Student Ambassador Blog | Kaitlyn
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 10, 2017, by Kaitlyn
Graduate school can be stressful and at times, difficult. Juggling school, work and all the other demands of life is not always a piece of cake. In those times where I feel overwhelmed and like I have too much on my plate, I simply find ways to remind myself why I chose the path I am on now and why I do everything I do.
With that being said, I love to replenish my motivation through interactions with my patients, colleagues, classmates, family, friends, and people in everyday life. In addition to that, I’ll use the Internet as a resource to find inspiration (thank you Google and YouTube!). This past year, I attended the AOTA Annual Conference in Philadelphia and they played a video of Al Roker discussing the positive impact occupational therapy had on him and his son. I love to watch this video when I need that little push:
Here is one of my favorite quotes that encompasses my deep rooted feelings for occupational therapy as well:
“I’m an occupational therapist, an obscure profession if there ever was one. We are few and far between, maybe because we have chosen to serve people with disabilities. All disabilities. Not a glamorous endeavour, nor a lucrative one. And I say serve because we deem that in helping we see weakness, while in serving we see wholeness. We’ve opted for wholeness nearly a century ago and have been at odds with the system ever since. We don’t fix people, you see, with them we simply try to find a way to meaning, balance, and justice. I chose occupational therapy because it blends science and humanism, intellectual rigour, and compassion.”
- Rachel Thibeault
All in all, I believe that an ethical life is one that involves doing the most “good” that you can. For me personally, being an occupational therapist is a profession where I am able to do the most “good” that I can. With OT, I know that at the end of my life I can look back and say that I lived one that was fulfilling and meaningful.
I have met the most incredible people just in the short time I’ve been an OT student and I’m looking forward to a lifetime more of such inspiring encounters.
Oct 25, 2017, by Kaitlyn
This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending our annual Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Conference in our state’s capitol, Sacramento. This year we are celebrating 100 years of OT, so naturally, this conference was going to be a big celebration. In even more exciting news, this year we had over 80 Trojans presenting and speaking and 8 receiving awards! It was very humbling to be among fellow USC students and alumni who had put in so much hard work to be where they are now.
At this particular conference, two of my favorite sessions were coincidentally presented by faculty from USC. One of the sessions I attended was titled, “Positive Psychology and Meditation: Clinical Applications and Beyond!,” which was facilitated by Dr. Don Gordon. In this session I learned about the supporting evidence of positive psychology, research related to the effectiveness of meditation (including neurobiology and how it builds psychological coping skills), how to engage in exercises like meditation as a form of coping (which can be applied to patient interventions if appropriate!), and so much more.
Another one of my favorite sessions was titled, “The Shared Governance Model of Participatory Decision-Making: An Opportunity for the Development of Occupational Therapy Leadership, Power, and Voice,” which was led by Dr. Katie Jordan, Dr. Samia Rafeedie, and Dr. Bryant Edwards. In this session, I learned about the importance of “shared governance,” which is an organizational structure that enlists participatory decision-making models of leadership. For example, we discussed the importance of involving front-line staff (i.e. nurses) in making decisions so that they too feel empowered, appreciated, and respected.
When I was not in sessions, I was working either at our USC Exhibit Hall Booth (as a part of my Student Ambassador role) or completing any OTAC Student Delegate tasks that were needed of me (as a part of my OTAC Student Delegate role). It was definitely a busy weekend, but it was EXTREMELY rewarding and wouldn’t have had it any other way.
On Saturday, the Keynote Speaker at the Awards Ceremony was none other than Frank Kronenberg, who is the director and co-founder of Shades of Black Works, a Cape Town-based social enterprise with a triple social mission: strengthening places of origin, forging connections, and supporting collective story-making. Kronenberg is also a prominent global activist and the co-founder of the movement “Occupational Therapists without Borders.” Frank Kronenberg’s speech, which was about humanizing praxes and its relation to OT, was nothing short of inspiring. I may or may not have shed a tear (or two… or three…) during it. At the end, he proposed that we modify Mary Reilly’s infamous statement, “Man through the use of his hands as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health” to the following: “Humanity, through joining hands, as energized by ubuntu and political will, can influence the health of the human condition.”
