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

Ellie Clark MAII ‘19

Ellie Clark MAII ‘19

Entry-Level Master's program

Hometown: Hastings, MN

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I fell into OT by chance, after applying for a volunteer position at a local children’s hospital the summer after my freshman year at college.  I had the opportunity to volunteer as an aid in the rehabilitation unit which was home to the Speech Pathology, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy programs.  I was fascinated by the role an OT has in a patient’s progress and the positive influence they can have through the simplest of interactions.  I also noticed just about every OT I worked with came and left work with a smile, day in and day out.  That’s when I knew that I wanted to follow that path. 

What area of practice are you interested in?
I am interested in working in pediatrics and with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am looking forward to exploring other areas throughout the program, as well.

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
Before coming into this program, I worked as lifeguard and swim instructor for several years.  I loved working with children, especially by means of skill development.  More recently I have worked as a clinical research intern with a psychiatric center near my college.  I worked with a study that focused on adults with ASD.  In this study, the intent was on improving social communication skiills and cognitive enhancement through curriculum interventions for the purpose of more effective and efficient integration into the workforce.  I love working with people and for people and these experiences really opened my eyes to this ambition of mine.


If we opened your fridge, what would we see?

If you were to open my fridge you would definitely find anything breakfast related (eggs, grapefruit, yogurt, etc.) because I can eat breakfast over any other meal at any time of the day.  You’d also find some chocolate!

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
If I could travel anywhere I think I would backpack through South America.  I studied for a semester in Spain and loved immersing myself in a region with different language and culture.  It’d be cool to put my Spanish to use again in an entirely new way.  Plus it would be incredible to explore the region of Patagonia (possibly while wearing my favorite item of clothing, patagonia).

Claire Ficca BS-MA ‘19

Claire Ficca BS-MA ‘19

Bachelor's to Master's program

Hometown: Renton, WA

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I was drawn to OT because of a love for taking care of people and wanting to blend that with science of the body and mind. 

What area of practice are you interested in?
I’m interested in pediatrics, especially aquatic therapy, and special needs adults.

What are some of the occupations you engage in?
Some occupations I engage in are cooking, running, biking, reading, writing, and singing.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
If I could travel anywhere right now I would go to Iceland.

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
If I could choose someone to be my mentor it would be C. S. Lewis.

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 ‘19

Tiffany Tung BS-MA ‘19

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.

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