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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Student Ambassador Blog


AOTA National Conference

, by Yao

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A quick journey from a project at USC all the way to a national conference with over 50 other schools and countless practitioners….

Just last week I was in Philadelphia presenting a poster on a project that I had the opportunity to develop in our OT skills 3 class, but now I am back into the grind, with 3 weeks left until graduation. For the first time during my graduate school experience, I am finally beginning to understand and really feel how invaluable these past two years at USC have been.

It’s been a process, really. My road to realizing the opportunities that the occupational therapy community at USC has to offer started last June, when a classmate and I decided to take the skills 3 class project that we started in January 2010 and engage in an independent study elective with a faculty advisor. The process has been trying, and I was re-acquainted with the importance of time management. But all of our hard work culminated last week:  In addition to receiving constant mentorship from various faculty members and access to departmental resources (e.g. poster production), we were both chosen to receive two of this year’s departmental scholarships to travel and present in Philadelphia during the national occupational therapy conference. Then came the day that we had to leave for Philadelphia, both faculty and students had talked about the hope and encouragement that everyone feels at the conference. This was going to be the first time that I stepped out into the OT world with more than 50 other OT schools gathering the knowledge that our peers and tenured members had to offer.

Seeing the amount of OTs in one place and seeing the welcome signs everywhere in Philadelphia with AOTA’s brand all over was inspiring. Throughout the conference we received the opportunity to talk and mingle with our fellow students and leaders in the profession. Never in one place have I seen so many people together with the same background working towards the same goal, the Centennial Vision.  All of our two years of schooling has come to this; it has been to prepare us to work with and discuss our ideas and hopes for the future of our profession. We were taught to find resources within our own profession, find ways to access resources outside, and more importantly, to think beyond what is happening now. AOTA allowed for everyone to come together and discuss ideas, and with that opportunity I realized what USC has taught us. They have bestowed on us the ability to analyze a situation, organize, formulate, and articulate our ideas. But most importantly, they have taught us to not be afraid to begin a discussion that may lead to further action and not be afraid to collaborate. USC has educated us to appreciate OT for all it is and has helped us mold how we want to become as a practitioner and a leader in the profession.  In the words of Dr. Clark we are a pixel in the whole picture that we know of OT, working together with other professionals across the nation to make OT a clearer picture for everyone.


Wrapping up the End of the Program

, by Carissa

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Time flies by so fast! I can’t believe that next week will be our last week of classes. Looking back at the semester, I feel that so much has happened and so much is still happening. My lifestyle redesign course has really helped me to work on balancing my personal routine and creating healthier habits. The results have been maintained for the past few months…I hope I can continue it outside of the structure of my school schedule! While experiencing this class as a client and student, I also learned many professional skills. Last week, I successfully held my first structured group on how to create a healthy workspace for optimal functioning. With regards to my research classes, I have been able to learn so much about creating an evidence-based practice. In my qualitative research course, I am currently finishing a group project where we interviewed several seniors who have experienced spousal loss. We were able to gain insight into their lives with their spouses, as well as their current lives in relation to their experience of occupation. I laughed and cried through the in-depth stories provided in the interviews. This is one amazing thing about occupational therapy: getting the chance to really get to know our clients and learn about the things that really matter to them. Also, in the process of learning about others, I have learned so much about myself. Our program has worked to build me as a professional and has also guided me into a greater understanding of myself. I am so thankful for the personal and professional skills that I will carry with me into my career and for the rest of my life.


Be Active and Be Happy

, by Austen

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As you may already know, running is part of my daily routine. I roll out of bed every morning and get outside for a little jog, rain or shine. It wakes me up, gives me energy, and clears my mind. Days without a jog in the morning just are not the same. I feel lethargic and lazy, I do not eat as healthy, and I am not as alert and energetic. I had to take some time off from running last week, and I realized the negative effects not exercising has on my lifestyle.

I woke up Tuesday morning and set out on my typical loop around campus. Around one mile in, both of my legs started cramping. My shins felt like they could not relax and my calves were tight. It was so uncomfortable that I could barely run 2 miles, when my daily mileage usually reaches 4. After jogging/walking the rest of the way home, I noticed my left knee was stiff and swelling. I have had meniscus repair surgery done on that knee, but it usually does not act up when I run. Something was up, but I could not figure out what the issue was.