Overall, I can confidently say that attending conferences like OTAC is what revitalizes and recharges my soul in my own OT journey. Being surrounded by so many kind, accomplished, and hardworking occupational therapists inspires me to be better and do better not only in the realm of OT, but also in life in general.
Sep 27, 2017, by Kaitlyn
I really love people and I also really love food. So, it makes sense that being able to share a good-tasting meal with people I care about is one of my favorite occupations. Fellow student ambassador, Erika, did a great job of naming some places you can visit in Los Angeles in her most recent blog post. Since I have been asked time and time again where the best places are to eat from students new to LA, I have decided to compile a small (yes, I said small) list of just some of my favorites based on areas around LA. Disclaimer: I am a vegetarian so some of these restaurants tend to stray on the veggie-friendly side!
Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)
- Bottega Louie | Bottega Louie is the mecca of all things Instagram-worthy and aesthetically pleasing. The restaurant itself has high ceilings, white walls, and gold accents, making for a clean look all around. My favorite: all flavors of the macarons and Portabello Fries.
- Maccheroni Republic | This Italian restaurant is on the smaller side, but they have a great outdoor patio with lights strung across the top. My favorite: Bianchi & Neri pasta (without meat).
- Mendocino Farms | The DTLA location is at FIGat7th, so make sure to stop by the other stores and dessert places around! It also gets quite busy around weekday lunches since many corporate people working downtown will go there for lunch. My favorite: Vegan Banh Mi sandwich.
- Bossanova | Bossanova is one of those restaurants I choose when I can’t figure out where else to eat or am too lazy to figure out where to eat. Everything on this menu is so good and their portions are huge. My favorite: the Plantains.
- California Chicken Cafe | I’ve never been here when it wasn’t busy, and that’s because their wraps and salad are REALLY good and everyone knows it. They still have the best salads I’ve tasted to this day. My favorite: ironically, the Chinese Chicken Salad without the chicken.
- Republique | If you’re looking for a pretty place to eat, this is it. My favorite: Avocado Toast.
- Urth Caffe | Urth Caffe is my go-to restaurant every single time I want to go out to eat. It has gotten to a point where my friends say to me, “Where should we eat? And don’t say Urth Caffe again.” It’s healthy, the vibe is casual, and I know it’s pretty much going to taste the same every time I go. My favorites: Hummus and Tabouli salad and Blended Green Tea Boba (I know, boba isn’t healthy but everything in moderation I always say!).
- Wurstkuche | I don’t eat meat, but from what I’ve heard the sausages are really good here! If you’re wondering what I order, I get their fries! The fries that they serve here are good. Like, really good. My favorite: Fries with Chipotle Aioli and Pesto Mayo.
- Amazebowls | When I went to undergrad at USC, Amazebowls was just a food truck on Hoover. Now, they have their own place and I can feed both my stomach and my withdrawals from Hawaii. My favorite: anything on the menu.
Silverlake & Highland Park
- Sqirl | Sqirl is a very low key and understated place for brunch/lunch. You never would notice it just driving by! However, it is recommended time and time again by both hipsters and non-hipsters alike. My favorite: Brioche Toast with Ricotta and Specialty Jam of the Day.
- Maximiliano | The best outdoor patio for dinner and t-a-s-t-y pizza! My favorite: the Bianca-Verde Pizza.
- Cafe Mak | Cafe Mak is another place I frequented during my undergraduate years at USC. It is still my favorite cafe to study at because there is a plethora of outlets, great Wi-Fi, not many people know about it, and you can order your food at the press of a button (literally, there are buttons on the table). My favorite: Iced Vanilla Latte.
