”