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
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About Us
About Us

Meet Our Trojan Family

Angana Vaishnav OTD ‘17

Angana Vaishnav OTD ‘17

OTD program

Hometown: Mumbai, India

What brought you to occupational therapy?
The way I discovered occupational therapy was quite serendipitous. It was still a growing field in India and no one really knew much about it, including me. But it happened to be the perfect match for my personality. Occupational therapy allows me to be my fun, spunky and energetic self in order to enable an individual lead a more productive and meaningful life. How fun is that?!

Where are you located for your residency and what services are provided there?
My residency is at two pediatric clinics: The Children’s Therapy Center and Therapy West. I work as a school based OT and also offer clinic services focusing on Sensory Integration therapy.

What do you hope to learn from this year?
I hope to get out of my comfort zone and expand my skills as a pediatric occupational therapist. After starting my OTD, I feel less intimidated with the word “leadership.” So I hope to develop that hidden side of me so that I can contribute to the field, as well as to occupational therapy in India, to the best of my ability.

If you could give any words of advice for incoming Master’s students, what would it be?
You are truly fortunate to be at the best institutions that will strengthen your understanding and passion towards occupational therapy. You will be surrounded by the pioneers and the superstars of the field. Take complete advantage of this opportunity and never stop seeking their support! Fight On!

Tiffany Tung BS-MA ‘18

Tiffany Tung BS-MA ‘18

Bachelor's to Master's program

Hometown: Portland, OR

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I learned about occupational therapy in high school, while I was volunteering for a youth mental health crisis line. I loved the idea of helping people to engage in meaningful occupations and “heal by doing,” and I also enjoyed learning about the human body and mind, so OT sounded perfect to me.

What area of practice are you interested in?
I’m open to all practice areas, but I’m particularly interested in mental health. I would love to combine mental health OT with animal assisted therapy.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
My favorite occupation is spending quality time with my friends and my dog. I also enjoy yoga, hiking, traveling, and attempting to knit.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Strawberries, yogurt, soup, dumplings, and some assortment of junk food.

What do you think is the greatest invention of mankind?
Does boba count?

Pengchen Zhao BS-MA ‘19

Pengchen Zhao BS-MA ‘19

Bachelor's to Master's program

Hometown: Shenzhen, China

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I’ve always been interested in mental health, even though it is still stigmatized and not addressed enough in my home country, China. In fact, I was accepted to USC as a psychology major. I wanted to make a change, especially after witnessing what the stress of losing a child did to my uncle. Later, I found OT in creativity workshop class, and was absolutely captivated. There couldn’t have been a better path for me, someone who longs for making a change in people’s lives and yearns for creativity and adventures.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Mental health

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
drawing, reading, sleeping, trying new food

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
vegan cheese (I just hate anything milky), copious amount of fruits, leftover meals.

How do you want to be remembered?
“She made a great change in my life.”

Rucha Naik MAI ‘17

Rucha Naik MAI ‘17

Post-Professional Master's program

Hometown: India

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I became exposed to OT because my brother has a learning disability. That’s when I decided to make career in it, and help people to get their functional independence!

What area of practice are you interested in? 
I want to work with the adult and geriatric populations!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Being an international student, moving Los Angeles changed many of my occupations. Presently, I engage in lot of reading, partying, hopping to those beautiful scenic places, and of course, trying different food!

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Baby carrots! I am addicted to them since I moved. Haha

How do you want to be remembered?
Social girl with no worries, always cheerful, and keeping the party on till sunrise

Eddie Chu MAII ‘18

Eddie Chu MAII ‘18

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Syosset, New York

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Working in a psychology and education setting for most of my life, I have always been an enthusiast for understanding what is lesser known and learning what has yet to be learned.  Through my experiences as a counselor, paraprofessional, behavioral coach, field researcher, and many other roles, I found one major aspect that was in common with them all: sincerity.  Sincerity with the professional work I provide, and sincerity with the respect and gratefulness from the people I’ve worked with.  Nothing can really top the feeling of someone telling you that you’ve made a difference in their lives.  I can only imagine how much more I am able to provide for those who I will work with when I am able to utilize the biopsychosocial aspect of occupational therapy.
 
What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I am an avid traveler, and hope to continue that occupation.  As a traveler, I get to experience so many cultures and seeing the different ways that people go about their lives, occupations, etc.  I am grateful for the lifestyle I am able to have, something that I feel could be quite different had I been in different cultures.  When my travel funds run dry, I often enjoy doing various active sports, such as hiking, rock climbing, and playing basketball.  I try not to decline any activities - trying new things is always on top of my list.