I got up Wednesday morning and tried again. No luck. Leg cramps and tightness. At that point I gave up and decided to take a couple days off. During those 2 days, I noticed a huge change in what my lifestyle is like without exercise. It is much unhealthier in all aspects. I eat more, I lay around more, I watch more TV, and it just feels terrible! There is a physical feeling inside that I do not like, it is hard to explain. But, I realized how exercise affects me both physically and mentally. It gives me more energy and makes me a happier person in general. It makes me feel alive and well. There are so many things about exercise that make me feel good that it will need to continue to be a daily activity throughout my life. Interesting how much you learn about the importance of something when it is taken away, right?

I had a sneaking suspicion that my leg issues were related to old running shoes. So during those couple days off, I bought some new ones. I tried them out yesterday on a light jog, and it made a huge difference! I was worried I was having muscular or skeletal problems, but I do not think that is case anymore. And yesterday was a great day after that run. I felt rejuvenated, I wanted to be outside, I felt alive. And my body craved nutritious and healthy meals, which always makes me feel better. I love running! Even though it is not always easy and can be boring (especially running around South Central LA), it feels so good once you are done.

Go be active! It feels great! smile



, by Austen · 1 comment

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Every Thursday evening, the OT house hosts a weekly program called Engage. We pick up kids in the neighborhood, bring them back to the OT House, help them with their homework, engage in a group activity, eat dinner together, then take the kids home. It is such a fun and rewarding experience right down the hall from me!

I have always loved giving back to the community. Feeling part of it, learning from it, improving it, making a difference. Engage has been my weekly contribution. However, it is not just to the community, but to the lives of those children. I love being part of the group of OT students who serve as mentors and friends, promoting the importance of doing well in school, setting goals, and working hard. I truly enjoy being a role model and setting a positive example for them to look up to. In this day and age, there are so many distractions that can get kids in trouble. Engage is a way to help keep focus and priorities among our youth, keeping them excited about school and their futures.

My favorite activity we have done so far was planting vegetables and herbs in the large planting boxes on our patio at the OT House. The kids had a great time organizing the planters, spacing out the seeds, placing the seeds in the soil, and labeling each row. As the weeks have gone by, the veggies and herbs have grown so much that the kids get to see the results of something they did together. That was a great activity, promoting team work, collaboration, community building, taking turns, and sustainability.

As the school year starts winding down, we have just a few weeks left of Engage. Since I will not be here next year, it will be very sad to have to say goodbye to the kids that come every week who I have developed relationships with. It has been such a joy watching them grow over this past year, and I know they will continue to grow up into wonderful people. I just hope they have gotten as much out of the program as I have.



, by Helen

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Graduation is quickly approaching…

During the last semester of the program, you are to take eight units of electives. Last night was our dysphagia final smile Dyshpagia was an eight week, 2 unit elective I took this semester and I LOVED it! This dysphagia elective counts towards your advanced practice certification, if you so choose to pursue that within the next five years. As I was studying for the final exam, I realized how much I have learned in only the last eight weeks. Another elective I am taking concurrently is at University Hospital, where I am able to gain experience in both physical disabiltiies and mental health. As we’ve been seeing patients this semester at the hospital, I’ve been able to feel the difference in my knowledge of dysphagia on my interactions with patients. I am able to notice more as we do room visits about the quality of the patient’s voice, eating habits, posture, etc. While an eight week course may seem short and very intense, I have learned an incredible amount of information and am very grateful for having taken the course.

I am also taking a Sensory Integration elective that is four units which also works towards certification in Sensory Integration. While I am intending to work with adults in the future, Sensory Integration is a topic that impacts many populations and knowledge of Sensory Integration techniques can be beneficial in any setting. This past weekend, I attended a conference organized by Pediatric Therapy Network on Sensory Integration practices and it was great to see current research that is being done in the field and see some of our professors presenting. Having our coursework intertwine with our fieldworks and to attend conferences seeing how what we are learning is being implemented in research is my favorite part of this OT program.  I enjoy this aspect of our graduate program because it really provides a sense of how we can personally impact current practice and research.

I have really enjoyed the electives I have taken this semester and really feel like I’ve gained so much insight into specific practice areas. As graduation is quickly approaching, I realize more and more how much we have learned in such little time!

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