University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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OS/OT Student Blog


Dr. Michael Iwama and the Kawa Model →

Oct 22, 2014, by Brenda · email · Leave a comment

This past weekend, I attended the 2014 OTAC Conference and this year it was held in Pasadena, CA. One of the biggest highlights from this event was meeting Dr. Michael Iwama! I was star struck to say the least. Fortunately, he made himself very available to everyone who wanted to speak with him and I was even able to take a picture with him.

Dr. Iwama and me at the 2014 OTAC Conference.

Here at USC, we familiarize ourselves with his work during the Spring semester of our first year of the program. One of our readings for the Clinical Reasoning Class includes his article Toward culturally relevant epistemologies in occupational therapy.  In this article, he argues that in order to develop into a service that universally benefits all, we must strive for more culturally, relevant epistemologies, theories, and practice methods. He developed a conceptual model of practice that is known as the Kawa (River) Model. The Kawa Model uses Eastern philosophical views and perspectives to help view human occupation in a slightly different way from our Western common discourse. In order to transcend cultural boundaries, Dr. Iwama uses the metaphor of a river to illustrate a person’s subjective views of self, of well-being, and the meanings of occupations. With this concept, he encourages us to look at what the client perceives as personal assets, problems and circumstances in their lives, all of these representing different elements found in a river. As occupational therapists, Dr. Iwama states that we can focus on the spaces found in each client’s unique river and can view these as potential channels to increase the client’s flow through occupations. From this view, we become the people that enable the life-flow of our patients; another thing to add to my definition of occupational therapy!

Image taken from
Image taken from


Stress Overload! →

Oct 16, 2014, by Kristy · email · Leave a comment

Recently we had to write a paper for one of our courses, Health Promotion and Wellness.  It essentially required us to look at our own lives, and be our own OT!  It is amazing to me that even though we learn all of this great knowledge in the classroom and apply it to our patients, we rarely have time to apply it to ourselves.  I chose to discuss my stress experience and come up with a way to better manage my stress.  Why am I so stressed you might ask?  Sometimes it is difficult to manage my time as a student, worker, friend, and a person!  One thing that is wonderful about USC is that we have so many opportunities to be involved, but for someone like me, I tend to be overly involved and love to do EVERYTHING.  We have several student organizations on campus, there are many opportunities to volunteer, and many educational conferences or workshops to attend.  Some student organizations include the Occupational Therapy and Science Council or Student Run Clinic.  This weekend I will be attending the Occupational Therapy Association of California annual conference, and upcoming in the next month I will be going to the OT/PT Forum and the Student Run Clinic Symposium.  I love learning as much as I can about the field of occupational therapy as well as advocating for the field.  Another thing that has been going on this week is Fieldwork!  All week!  This is one of my favorite times of the semester because we do not go to our regular scheduled classes, but instead we attend our fieldwork all week so we can really immerse ourselves and see what it is like to be there full-time.  I am currently at an outpatient occupational therapy clinic, primarily focusing on hand rehabilitation.  It is a really interesting experience, and I have a lot to learn!  There are surprisingly a lot of things that could happen to just your hands, wrist, or elbow!  As someone who has come into the program wanting to work in pediatrics, this really opened my eyes to another venue of occupational therapy, and who knows, one day maybe I would end up in a setting like this!  This goes to show you the importance of engaging in our fieldwork experiences and taking advantage of the learning process.  By the end of the program, I will be placed in 5 different settings.  And this is still only a small sample of the many areas that you can work in as an occupational therapist!

Oh, and don’t worry about me and my stress level, I have come up with strategies to manage my stress.  One way I hope to manage my stress is by engaging in some of my old occupations, like playing tennis or figure skating.  I can’t wait to start incorporating these activities into my daily routines!  And also engaging in some of my newer favorite occupations, like baking, as I type this, I have banana bread baking in the oven! Yum!



