University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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About Us
About Us

Meet Our Trojan Family

Jayshree Nagvekar, MA I, ‘17

Jayshree Nagvekar, MA I, ‘17

Post-Professional Master's program

Hometown: India

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Many things! All of my favorite occupations equally contributed to my decision to become an OT. As a child, my heart needed to be a part of social causes and help people. I always thought journalism, political science or law were for me. But with passing years, I began to develop affinity towards science and medicine. As I grew older and the time to make a decision approached closer, I had to make a choice. Keeping in perspective my need to be part of a profession that had both science and arts, and involved research, I landed on occupational therapy with a bang! Frankly, there has been no looking back; I have enjoyed all the academic and clinical sessions because being an OT allows me to be everything I always wanted to be! 

What area of practice are you interested in?
Neurorehabilitation, pediatrics and Lifestyle Redesign.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Reading, writing blogs, writing stories and poems, trekking, listening to music, going on walks, exploring places, talking

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Coffee and too much vanilla ice cream… really a lot of it!!

How do you want to be remembered?
By making a difference in someone’s life. I want to be remembered as a positive and life changing person to everyone I come across. It may sound too big a dream, but I want to create something that lasts forever!

Kendall Tillman MA II, ‘18

Kendall Tillman MA II, ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I think the human body is incredible and I have a passion for working with others, which led me to look into occupational therapy. During my sophomore year of undergrad, I took an inclusive physical activity course where we were asked to modify an activity to allow anyone to participate regardless of their disability. After seeing a young girl with a physical disability’s face light up the entire room when she was able to participate, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Right now I am most interested in inpatient acute adult rehab but I am open to all areas.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
If I am not studying, you will most likely find me somewhere outdoors, napping, or eating froyo.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Milk. I have an unhealthy addiction to cereal. 

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be the reason someone didn’t give up. I want to be remembered as someone who believes in everyone, who is kind, giving, and approachable.

Shannon Mirshokri, MA II ‘18

Shannon Mirshokri, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Since I was a young girl, I was always intrigued by two disciplines—medicine and psychology. Only problem was that I had trouble finding a medical field profession that looked at a patient not only biomechanically, but through a psychosocial lens as well. Enter—Occupational Therapy! While watching a television special with my mom one night in high school, I watched a pediatric OT in action helping a child improve his fine motor skills after a car accident injury. I paused the special, turned to my mom and told her, “This is what I want to do.” Five years later, I am in the occupational therapy program at USC and could not be happier.

What area of practice are you interested in?

I am interested in adult rehab, but can’t resist cute kids, so pediatrics as well.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?

When I’m not in school or studying, I enjoy swimming, sleeping, going out dancing with friends, and baking sweet treats (then eating them). My favorite occupation of all is trying new occupations, so send me all your recommendations!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Cake…so much cake

Phoebe Yam, MA II ‘18

Phoebe Yam, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Arcadia, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I had never heard about occupational therapy until my friend told me about a program called Karate For All, where I met the director/OT there. During my interview, he pointed out a girl that had 16 brain surgeries but was fully engaged in karate and interacting with other children with special needs. I was extremely blown away. For three years, I was able to learn about occupational therapy through volunteering and shadowing OTs to find out that this was the career I was looking for. I love the creativity and variety this profession allows, and the plethora of opportunities USC provides.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love snowboarding, hiking, and anything outdoors. I also have the privilege of working with Reptacular Animals as an animal handler, which allows me to interact with spectacular exotic animals!

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am highly interested in pediatrics. My dream is to one day incorporate animal-assisted therapy with exotic animals into occupational therapy sessions.


If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
A stocked fridge! I have pretty much anything you can think of. Ice cream, fruits, veggies, dumplings, etc…

What is your spirit animal and why would this animal represent you?
Monkey! I am always ready to be out and about to play. I am also a social animal, so I definitely work much better in groups and try to form lasting relationships with friends and family.

