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 | Melissa

Melissa

Senioritis…Senioritis Everywhere

, by Melissa

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Hey everyone! This is our last semester in the program, and things definitely haven’t slowed down. As a result, I’ve realized that a common theme amongst our class is exhaustion and senioritis. After I graduated from undergrad, I thought that senioritis was a thing of the past, but boy oh boy was I mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying my time in the program tremendously, and taking electives this semester keeps things interesting, but I am also feeling the burnout. Thus, I wanted to share some of the things that help to keep me going!

Clinical opportunities and seeing OT in action
Although there is no Level 1 fieldwork associated with our Spring Semester, we still have the opportunity to shadow OTs in specific settings depending on the electives we choose to take. I talk more in depth about these opportunities in my previous blog post, so check it out if you’d like to learn more. Getting the information we need during class is always great, as our professors are incredibly knowledgeable and they are experts in their given area of study, but there’s something invigorating about being able to see it play out in a clinical setting. For example, we learn all about the difficulties associated with treating medically fragile patients up the hill at Keck Hospital, but having the opportunity to see what that looks like is hugely beneficial to my learning. It also helps to remind me why I chose to be in this profession, as the OTs we shadow are GREAT at what they do, and the patients truly appreciate them.

Meeting with my Mentor
USC does a great job of providing us with opportunities for mentorship, and we are often encouraged to seek out faculty or staff that we think would offer mentorship in an area we are interested in. I myself have sought mentorship from several faculty and staff members, and I can happily say that we are still in contact today. However, apart from being encouraged to approach mentorship on our own, our program actually assigns us a mentor depending the area of study we’d like to pursue! I personally love the mentor I was assigned, and I am truly grateful that clinicians, faculty, and staff all take the time to mentor us. Things aren’t always going to be rainbows and sunshine, and having someone that I can go to when things get rough is truly comforting.

In addition, I have been lucky enough to work alongside 2nd year and OTD students throughout my time in the program, and they have provided great mentorship as well. As students who are ahead of you in the program, they can offer some great information on what to expect, and even some tips based on their own experiences! I’ve found it really beneficial to have a student perspective as well. Ultimately, seeking mentorship from leadership within the program or students that are ahead of you will help to ease your anxiety, and it can help with your own career planning! 

Assisting with interviews for the incoming Ambassadors
This has been a particularly fun experience, as it reminds me that not too long ago I was also going through this process and hoping to be a part of the Ambassador team! It was so refreshing to see the passion, commitment, and talent in our program, and we had some very strong candidates. This position is something I knew I wanted to pursue even before I started in the program, therefore interviewing the incoming ambassadors reminded me of the excitement and NERVES that surround the application process. Now that my time as an ambassador is nearing its end, the interview process has prompted me to reflect on everything we’ve done, and all that we’ve accomplished these past months. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of everyday life, therefore taking a step back to appreciate these last two years has helped me get the energy to push through the last couple of months in the program.

Admitted Student Reception
For those that don’t know, there is an Admitted Student Reception that we host in the spring to welcome all of our admitted students. It’s such an exciting, emotional, and invigorating experience, and serves as a great opportunity to meet your future classmates and professors! I personally had such a great time, and getting to experience it again last year and this year reminds me of the excitement surrounding our admission into the program! Working the event and meeting the newly admitted class is so fun, and I find it hard to believe that my time as a Master’s student is almost over. It’s a surreal feeling, but it serves as a reminder to enjoy the time I have left!

Ordering our regalia for Graduation!
We were recently notified that we could begin to order our regalia and sashes for graduation! Although graduation is a little over 2 months away, it’s exciting to begin to plan for it. It definitely makes it feel more real, and it’s a reminder that we’re so close to the finish line. We also get to personalize our sash if we want to, which makes the process more fun! Because this semester has been so busy, it’s hard to remember that it’s not an ordinary semester, but our last one! Even that small reminder has been enough to excite me to push through the rest of the semester and finish strong.

Being tired and feeling burnt out is not a bad thing. It’s just a sign that you’ve been working really hard for a while! However, it is important to take some time to reflect and remember why you started. It’s crazy to think about how quickly my time in the program has gone by, and I’m excited to push through these upcoming months to walk the stage with my classmates!

Melissa

And So It Begins… One Last Time

, by Melissa

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Hey guys! This semester is now in full swing after a wonderful and restful break. For those of you that don’t know, our final semester in the program consists of a variety of electives that allow us to specialize/customize our academic experience! I talk about what that entails in one of my previous posts, so check it out if you’re interested in knowing more!