- Ubatuba Acai | My standards for acai bowls are a little high since I go to Hawaii very frequently and lived there for 3 months this past summer. I’ve tried almost every acai bowl place in the LA area and I will say that this place (and Amazebowls) are comparable to the ones in the Aloha state. My favorite: anything on the menu.
- Swingers | If you’re out in Santa Monica, this diner is the best place for late night eats. They offer food that is vegan, vegetarian, and meat-friendly! My favorite: Vegan Nachos and Stuffed Grilled Cheese.
- Blue Plate Taco | It gets pretty busy here so expect somewhat of a wait. I recommend going here for dinner after a shopping along 3rd Street Promenade or before/after visiting the pier! It’s along PCH so you get a great view of the ocean. My favorite: Veggie Tacos.
The great thing about southern California is that there is so much diversity, and with that comes a lot of diversity in food! With that being said, be open to everything and anything because there are hidden gems everywhere.
Sep 15, 2017, by Kaitlyn
With everything in life, I like to be all in. Thus, when I entered graduate school I knew that I wanted to dedicate every possible ounce of myself to the experience of being an OT student (because hey, you’re only an OT student for so long!). With the responsibility of being an involved student, however, also comes the responsibility of taking time for yourself and embracing the concept of: WORK-LIFE BALANCE. It is absolutely essential to our health and well-being, especially in graduate school.
Work-life balance is still a work in progress for me, and I think it is something that will continue to be a work in progress, as life itself is so fluid. Here are a few basic things that I’ve learned along the way—via classes at USC and also through personal experience—that have helped me have a decently balanced life thus far:
1. Time management is key. I personally keep a color-coded planner that I can write in and also a Google calendar synced to my iPhone. I quite literally do not know how I would live my life without the two because they both keep me in check. For both, I make sure I write things down by the hour because it allows me to see the breakdown of my day and where there is time for what. I also color code by classes (pink), work (blue), social (purple), and school-affiliated events events (orange) so that I can see exactly how balanced my week is. By color-coding, I can also see if I’m maybe working myself too hard and need to wedge out a time to see my family or friends (it also just makes the calendar more aesthetically appealing to be honest).
2. Prioritize your schoolwork and work on it when you have free parts in your day (even if they’re small!). It may be 30 minutes before meeting a friend for dinner or 2 hours in between events. I am always surprised at how much I can accomplish even in 10 minutes.
3. Invest time in things that matter to you. Basically: engage in your meaningful occupations! For me, that’s a lot of things: it means going to a new coffee shop, going to OTAC events to advocate for the profession, taking pictures, spending time with people in the program (i.e. at our OT/PT tailgates and football games), reading a good book, going on a hike, exploring different places around LA, and so on. I just make sure that whatever it is, it is something I genuinely find enjoyment in and contributes to the betterment of myself.
4. See people you actually want to see. It’s true that life can get busy in grad school. What I’ve found, however, is that there is always time for the people you care about when you make the effort. Therefore, I make sure that a lot of my free time is spent with my family and friends even if I can only spare a few hours in my week. A few hours is better than nothing. On a serious note though, nothing releases oxytocin and reduces stress like having a “Frozen” sing-along with my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew.
5. Take time for yourself. This concept is something I am constantly grappling with because I love being on the go at all times and also have an embarrassing case of “fomo” (fear of missing out). Most recently, I’ve been spending about 15 minutes each night writing at least 3 things I am grateful for everyday in my gratitude journal. Writing in my gratitude journal has been the perfect form of taking time for myself because it allows me to be able to spend time with my thoughts while also ending my day on a positive note. Even though it’s only 15 minutes, it’s still better than nothing!
As previously mentioned before, work-life balance is a work in progress! Some weeks are more balanced than others and work-life balance means different things to different people, but what is important is that you’re striving for YOUR best quality of life along the way. Good luck and happy balancing!