Student Ambassador Blog
Nov 21, 2017, by Kaitlyn
I have been asked what I do as an Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Student Delegate quite frequently and I don’t blame people for asking. I will admit that it is a bit elusive, and that is because it is a very multi-faceted role with a lot of “behind the scenes” work.
Becoming an OTAC Student Delegate through USC’s OT program begins with an Executive Board Occupational Therapy and Science Council (OTSC) election process. After elected, there is an application and letter of recommendation process as well. Once these steps are complete, you can begin your role as an OTAC Student Delegate!
There are many derivatives that come out of the OTAC Student Delegate role. I function as an integral member of the OTAC Student Leadership Committee and a liaison between our program and OTAC. I also help plan and organize events in collaboration with OTAC and participate in conference calls and meetings with our committee co-chairs and other students from different OT programs in California.
Out of all the things that I am expected (and love) to do, being able to help plan and organize events is my favorite. For example, one of the events we have is called ‘Afternoon Tea with a Scholar.’ Last year’s 15th Annual Afternoon Tea with a Scholar featured Ann McDonald, MA, PhD, OTR/L (and USC alum!), who spoke about the dynamic role of OT in support of families due to the difficult task of meeting the needs of a family member who has a physical, emotional, or neurodevelopmental challenge. At this event specifically, I served as a student representative, introduced myself to all OTAC members and supporting guests, and helped with setup and cleanup of the entire event.
Another event that I thoroughly enjoy is our annual Legislative Reception. The Legislative Reception provides a forum for OT practitioners to interact with legislators and their staff about health care issues that OTs are facing. This event provides an opportunity for our profession to dialogue about the changes we want to see, advocate for the profession, and discuss key issues in healthcare. This event required a lot of preparation beforehand with weekly committee conference calls and also being proactive about communicating with legislators around the Southern California area.
Our biggest events, of course, are the OTAC Annual Conference (which was in Pasadena last year, Sacramento this year) and OTAC Spring Symposium (which was in San Diego in the spring). At these events, I have helped run the student track by organizing and facilitating the Q&A panel, facilitating the social mixer, introducing speakers, serving as a room monitor, and so much more. At last year’s OTAC Annual Conference, I also worked the OTAC Rose Parade Float Booth to help fundraise money for our float that was featured in the 2017 Rose Parade. In that weekend alone, we raised more than $6,000!
Overall, I’ve grown so much professionally and personally through this role.The biggest lesson I’ve learned in this specific journey is to always take a chance (when appropriate, obviously) and go towards things even without knowing the outcome. I went into the initial OTSC Executive Board election with hopes, but no expectations. Because of this, I have found my time being an OTAC Student Delegate so much more rewarding and have been so much more grateful for the opportunity.
Nov 21, 2017, by Linah
One of the most stressful things that comes along with applying to undergraduate and graduate programs is writing a personal statement. The rules aren’t that clear when it comes to these things, and everyone has a different perspective on what a personal statement ought to be. I have been working on my own PhD personal statement for the past few weeks and it has been a challenge. Mainly because at this point of the semester my energy levels have been dwindled to a speck, and we still have about 3 more weeks to push through.
Since this is very important to me, I find myself being highly critical of everything I produce. This does not help at all with my time constraints, because I keep throwing out every rough draft I come up with. A feeling that might be familiar to many and counter-productive to all. In an effort to gain better perspective, I ventured on to ask fellow friends and faculty about helpful elements to incorporate in a personal statement. Here are some of the advice I received:
Find A Way To Highlight A Unique Point
For starters, many think it is helpful to separate myself from the rest by highlighting something unique about myself or background or past experience. It helps to try to see things from the admission committee’s perspective, being an international student offers a lot to draw from. A friend recommended to use past work experiences to showcase my own abilities and skills, how well I performed something or highlight skills I mastered during that time. It will not be enough to just state where I worked before, because that information is attainable through the CV attached with the personal statement. No need to be redundant. It would make more sense to talk about with whom I worked and what were my responsibilities during that time, and then mention how that particular experience has shaped me into the occupational therapist I am today.
Describe How The Program Will Help You Achieve Your Goals
A colleague suggested that by talking about my own experiences, I can transition into talking about what the program itself offers to further build on it. This way I am able to specify which courses I am interested in and maybe even professors I am eager to work with. It would also be helpful to write about my own plans for myself in the future and perhaps explain how the program would help me achieve them. This would be a good opportunity to explain why I chose this specific program, because that is an important part of any personal statement.