Maryam Rahbariasl, MA II ‘18

Maryam Rahbariasl, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Tehran, Iran

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I didn’t know much about OT until I started my fieldwork for a CNA certificate program with the American Red Cross. I was placed in a skilled nursing facility where I met an OT. She gave me the opportunity to know more about the profession and eventually accepted me as a volunteer there. 

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love cooking and eating while watching a movie; I have found this to be very therapeutic. Beside that, I enjoy making leather crafts and taking care of my puppy.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
As an international student who is born and raised in a totally different culture, the summer semester was full of fun and joy for me, no matter how intense it was. In the very beginning, we were asked to do a Piñata activity. The purpose of this activity was to analyze upper extremity motions. I had never tried to break a piñata and, in fact, I didn’t have an idea about what it looked like until it was time for the activity! My friends asked me to be the first person in line to break the piñata with my closed eyes. Surprisingly, I hit the top of the piñata with my very first attempt!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Lactose free milk, salad, French Load

What is your spirit animal and why would this animal represent you?
My best guess for myself would be an owl, I like to stay up too late at nights and sleep during day.

Alita Borkar, MA II ‘18

Alita Borkar, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Fremont, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
My professor of abnormal psychology introduced me to the field in my 4th year of undergrad. I was becoming more and more wary about the future career I was set on for the last four years so I watched countless YouTube videos about the profession to find out if occupational therapy would be a better fit for me. After I talked to my friend’s mom, who is a director in an occupational therapy rehab facility, I knew this would be a great career for me. Occupational therapy was the combination of everything I loved in the previous jobs I worked in. I then made immediate plans to apply to occupational therapy programs.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
I started out my undergrad wanting to be a psychiatrist. After taking some of the pre-med classes I realized I didn’t want to be under that level of pressure for the rest of my life. I then switched to wanting to be a clinical psychologist. I tried out many different areas (children’s hospital, cognitive development lab, art studio with people with disabilities, hippotherapy, psychotherapist’s office, homeless shelter, gymnastics coaching, volunteering in the Dominican Republic, behavioral therapy, etc.) trying to find out what I wanted to specialize in. I learned that I loved standing up for the rights of people with disabilities, conducting interviews and assessments, and helping design programs. But as soon as I worked with the emotions experienced by people with severe mental illness in the homeless shelter I knew that becoming a psychologist would drain me.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I currently enjoy drawing/crafting, hiking, exploring/trying new things, going to the gym, team sports, and yoga.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
I would choose Carl Jung to be my mentor. His philosophy for what is needed for human growth would transform me as a person and as a practitioner.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who was caring and loving toward anyone who came into her life. Even if I’m not this person now that is who I strive to be.

Caryn Lim, MA II ‘18

Caryn Lim, MA II ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: San Gabriel, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I worked as a behavioral therapist for 4 years and I had the opportunity to work and collaborate with several occupational therapists. During my first meeting with an OT, I honestly didn’t know what occupational therapy was. I was a little too embarrassed to ask upfront, so I observed the sessions and fell in love. After a lot of back and forth, I finally set my sights on occupational therapy and didn’t look back.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I’ve enjoyed working with the kiddos, but I want to expand my horizons and work in adult rehabilitation.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love cooking, reading books, traveling, being with my friends, and trying new restaurants. However, time and energy has not been abundant as of late so my days off truly consist of Netflix binging and internet surfing (and that’s ok by me!)

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Well, if you were to open my fridge you’d see yogurt, veggies, fruits, hummus, and all sorts of cheese. Pretty healthy stuff, right? It’s to really hide the fact my pantry is holding Lucky Charms and extra hot Cheetos.

How do you want to be remembered?
“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life” - Elsie de Wolfe

Olivia Carroll, OTD ‘17, MA ‘16, BS ‘15

Olivia Carroll, OTD ‘17, MA ‘16, BS ‘15

OTD program

Leadership concentration: Advanced Clinical Practice

Hometown: San Carlos, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I have always had a passion for helping others. Since I was young I have enjoyed volunteering with various groups of people including older adults, children with disabilities and homeless families. When I started college I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to major in so I met with academic advisors from all different disciplines. One day during a meeting I told my advisor that I wanted a career where I could help people do what is important to them. She replied, “You should look into occupational therapy!”. Here I am and couldn’t be happier! 