In this post, I want to talk a bit more in depth about the courses that I am taking, as I find it fascinating that we get this opportunity to customize our learning experience. Although I’ve found our curriculum thus far to be incredibly useful and important for our foundational knowledge of the profession, being able to take courses that I have chosen based on my own personal preferences is amazing! Although I am interested in both pediatrics and adult physical rehabilitation, I chose to focus more on my interests in physical rehab. Thus, I’m taking courses in Primary Care, Acute Care, Neurorehabilitation, and Dysphagia, in addition to our Leadership Capstone, and Occupational Science course. It is definitely a full course load, but I’m enjoying it tremendously.

My Primary Care and Acute Care courses have an additional clinical component in which we get to shadow an occupational therapist in those respective settings. For the Acute class, we get to go across the street to Keck Hospital, where we get to see some incredibly complex cases. The medical complexity surrounding some of the cases we see really adds an additional layer to the problem solving we have to do in our career as OTs. Learning about all of the medical conditions we might encounter in class, and then immediately seeing some of those conditions during our clinical experiences is pretty surreal, but it truly helps to solidify the information that we are learning.

Occupational therapy in primary care is an emerging area for our profession, but it makes complete sense to have OTs in that setting! We learn all about the complexities associated with primary care - particularly surrounding the constantly changing policy and reimbursement challenges - and how that impacts our ability to be included as part of a patient’s care in that setting. For our clinical experiences, we have the option to shadow an OT providing direct care in a primary care setting, or to see what consultative OT looks like as well! Again, being able to apply what we’re learning in class to a real-life situation is amazing, and so helpful for my learning.

Although the Neurorehabilitation and Dysphagia courses don’t have a clinical component, there is still a lot of hands-on learning involved. In Neurorehab, we get to practice different assessments on each other, which is useful because a sense of mastery is necessary to execute these assessments well. In Dysphagia, we learn all about the anatomy associated with swallowing, and also practice swallowing assessments on each other to aid in our knowledge. Another cool thing about the Dysphagia course is that the hours in the course count towards our certification in that area! There is a certain amount of hours that have to be completed as part of that certification, therefore it’s great that we get a head start.

In addition to all of the exciting things going on related to my clinical experiences and electives, I get to look forward to completing my externship in March, welcoming the incoming class in April, and of course graduation in May! I had heard from other students that the Spring semester is a whirlwind that goes by very quickly, and now I definitely know what they mean! If you have any questions about the elective process, any of the specific course, or anything about the program in general, feel free to reach out!

Melissa

Increasing Diversity - Semester Review

, by Melissa

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Hey everyone! As we’re getting ready to go on break, I’ve had some time to reflect on this past semester, and look at everything we’ve managed to accomplish in our short time as Student Ambassadors. Increasing diversity within our program and the field of occupational therapy is a goal that took priority for Serena (another wonderful Student Ambassador) and myself. USC prides itself on being one of the most diverse occupational therapy programs. However there is still a lack of minority representation, particularly a lack of Hispanic and African American students. The same can be said of our profession as a whole, therefore we established some goals related to increasing diversity within the division, and we couldn’t wait to get started!

When you have a team and program that is equally as passionate about your goals as you are, it’s hard not to over-achieve. We dove right into recruiting and presenting at different clubs and universities in the area, and we were excited to reap the rewards of our hard work. We had lots of ideas, and we thought that improved minority representation would come quickly. Studies have shown that patients have better health outcomes when they work with clinicians that have a similar cultural background, and working in Los Angeles we will encounter patients from different minority backgrounds.Therefore, this goal is of particular importance to us because of the makeup of our patient population, and the cultural discrepancy between the clinicians that serve them.

As the semester went on, we realized that our goals were a bit lofty for a position we’d be in for less than a year, as it can take a long time to establish a single long-term relationship. We focused on reaching out to as many programs and clubs as we could, in an attempt to have the most impact possible. However, our progress was not as rapid as we would have liked, so we’ve begun to reconfigure our goals to be more achievable in the amount of time that we have left in this position. Our supervisor has been instrumental in helping us view where we’ve fallen short of our expectations as something to learn from, and as an opportunity for growth. Most importantly, we have not lost our excitement and passion surrounding increasing diversity!