Make It Personal, But Make Sure To Address The Prompt
I reached out to some of the faculty for advice, and the main piece of advice I got was to view the personal statement as a way to tell the admissions committee who I am. In other words, it is important to demonstrate my personality. To prevent myself from making the statement too personal, I try to always reel back to the prompt provided. This way, I can stay on topic. It is also another point that was mentioned by one of the faculty members here in USC; to make sure I address the prompt.
Have It Reviewed By Friends & Family
In order to make sure I review my personal statement properly, I asked fellow friends or family members to proofread it for me. Their feedback is crucial because from there I can tell whether or not I was able to communicate my thoughts well. It is also an effective way to weed out any spelling or grammatical errors, which can really dampen a personal statement if not attended to.
Lastly, the gist of the advice I got was to make a good case for myself as to why I should be accepted. This means writing compelling arguments and making sure to back them up with evidence from my resume or recommendation letters. In other words, a personal statement is what ties the entire application together, so better make it worth it.
Nov 21, 2017, by Erika
Jumping off of Ali’s lovely post on what she is thankful for this Thanksgiving season, I have equally been reflecting upon the last semester and the various opportunities and encounters I have experienced. While this list is by no means a complete list of what I am grateful for this season, I thought that I would limit this post to a couple things that come to mind:
1. I’m thankful for my group members! I am taking two courses this semester that rely heavily on team based work- OT501: Adult Physical Rehabilitation and OT537: Occupation-Centered Programs for the Community. For both courses, our groups are set from the beginning and we work very closely throughout the entire semester. As most people know, team dynamics can typically be a gamble, but after 14 weeks together, I can honestly say, I won the JACKPOT. In both groups, every single person is inherently unique, willing to contribute, have supportive and kind hearts (surprise surprise, they’ve all chosen to pursue OT), and can laugh and joke like no one’s business. The best part of it all is that I didn’t know most of them that well going into the semester but they feel like family coming out. I am truly grateful for these beautiful people and for having the opportunity to get to know each of them better individually. They’ve brought me so much joy! Love you fams.
2. I’m thankful for Adult Rehab! Like many incoming students to this program, I came in having a “good understanding” of what/where I wanted to practice. I was set on working in mental health. While that focus has not entirely shifted, I will say my interest has broadened now that I’ve learned more about occupational therapy, the various practice areas and populations they serve, as well as learning more about yourself and how I can best serve as an OT. I’m more than half way through my semester in Adult Rehab and I have to say, I never expected to be so curious and engaged in the subject matter. I had never been a physical or biological sciences enthusiast so all this content was a bit intimidating and foreign to me but with every week, my eyes have gotten bigger and my ears have perked up higher. Additionally, I was assigned to a really great Level I fieldwork placement at a Skilled Nursing Facility. My fieldwork educator was committed to ensuring that everything I was learning in the classroom, as long as it was available, I had the opportunity to see it in practice. With that said, I am grateful that every day in this program has the power to surprise you, debunk any assumptions you have going into the program, and potentially shine a light on a part of yourself or interests that you may have not ever considered.
Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving!
Nov 17, 2017, by Ali
As this semester is winding down and I am choosing my classes for next semester I have been feeling especially thankful for being a USC Trojan studying occupational therapy. Thanksgiving coming up around the corner has also been a healthy reminder to take a step back and recognize all the wonderful aspects of my life, future profession, and school. My freshman year I was overwhelmed with too much choice in having to choose a major that would then lead to a job. And then I found occupational therapy.
This semester has been full with making plans for the future after graduation, and I feel so thankful to be at USC studying occupational therapy. At every turn there is a professor who stops class in the middle of a lecture to check in on our stress levels and give us a pep talk about how capable we are. Not only are the professors supportive and receptive to our needs, but also all of the faculty are here to help us get to where we want to be and feel good about it along the way. Whether it be walking into a professor’s office hours to ask question after question or brief conversations in the hallway when a faculty member asks “how are you?” and you know they truly want to know and help. The Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is one of the top programs in the country for research and practice, but it is also a warm and close-knit community that supports its students every step of the way.