Tell us about your favorite memory from the program so far.
In all honesty, I miss the late-night summer study sessions.  Despite there being a ton of information to learn and remember, it was definitely all of the bonding time my friends and I shared that brought us closer to each other.  Whether it was studying for kinesiology or neuroscience, enjoying our dinner, or doing headstands and handstands during our study breaks, we stuck by each other and kept each other going.  Summer, oh summer.  Those were the days!
 
What do you think is the greatest invention of mankind?
The Internet.  We are all interconnected now in SO many ways.  Via news that can give information minutes after something happens.  Via video calls that allows you to actually see your dear friends and family from afar in real time.  Via learning tools that were only accessible through libraries, books, schools, etc.  Via portability of access and ability to contact people (and stay connected) in so many various ways.  How would all of this be possible without the Internet?

How do you want to be remembered?
I’ve thought about this for a bit.  It would be pretty awesome if I had an acronym of my name as some sort of intervention plan or assessment tool.  How cool would that be?!

Savannah Colhour MAII ‘17

Savannah Colhour MAII ‘17

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
My mom broke her hand and saw an occupational therapist who specialized in hand therapy for about 6 months. My mom believed I would love what her OT did, so I was given the opportunity to shadow her hand therapist for a few months. I did indeed love the OT’s creativity, kindness, and rapport with clients. I had originally considered physical therapy, but after seeing both in action I loved OT much more!

What area of practice are you interested in?
I’m interested in hand therapy or mental health. I would love to influence public policy someday as well!

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
I love dancing and eating! I’m a foodie and boba fan.

If we opened your fridge, what would we see?
Mostly Greek yogurt. I live on that stuff.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a compassionate therapist who helped increase OT’s presence in the policy world.

Nikita Sunny MAI ‘17

Nikita Sunny MAI ‘17

Post-Professional Master's program

Hometown: Mumbai, India

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Well, it is an interesting story because occupational therapy was brought to me! My younger sister has autism and receives occupational therapy. Hence I knew about OT from a young age. When I was 13 years old my mom suggested I pursue occupational therapy and I instantly disregarded the idea saying, “I would rather play on the swing than make kids play!” But it is rightly said “never say never,” so here I am, 10 years later, with a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and gleefully pursuing my masters!

What area of practice are you interested in?
Adult Rehab and Lifestyle Redesign

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Eating! (anything involving food), shopping, dancing, binge-watching Netflix. 

If we opened your fridge, what would we see? 
A fully stocked fridge with a variety of Indian food! 

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
My mom! She has truly been my support system and I owe her all the success and happiness in my life. I look up to her for her strength and courage. I would be happy if I could be one-fourth as good as my mom!

Amy Zhao ‘17

Amy Zhao ‘17

Minor in Occupational Science program

Major: Global Health

Hometown: Oak Park, CA

What made you decide to pursue the occupational science minor?
My friend asked me to take an occupational science course with her because we thought it would be good for pre-med’s. I immediately fell in love with the course and the field. I had to continue learning more about the field so I decided to pursue the minor as I prepare to pursue a master’s in occupational therapy!

Describe your favorite occupational science minor course.
My favorite course has been OT310 (Creativity Workshop). It’s an interesting class that often doesn’t feel like a class. It’s fun and really teaches you about how creativity goes beyond artists we read about in history. It’s also a class that has taught me how to draw connections from everywhere.

How has your OS minor helped you create a healthy life for yourself?
The OS minor has helped me realize how unbalanced my life can be at times. It has definitely made me more aware of my mood and habits when I’m doing certain activities and how to adjust them to create a healthier lifestyle!

How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who always helped others. I think it’s so important to listen to others and hear what they’re saying. Through learning about others’ needs, that’s how we can really make change and help one another.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Reykjavík! I would love to see the Northern Lights.

Joanne Noonan MA ‘17

Joanne Noonan MA ‘17

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Co. Cork, Ireland

What brought you to occupational therapy?
Honestly, a whole lot of trial and error! From elementary school teaching in Ireland to working in the tech start up industry in San Francisco and everything in-between, I searched for a long time to find my path. When I discovered occupational therapy (thanks to my husband!) I knew it was the perfect blend of all my interests- science, healthcare, creativity, problem-solving and working directly with people and their families to make a difference in their lives. OT is not just a career, but a true passion.

You have a sister studying OT in Ireland — how do the programs differ?
Yes — my sister, Lorraine, has just finished up her MOT program in Ireland. The program here at USC offers elective courses in the final year, which isn’t a feature in my sister’s program. Her program requires her to complete a two-year-long research project, however getting involved in current research is extracurricular at USC.