Where are you located for your residency and what services are provided there?
For my residency I am working at Keck Hospital. Keck provides inpatient and outpatient occupational therapy services to a wide range of people including those with cardiopulmonary, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions who may be recovering from surgery or managing chronic illness.

What do you hope to learn from this year?
This year I hope to continue to improve my interpersonal, clinical reasoning and specific clinical skills in both inpatient and outpatient settings. I want to improve my ability to collaborate on a multidisciplinary team and demonstrate the importance and value of occupational therapy. Additionally, I want to learn about the processes involved in program development and strengthen my leadership skills.  Most importantly I hope to gain confidence in myself as a future practitioner.

If you could give any words of advice for incoming Master’s students, what would it be?
Take advantage of all of the opportunities that the Master’s program offers! Some of my favorite memories and most valuable experiences as a Master’s student include getting involved with events and programs like the OT/PT Forum, OT Extravaganza and Inter-Professional Geriatrics Curriculum. Also, remember to take time for yourself and continue to do the things you love in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

Tess Suhrbier, MA II ‘16

Tess Suhrbier, MA II ‘16

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Clyde Hill, WA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
As an undergraduate student, I decided to pursue a career in health care but had a hard time finding my niche. My sophomore year, I had somewhat of a mid-college crisis and confided in a friend. I described to her what my ideal career would look like. She gave me a simple response: “you should do what my mom does.” When I asked her about her mom’s profession, I learned that she was an occupational therapist. This was the first time I had ever heard about the field. I went home and looked it up and couldn’t believe how tailor made the profession was for me. It was serendipity: I found a career that would encompass everything I could muster intellectually and all of the personal attributes I could bring to the table.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Inpatient Acute (Neuro)

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far:
My favorite memory from the program was having the opportunity to design and pilot a social based health and wellness group for LGBT college and graduate students. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to work closely with a friend and colleague from the program to design something new and innovative that is not currently addressed in healthcare. 

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Chicken and kale…I’m somewhat of a one trick pony when it comes to the kitchen.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
I was lucky enough to have Dr. Jess Holguin as a clinical instructor for my first level I fieldwork and I wouldn’t trade his mentorship for anyone: living or dead. He truly epitomizes everything that is wonderful about our practice and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be his student. He instilled me with the professional and clinical reasoning skills to enter the field confidently. Learning from him drastically changed my course in the program, he helped me find a true passion in neuro and I will forever be thankful for that.

Rebecca Cunningham, OTD ‘16, MA ‘15

Rebecca Cunningham, OTD ‘16, MA ‘15

OTD program

Track: Advanced Clinical Practice

Why did you choose to pursue the OTD?
In addition to the benefits of mentorship during my first year as a practitioner and a personal desire to have a terminal degree, I pursued the OTD due to my interest in teaching. I feel that having the OTD will help to facilitate the eventual achievement of that goal.

Where are you located for your residency and what do you do there?
I am completing my residency at the USC Occupational Faculty Practice (OTFP), which provides Lifestyle Redesign® and behavioral health based occupational therapy services to a number of populations, including weight management, Multiple Sclerosis, college student, young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and chronic pain.

What did you gain from the OTD thus far?
What I have gained thus far, is really two-fold. First, the support from the OTFP staff and the facilitated space for autonomy and independence allowed me to cultivate my clinical reasoning, documentation, and therapeutic use of self skills, which has resulted in increased confidence when working with clients. Second, and arguably more meaningful, is the improved engagement in and prioritization of self-care, which has facilitated a more balanced daily routine. As I was diagnosed with a rheumatological autoimmune condition at the start of the OTD program, this has been an invaluable asset in managing my symptoms and enabling continued participation in the pursuit of my degree and goals. With the support of OTFP staff and mentors within the division, I feel I am making the transition from surviving to thriving.

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