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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Academics
Academics

Entry-Level Professional Master of Arts Degree | Meet the Students

Melissa Martinez MAII ‘19

Melissa Martinez MAII ‘19

Hometown: Lake Forest, CA

Program: Entry-Level Master's, Class of 2019

What brought you to occupational therapy?
I was a nursing major when I first started college, however I quickly realized it wasn’t a right fit. I began looking at other fields but nothing felt right, and I felt lost and without direction. Around this time, my grandmother got cancer and I began caring for her. The extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments she had to go through resulted in nerve damage, so she was referred to an occupational therapist in an attempt to help her regain some sensation and get some assistance. That was the first time I was exposed to occupational therapy and I immediately knew it was the career path that I wanted to pursue.

What area of practice are you interested in?
Most of my experience is in pediatrics, and I am extremely passionate about working with children with special needs. I am also really interested in working with people that have had traumatic brain injuries or neurological damage, as I’ve recently been exposed to this area. I’m looking forward to starting my fieldwork in the program so that I can get some more experience with this population!

Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
I got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and this allowed me to learn about the underlying theory associated with mental health. Throughout my academic career, I learned about the theory behind personality, studied the neuroscience of behavior, and conducted many research studies with my colleagues. I was a part of the Psychology Honors Society, and I volunteered at RAIN, which is a transitional living center for families dealing with addiction, domestic abuse, and/or homelessness. I also worked for Channel Islands Social Services, where I provided respite care for foster families, and families with children with special needs.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
It’s definitely between Costa Rica and Italy. I have been trying to plan a trip there for a while now so I’m hoping to make it happen soon!

If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to be your mentor, who would you pick?
Being of hispanic heritage, I really look up to women who have broken barriers and have become successful despite the obstacles they have had to face due to their race, ethnicity, and/or gender. Thus, I would probably choose Sonia Sotomayor as my mentor. She’s talked about the challenges she faced growing up in the projects in New York, yet she overcame them to become the third female justice to serve on the supreme court and the first Latino to do so as well.

How do you want to be remembered?
I just really want to make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t care about fame or recognition as much as I care about the effect I have had on people and whether or not I helped them achieve a better quality of life. One of my favorite quotes ends with “Always leave people better than you found them” and I hope to do just that, not only in my career but in every aspect of my life.