What did you love most about where you grew up in Ireland?
I grew up on a small dairy farm in rural Ireland, about a one-hour drive into the countryside from Cork city. What I loved most was playing outside with my brothers, sister, cousins and neighbors — racing through the fields, climbing trees, cycling, playing in the river, soccer and just creating our own fun! When I visit home, I love to be near the farm and outside in the fresh, clean air.     

What are your favorite Irish foods? Do your parents cook? If so, what do they cook that you miss most?
I love (and miss) traditional Irish breakfasts! There is really nothing like it here in the U.S. My mother was the cook in our home, and still makes the best bacon and cabbage. My nana used to bake fresh scones and brown soda bread every week. Barry’s Irish tea is still a must have — even in California. My mom stuffs my suitcases with inordinate amounts of teabags whenever I visit. So if anyone reading this wants to chat over tea, let me know, I have at least a year’s supply and I keep some in my backpack at all times!

Do you have a favorite Irish saying?
“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” It means “Under the shelter of each other, people survive” and really speaks to the importance of family and a community.

If someone visits Ireland, what are the three places on the “must-see” list?
The Ring of Kerry for great pubs and live music, the Cliffs of Moher for the scenery and the Guinness Factory in Dublin for a good pint!

Sarina Tetley ‘17

Sarina Tetley ‘17

Minor in Occupational Science program

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Dove Canyon, CA

What brought you to USC?
The Occupational Therapy program was truly the deciding factor that brought me to USC. I was looking for a field that incorporated my interests in Clinical Psychology and Physical Rehabilitation while providing care from a holistic view. I took my first tour of the Master’s Program in OT at USC when I was a senior in high school, and from that point on, I knew I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist and that USC would provide me with an education that would help me achieve my career and life goal of becoming an Occupational Therapist. The tremendous support of the Trojan Family, the opportunities that are available to Undergraduate students at USC, and the overall passion for higher education and success from the supportive faculty and staff were just some of the additional reasons that I chose USC.

What made you decide to pursue the occupational science minor?
I decided to pursue a minor in Occupational Science in order to explore my passion for Occupational Therapy and learn as much as I can about the field before pursing my graduate education in OT. The Occupational Science minor is a special opportunity that I would have not been able to pursue if I had decided to attend another university. The OS minor allows students who are pursuing an undergraduate degree in an alternative field with the opportunity to learn about Occupational Therapy and how we can utilize our knowledge from diverse fields and bring that knowledge into practice, as a future Occupational Therapists.

Describe your favorite occupational science minor course.
My favorite Occupational Science minor course is OT 360, Creating the Self through Narrative: Acts of Life Story Production, with Dr. Kate Crowley. This course truly opened my eyes to the bountiful opportunities that are available not only to us as Occupational Therapists, but also to the diverse populations that we serve. After learning about Dr. Mattingly’s work in Narrative Medicine, and encouragement from Dr. Crowley, I found a new passion within the field of Occupational Therapy. I currently work alongside Dr. Rogers in providing Occupational Therapy to Active Duty Marines and Veterans of all branches and I love hearing their stories, but I also love learning about their future goals and helping them achieve those goals through Occupational Therapy. Through OT 360 I learned that each person has a unique story which is being written every day. As a future Occupational Therapist, I hope to provide my patients with the opportunity and ability to achieve their goals and live out the future Narrative that they have imagined for themselves.

Tell us about your favorite memory at USC so far.
So far, my favorite memory at USC has been the USC Adventure L.E.A.D. program’s high ropes course at Fulcrum Adventures. This course was extremely difficult mentally, emotionally and physically. I have a fear of heights and this course tested that fear in every challenge. The one challenge, or opportunity as I like to say, that was the most daunting was appropriately named the “Leap of Faith”. This challenge required one to climb up a 40ft pole, carefully get up on top of a small platform, stabilize the shaking pole, and finally gain the courage to stand up and jump off to grab a golden ring that was suspended mid-air. This opportunity pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it also provided me with the opportunity to grow as a person. I learned that fear is imaginary and danger is real. I also learned that I am in control of my fear and that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to as long as I commit to it, no matter how intimidating it may be. 

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who was always willing to help people. I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up and always stayed positive despite life’s hurdles. I want to be remembered as someone who put her faith and family before herself, and as someone who sought to make the world a better place one person at a time.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
If I could travel anywhere I would go to two countries in a heartbeat, with my camera in tow. The first would be Ecuador. My grandma moved to the U.S. from Ecuador at a young age and I would love to go to Ecuador with her and “travel back in time” as we explore the places she often frequented. The second country I would travel to would be Norway. I would love to hike in the fjords and take the mail boat around the coastline to explore the small coastal towns and truly integrate myself into Norwegian culture and get to know the local people. Traveling is so powerful because it connects to the international community and teaches us to be citizens of the world.

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