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 | Antonietta

Antonietta

Reflections From My Residency: When did we realize that humans and animals have an emotional bond?

, by Antonietta

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In today’s culture, where people dress their dogs up for Halloween and get baby strollers for their cats, this may seem like a silly question… but when did we realize that humans can have an emotional bond with animals? The debate in “pop culture” can be traced back to 1765 when Jean-Baptiste Greuze completed an intricate portrait in oil paints of a young woman and a dead bird (see below). Each component of this painting isn’t odd for the time period, but what stirred the pot was the young woman’s expression. You can see she looks devastated. From our modern perspective, it is obvious this because her darling pet bird died, but in the mid 1700s it was not part of the zeitgeist to think animals were something you could have an emotional bond with. Jean-Baptiste Greuze observed the people around him and started to challenge this assumption with his painting.

Greuze, J. (1765). A Girl with a Dead Canary [Painting]. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Greuze, J. (1765). A Girl with a Dead Canary[Painting]. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This conversation swirled around for about a hundred years and in 1890 Paul Meyerheim added to the next iteration. He painted “The Jealous Lioness” (see below). His challenge was not only that humans and animals can have an emotional bond, but that animals actually have their own emotions. And not just simple emotions like happiness and boredom, but complex ones like jealousy. This painting illustrates the beginning of the big shift to the modern perspective of how we think about animals.

Meyerheim, P. (1885-1890). The Jealous Lioness [Painting]. Städelscher Museums-Verein, Frankfurt, Germany.

Meyerheim, P. (1885-1890). The Jealous Lioness [Painting]. Städelscher Museums-Verein, Frankfurt, Germany.

Ok, so how do I know all of this? It started one night during a conversation over dinner with my dad. I was feeling pretty beat from work and Papa asked me about my day. We had had a student at The Children’s Ranch who was struggling. He loved our animals but was not able to keep his body calm and safe around them. We had been using a tool with him, a modified zones of regulation meter, to check in with how he was feeling. It was also intended to teach him how to observe our horses and chickens to see how they were feeling. I’d brought home one of our pocket sized, laminated meters by accident and so I pulled it out and showed my dad (see below). He looked quizzical… “but if you’re starting the discussion with the animal’s emotions, then why are the faces emoji’s? Why not have drawings of what the horses actually look like when their emotions change?”

A project was born! My dad (Carmine Iannaccone) is an artist and professor in the Master of Fine Art program at Claremont Graduate University. He is the one who taught me about the two paintings in the beginning of this blog because visual culture is something he studies and is a theme he has been creating artwork around for years. He has this amazing ability to connect almost anything to visual culture, which makes our conversations fascinating and rich. So anyways, the project: a meter which features horses faces showing the different zones. Papa did the drawings, I collated and colored them in Photoshop and now we have a tool which is even more effective than the original (see below).  Because humans undoubtedly do have a bond with animals, children are immediately fascinated by the horse meter. When I first show them the little card, they frequently take it right out of my hand to stare at the pictures… and then the questions about our horses start rolling in:

“What makes Dove sad?”
“How can I make Storm happy?”
“How can you tell that Pepper is scared?”
“Why is Cody so worried?”

There is always buy-in. The meter flows naturally into and out of our conversations. It is a tool we use together to teach and learn about our animal companions. This collaboration with my dad continued. Inspired by the work of Greuze and Meyerheim (the painters I discussed above), he came to the Ranch every Friday for a semester… but more about that in my next post!

Antonietta

Five ways to make the OTD more affordable

, by Antonietta

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Like I mentioned in my previous blog Choosing a Residency Site, off the bat it seems like a USC affiliate site is the best financial package and the whole prospect of affording the OTD without it seems impossible. I’m here to tell you that is not the case! Yes, the OTD at USC is expensive but here are five steps I took to make it more affordable:

1. The most direct one was finding a residency site that hired me on as an occupational therapist once I got my license. I looked at Glassdoor to get a sense of what entry level pay was like and mine is a few dollars lower because of the mentorship and training that I receive. I can cover about 50% of my Fall/Spring tuition (before any scholarship) by completing 20 hours of residency work per week. This percentage will change over the summer when I’m working full time at my residencies.