I am also thankful for finding occupational therapy because even as I feel stress and worried about my future, I have complete confidence that no matter what setting I work in or what population I choose to focus on, I will helping people. Whether it be getting somebody out of bed for the first time after having a stroke so they can brush their own teeth and hair or helping a child attend to an entire board game activity with a peer, I am grateful to get to be entering a profession that is client-centered, creative, and focuses on helping individuals live out their definition of a meaningful life. I will be making a difference in helping my clients do what is meaningful to them. Halfway through my second year of the Master’s program I keep getting wrapped up in the small details of due dates and exams, but this week has me stepping back to be grateful for being a future occupational therapist and member of the Trojan family. Fight on and Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov 13, 2017, by Erika
One of my top 3 enriching experiences in this program didn’t take place in the classroom and wasn’t at fieldwork. It was in a men’s shelter located in the middle of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It was here where I met Ben*, a man who was living at the shelter that came to see us at the Student Run Clinic because he was complaining about itchiness on the bottom of his feet.
Hold up, what is Student Run Clinic?
Student Run Clinic is a student run organization that provides comprehensive healthcare to the homeless, chronically ill, and underserved populations in Skid Row. We work in an interprofessional team alongside students from USC’s Medicine, Physician Assistant, and Pharmacy programs operating two clinics monthly - one at John Welles CH (JWCH), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) one Saturday morning a month as well as a mobile clinic that operates out of a men’s shelter on one Tuesday evening a month.
Gotcha, back to Ben.
Ben came to see us on a Tuesday evening in which we set up shop in the men’s shelter he was staying at. As part of the clinic protocol and as the OT student, I was the first to greet Ben and introduce him to what he was going to experience throughout the course of the night. I then gathered his social history - asking him questions about life before living in the shelter, how he occupies his time during the day, if he has plans for what’s next, who his support system is, what his current employment status or past employment history is, etc. We got to talking and because clinic was running a little slow, I had time to chat him up more than usual.
Ben was a biking barber. He spent his days making money cutting hair biking across Downtown Los Angeles and was proud of it. A couple weeks before I met him, he had traveled to a bike race in Northern California and during that time, his landlord rented out the apartment he was living in without telling him leaving him homeless when he came back to Los Angeles. Thus, his current situation of living in the shelter. Despite these setbacks, Ben was upbeat in demeanor - honoring the hustle, doing what he can do to work as much as he can, confident and capable. I really enjoyed meeting him. I asked all my curious questions about being a biking barber and he asked me about being a student. ::knock knock knock:: My time was up.
After I left the room, I briefly summarized what I learned to the team (2 med students, 1 pharm student, and 1 PA student). It was there turn now to go in and ask their questions specific to their specialties. Med and PA took Ben’s vitals and administered the physical exam on his feet. Pharmacy inquired about any current medications he was taking, whether he was satisfied with those medications, if the medications affect the itchiness on his foot, etc. :: knock knock knock:: Their time was up.
While Ben was speaking with the other students, I was busy consulting our faculty preceptor, Dr. Pitts about everything I learned about him to work through the case. She helped me clinically reason through the case and ensure we have all the information we need to inform the team on a potential treatment recommendation. At the time when I met Ben, Dr. Pitts proctored both clinics but now Dr. McIntyre has taken over mobile clinic and Dr. Pitts focuses on Saturday clinics at JWCH. If there’s anything I can be grateful for in volunteering and serving on SRC board, it’s the unwavering guidance and experience of our faculty mentors.
Once all the other students returned from speaking with Ben, we engaged in “the Huddle” - the point in the night where we share all the information we learned about the patient and as a team, create a problems list and potential treatment plan accordingly. Once this was agreed upon, our attending physician, Dr. G, came in to hear us present all of our findings. As an educator and mentor, Dr. G provided us with feedback, constructive criticism on where we may have had some holes in our questioning or evidence, and a cohesive understanding of any next steps.
While Ben was a rather simple case of determining whether he had dry skin or a fungal infection, the experience was so much more than that.
1. I was able to listen to Ben’s story firsthand and gain a tiny ounce of understanding of his experience living in Skid Row.
2. I thought critically in an OT lens and assessed his living conditions, daily occupations, and motivation to inform us about his foot and skin condition and his ability to follow through on treatment.
3. I was able to make new friends in other professions, delve into each others healthcare lens, and understand how each profession contributes to a primary care model.
4. Lastly, I was able to advocate for Ben in providing the other health care professionals insight into Ben as a human outside of being a patient.
Being a part of Student Run Clinic has been a true privilege and one I would never pass up for anything in this program. It’s an experience that is unlike any other and if you’re currently a student in any of USC’s programs (Medicine, Physician Assistant, Pharmacy, or Occupational Therapy), I would encourage you to volunteer. You won’t regret it.
*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.