Being able to tackle diversity as one of my goals is only possible because of the support that I have from my team and the Chan division. It’s been incredible to work alongside faculty and staff within the program that also value this goal as much as I do. If you ever have any questions regarding diversity within our program or within our profession, feel free to reach out! And as always, fight on!

Melissa

Preparing For Finals

, by Melissa

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Hey everyone! This semester is quickly coming to an end and I’m in the process of preparing for finals. It’s both an exhausting time and an exciting time, as I am so close to the end of the semester, but I have to get through finals first! Being at this stage made me want to write a bit about my approach to finals, especially with work being factored into my schedule.

First and foremost, organization is KEY. I like to look ahead at my work calendars so that I can schedule different sessions for studying when I’m not in class or at work. I also like to get together with my classmates to study in a group so that they can help keep me accountable. Otherwise, I get sucked into a Netflix binge session that is no good for anyone. Living in downtown also gives me access to lots of cute coffee shops that have great coffee and a cozy ambience that helps me stay focused.

Hazelnut Latte from Loit Cafe in Downtown LA.

Don’t get me wrong though, finding the motivation to push through to the end of the semester is hard. Senioritis is REAL, and I’m very tired. But that’s why it’s so important to have a good support system, both inside and the outside of the program. I have such a great group of classmates that I’ve met in the program that offer constant support and motivation, and my family and friends outside of the program help me unwind and enjoy the little free time that I have.

Fortunately, I know that I’ll get through this, just as I have gotten through every other set of finals in my academic career. Just stay strong, push through, and remember why you started.

Good luck to everyone going into finals this semester, and fight on!

Melissa

Financing USC: What You Need to Know

, by Melissa

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As we’ve gotten closer to the application deadline, one of the questions I’ve gotten the most concerns paying for USC and whether the “financial burden” is worth it. Thus, I wanted to take the time to give you guys some insight as to what my thought process looked like when I was applying, and why I feel like coming to USC was the best decision I’ve ever made.

First of all, I want to validate your concerns and let you know that it is completely normal to be intimidated by the cost of tuition at our program. It is more expensive than most programs, and it may feel like a lot to take on. However, I think it’s important that you know what your financing options are before you make a decision. I will admit that to me, it was a bit of a no-brainer. Despite the fact that I was intimidated by the cost of the program, that intimidation was offset by my excitement to be a part of USC Chan. Our program is known to be a leader in the field of occupational therapy, and I truly wanted to be a part of that. In addition, my fears were further ameliorated when I attended an information session and learned more about the aid USC offers, as well as the Federal Loan Forgiveness Program (which I will talk more about below). I was happy to know that I had options, and that made my decision far less daunting, which is why I want to share that information with all of you!

Jessica, a previous Student Ambassador, wrote a “Financing USC” blog series which consists of a couple of blog posts outlining how you can pay for the program. They include information on federal loans available to graduate students and the Loan Forgiveness Program, division scholarships and research assistantships, and student worker positions! When you first apply to USC, you have the option to fill out a division scholarship sheet that is attached to our financial aid brochure (link), which I highly recommend that you do. In addition, you can apply to the Research Assistantship positions that offer quite a bit of aid to those that get it! The financial aid brochure - which you can download here - also has great information on scholarships available to students outside of the division, however I recommend that you do additional research as well because there are a lot of scholarship opportunities that people miss out on. Student worker positions are also a great way to get involved in the division, and they include the Student Ambassador position that I’m in right now! I also work as a research assistant for one of the many research studies currently being conducted by the division, which is a great opportunity students have available to them as well. 

Lastly, I want to talk to you a bit more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program available to students that have taken out federal loans and work in a non-profit setting after they’ve graduated. This program requires that you make 120 payments towards your loans (which is about 10 years), and then waives or “forgives” the remaining balance after you’ve made those payments. Examples of non-profit settings include - but are not limited to - hospitals, some outpatient clinics, and even universities. As OTs, there is a high chance that we may end up working at a site that is considered a non-profit, which means we can qualify for this program! I do want to add that this program only waives federal loans, and not private loans that have been taken out in addition to federal ones.

I highly encourage prospective students to weigh their options before making a decision, and not to let the finances intimidate you from applying/attending USC. After being here for the last year and a half, I truly feel like I made the best decision coming to USC, as the education I’ve received is of the highest caliber. In addition, I have had access to professors and clinicians who are leaders and innovators in the field, which has been instrumental in my own career development. Just know that you have lots of options, and I would be happy to talk to you guys about this further if you have any other questions or concerns!

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