Oct 15, 2014, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

Greetings from my kitchen table! I’m working from home and nibbling on a delicious lemon tart that my friend made (baking is her new occupation, to my delight!). Anyway, it is our one full week of Level I fieldwork, so our courses are actually paused for this week. I always look forward to the one full week of fieldwork during the semester! It is a very valuable experience for us as students to see what our fieldwork site does the rest of the week. You get to meet other clients and therapists, see other therapy sessions, participate in other groups, and learn a whole ton! My current Level I Fieldwork is at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. I am usually with my clinical instructor in outpatient occupational therapy and today I got to visit inpatient occupational therapy, followed by attending an aquatics group in the afternoon. So much fun! Fieldwork is definitely one of my highlights of the entire USC OT program. It’s great to see the things that we learn in the classroom come to life in real life applications. I commend our USC fieldwork team for working so hard to match us up with sites around LA and all around the nation – even around the world! Have a great week everyone – hope see some of you at the OTAC conference this weekend!


Application Season →

Oct 13, 2014, by Leila · email · Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve placed my blogging lens on, but here I am! Our fall semester has made it to the midpoint and I’m sure most of you know application deadlines are fast approaching (at least for early decision). This past week I attended my first information session here at our division, but this time as a student ambassador! It’s crazy to think that nearly 2 years ago, I too, was a prospective student, nervous and excited to hear about occupational therapy at USC.  I remember meeting Ricky, a student ambassador at the time, talking about his student experiences. For me, it was also refreshing to hear that he also had an undergraduate degree in business. At the time, I thought having a degree outside of the health sciences realm would hinder my application. Little did I know that the program welcomed (and continues to welcome) individuals with varying undergraduate degrees! 

It was a great first time experience being on the other side at the information session, helping prospective students by answering questions and sharing my student experiences. I remember one individual asking me about my living situation and commute.  For those of you that don’t know, I live in Chino, CA. It’s about 33 miles from the health science campus in Los Angeles, CA.  I typically drive now due to my work hours, but some days I continue to take the metro. In fact, my first year in the program I primarily took the metro. For those of you considering our program but live or want to live in the surrounding LA area, there’s hope! I would recommend looking into public transportation. It definitely beats LA traffic!


I thought it would be fun to make a mini video of my commute to LA Union station.

For those of you thinking of OT school, in the application process of OT school or anywhere in between, I wanted to let you know to not give up! I know the process can be grueling at times, but you will get there. When I decided that I wanted to pursue OT, I didn’t even know where to begin! One note of advice I do have is to seek out support. Whether it’s through a family member, a friend, a professor, an OT student, an OT, a mentor, etc. Find someone that will support you through the process.

I remember meeting Bill Wong, a former OT student at USC and asking him to be my mentor! I literally found him through an OT blog post and emailed him asking if he could share his experiences at USC. It sounds a bit creepy, but he was more than willing to and luckily, he became my mentor in the process. (Make sure to do your due diligence on the person before connecting with him or her.) Bill and I still continue to meet on a routine basis, and it’s always great to share what is going on in both our lives.

Here’s an impromptu video Bill and I made this past Sunday. Enjoy!

Last but not least, I have been suffering some migraines and neck pain, most likely due to computer work strain. I went OT on myself and ergonomically optimized my workspace!  cheese



Be Involved in Professional Organizations! →

Oct 10, 2014, by Kristy · email · Leave a comment

Why you might ask?  Being a member of both your national and state level professional associations is just one way to advocate for the field of occupational therapy.  As students in the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, we are encouraged to be members of both the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Occupational Therapy Association of California.  As members, we have many opportunities to connect and network with other occupational therapists in the field, as well as collaborate on our ideas.  Read on to learn a bit more about each organization, and check out their websites as they have useful information regarding the field of occupational therapy for you to explore as prospective students and future occupational therapists!

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the professional association for the field of occupational therapy.  The mission statement for The American Occupational Therapy Association is to “advance the quality, availability, use, and support of occupational therapy through standard-setting, advocacy, education, and research on behalf of its members and the public.”  AOTA represents the interests and concerns of practitioners and students in order to provide the best occupational therapy services possible.

The Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) is the professional association for the State of California.  Their mission statement is to “serve, support, and promote the profession of occupational therapy and its practitioners.”  As a member of OTAC, you can promote, advocate and serve as a leader within the field of occupational therapy.  Coming up next week is the 2014 Annual Conference for OTAC.  This is a great opportunity to network and learn more about what is currently going on in the field of occupational therapy.  The conference occurs over several days and includes workshops, poster presentations, exhibits, and a feature presenter.  I will be attending the conference this year and am very excited for a fun-filled weekend of occupational therapy. Stay tuned for updates on the conference and my experience there!

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