2. The next one was a question of weighing pros and cons. First the background: in the Master’s you pay a flat rate for 18 units of tuition and for the Doctorate you pay for each unit you take. During the Fall and Spring of the second year of the Master’s you are not required to take the full 18 units and there are opportunities where you could be. In the Fall, you can do Directed Research (OT 590) for 2 units and during the Spring you can load up on elective credits to reach the full 18. Elective credits taken during the Master’s carry over to the Doctorate and if you do the max units both semester you do not need to take any elective during the OTD. This saves you up to 4 units at approximately $1800 per unit. I found 18 units manageable but it was noticeably more work than my classmates who were not doing it… so consider that as you plan your semester!

3. There are some paid positions in the Division available only to OTD students. I am the classroom assistant for two courses. Since the professors know that you are also a student in an intensive course of study, I have found they are easy to work with and I can adjust my schedule to manage both these positions and my doctoral work. I personally enjoy being connected back to the Master’s program and working with professors that I was inspired by when I was in their classrooms. 

4. Keeping my grades up! There is scholarship from the Division for the OTD based on academic achievement. This includes GPA as well as participation and impact in the Division during the Master’s.

5. Finally, I’ve known since I started the program that I wanted to pursue the OTD, so I did some things to prepare for the expense including working during the Master’s. I picked up 5-7 hours per week and it helped cut down on my expenses during the Master’s which made taking on the financial burden of the additional OTD year slightly less intimidating.

I’m not going to talk about loans or scholarship because it is very similar to the Master’s. There have been some great Ambassador blog posts written about these topics in the past so definitely check those out. I hope that sharing this part of my OTD experience demonstrates that there are ways to make the OTD work financially and for me, it has been worth every penny.

Antonietta

Choosing a Residency Site

, by Antonietta

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Thinking back to last year and searching for a residency site… I’m still overwhelmed! It is such an important part of the OTD experience but with a little bit of reframing it becomes a much more conquerable task, in fact it becomes as an opportunity to achieve some of your goals.

  1. First, stop. Take a deep breath. Ok, now…
  2. Reframe how you’re thinking about the search. This is not fieldwork. Your residency will not be like fieldwork and finding your site will not be like getting assigned a fieldwork placement. In fact, you are 100% in charge!
  3. I found it useful to think of the process like a job search. You want to consider the obvious things like the practice area but you have the freedom to include the following in your considerations: the work environment, the length of your commute, the flexibility in the hours you’ll work, and what your pay will be.
  4. You will probably have to reach out to more than one site… probably more than two… I have a friend who approached more than 15. But they found a spot in the advanced practicing setting they wanted and they got it and they’re so excited about it. The leg work was worth it.
  5. Remember the timeline for securing a residency. I didn’t start reaching out to sites until the Spring and I did not have mine confirmed until the middle of the Summer. I was too busy early in the second year of the Master’s to tackle the search and I was not put at a disadvantage by waiting until I had time to do it right. You don’t need to have your site confirmed until the beginning of your OTD.
  6. Many sites will interview you, take this as an opportunity to interview them right back! This is going to be the place where you blossom from an entry level practitioner to an established therapist. You want to advocate for what you’ll need and make sure the site you’re going for can provide it.
  7. Expand your search beyond the USC affiliated sites. These sites are amazing and might seem like an easy fix to all the anxiety about finding a residency… but they are not the right fit for everyone. Even if they’re in the practice area or population that you are interested in, the management style or location or required projects might not be right for you. Consider these things and know that there are many other sites available. Another reason people apply exclusively for the USC sites is because of funding. I will write another blog post on this soon, but there are other ways to fund the OTD with a similar financial obligation.
  8. Consider all the tracks. I ended up going with the clinical route but I have friends who want to be clinicians but took this opportunity to expand their skills in research or policy and administration. It was not necessarily their original plan but they seized the opportunity offered to them and are learning a lot. An interview with some of them will be available soon, make sure to check it out!
  9. Talk to potential faculty mentors. I didn’t come up with my residency structure until I talked to Dr. Blanche about my goals.
  10. Claim the experience, decide what you want, and make it work for you. It can be sort of flexible, so mold it. I had two interested (sensory integration and animal assisted therapy) so I’m doing a split residency between two sites. I do 10 hours per week at Therapy West and 10 hours at The Children’s Ranch and this is the right balance for me. This is YOUR residency and you have the power to make it what you need!

I’m happy to talk to anyone who has more questions, please feel free to reach out.

Antonietta

To do, or not to do… the OTD

, by Antonietta

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With OT moving in the direction of an entry level doctorate, you might be one of the last groups of OTs deciding whether to elect to pursue the D! I obviously chose to, but I still considered a number of things. Some were more practical, like I knew it was unlikely that I would come back to school for a third time to do it later and I qualified for the accelerated acceptance to USC’s program with advanced standing. But some were more esoteric. Reflecting on the experience of making that decision, I created a list of things I considered. I did not have specific answers to each one, but I was excited about this type of question.

1. What practice area or deep interest would you like to focus on during this experience? Remember a practice area can be a clinical setting but also research, policy, administration, program development, or education.
2. Does doing projects like a literature search about the population needs and best practices in the area of your proposed residency excite you?
3. Are you interested in current issues in OT and critically problem solving how to address them?
4. Are you interested in blazing the trail for the future of occupational therapy and being a leader in the field?
5. What sort of experience do you want your residency to be and what are you hoping to get from it as well as from your faculty mentor at USC?

Doing the OTD at USC differentiates your level of commitment to your education. It will set you apart from other applicants because you will have gained above entry level clinical skills, done in depth work in an advance practice area, developed a meaningful program, done ground breaking research, contributed to discussions around policy and administration, and/or developed your skills to educated the next generation of occupational therapists. You will have honed your leadership skills and be set on the path to be a leader in our field.

Antonietta

Presenting at Conference

, by Antonietta

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The past few weeks have been so exciting (and exhausting). I presented at two conferences; the first was AOTA’s Education Summit it Louisville, KY and the second, closer to home, was the OTAC’s annual conference in Pasadena. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share a little bit about it!

In the second year of the Master’s program, I elected to do Directed Research (OT590) with Dr. Rafeedie, completing 2 units in the Fall and 2 units in the Spring. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m interested in education so I created this experience to do some research about pedagogy and best practices when it comes to simulation. My inspiration for this topic stemmed from being frustrated in some of my courses when asked to role play with my peers. I was quite uncomfortable role playing and I was not convinced it added my clinical skills as a future occupational therapist. From this seed of frustration grew the foundation of our presentations: a low to high fidelity chart for the different types of simulations, an evidence matrix outlining the support for simulation in education, recommendations from the literature about best practice surrounding this instructional method, and finally a piece that I was not expecting at all when I started out. This unexpected piece was the most interesting of them all… looking at simulation from the disability perspective.

Upon reflection, this perspective is the root of why I was uncomfortable with simulation in class.  Although the goal was to learn, it felt a little bit like a mockery when I pretended to have a prescribed difference. It took looking at this in class requirement from an outside, academic point of view, and discussing it with my mentor to be able to identify the source of this discomfort and start to think critically yet constructively about it. We went to the disability literature and discovered that since the 1990s it has contained a call to stop disability simulation. It cites research which has shown that disability simulation has many unintended consequences. So, we looked further, read more research, and started to build an idea of what types of simulation add to positive educational outcomes and how we can use simulation respectfully and ethically. The bottom line is, we need to be coupling simulation with lived experiences perspectives.  As OTs, we valued the phenomenological components of care and recovery that simulation does not provide. These nuances, which simulation simply cannot capture, are what sets us apart from other healthcare professionals.  We must be mindful about explicitly including the disability perspective in our curriculum and learning activities. 

It was exhilarating to share what we found and developed at the two conferences. Our audiences were very active participants with many questions and different points of view to share. This has been an amazing way to end this project (for now) and it was only possible because of Dr. Rafeedie and USC, so Fight On!

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