After an action-packed year serving as a student ambassador for this wonderful Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, I am excited to say that today is my last day! I came into the office this morning happily exhausted from spending the past five days in San Diego at the AOTA Annual Conference. Over 200 individuals from USC OT traveled to the conference to learn, network, and celebrate our wonderful profession. It was an impressive turnout, contributing to this being the 2nd largest AOTA conference in history! There was so much to see and do that at many times it felt overwhelming. The sheer number of educational sessions provided something for everyone in every practice area. The networking opportunities were fantastic, and the addresses were inspiring. The keynote speaker this year was Aaron Ralston, the adventurer who amputated his own arm to free himself from entrapment in a remote canyon in Utah. He was introduced by his OT, who spoke about her treatment of this unique case. When Mr. Ralston came to the stage, he said that he truly loved occupational therapy and unveiled a USC OT pin which he wore throughout his speech! It was very special to be present for our own Dr. Florence Clark’s farewell address as AOTA President, and to feel the pride of hundreds of Trojans at the USC Alumni Party.
Although I am continuing on at USC to pursue a doctoral degree, I still feel that this moment is an enormous milestone. This is my last week of classes, and I have a major project due in each one. Finishing up these tasks will keep me very busy this week. Then, this weekend I will immerse myself fully in studying for our comprehensive exam, which covers the foundational coursework from the entire program. After Monday’s comprehensive exam, I will gear up for my last final examination on Thursday and our Division’s end of the year celebration on Friday. I have spearheaded the planning of this celebration, which will take place on a privately chartered boat in Long Beach. After the boat celebration, I will spend a long weekend away in beautiful Ojai with special friends I have made in the program that are moving away right after graduation. I will return from Ojai just in time for my family to arrive from Northern California. I graduate with my wonderful class on Friday, May 17th, and start fieldwork thw following Monday.
It has been wonderful holding this position over the past year, and I feel grateful for all the wonderful people I have met and the opportunities I have been given. To everyone that has read this blog, thank you for your support!
Your student ambassador Amber signing off!
Life has been moving at a million miles per hour since my last post! It seems that EVERYTHING happens in the Spring, and my life has been incredibly full of a variety of tasks and fun activities. I have been learning more about my path through the doctoral program and getting prepared for that transition. Another transition has occurred with the onboarding of the new student ambassadors who will be entertaining you with their blogs starting in a few short weeks! The new ambassadors have already been involved in several events. On April 1st, we celebrated the start of OT Month by hosting a rally with lunch, skits, and some awesome OT swag! Just last week, we hosted the incoming students at the Admitted Students’ Reception at the beautiful Town and Gown venue at USC.
The AOTA national conference for occupational therapists will take place in a couple of weeks. I am so proud to be presenting my research on animal assisted therapy at the conference as a poster presentation! I am also looking forward to Dr. Florence Clark’s farewell address and the special USC Alumni celebration taking place on Saturday night. I was also honored to be a part of our Division campaign video, which will be unveiled at the celebration.
Attending the Occupational Therapy Extravaganza last Saturday was a wonderful experience. It is planned each year by our honor society PTE, and they hosted a day of amazing speakers and creative showcases of our students’ work. In my role as Co-Chair of our student council OTSC, I have also been spending several hours per week planning our students’ end of the year celebration, for which we have chartered a private boat for a night cruise with a DJ, photo booth, and more fun! I am greatly looking forward to that celebration, and the even more amazing celebration a week after when I graduate from this program with a Master’s degree.
With all this excitement it is easy to forget that I still have lots of coursework and projects to complete, not least of all our comprehensive exam which covers material we have learned across the entire program! I can’t believe it will all be over in a few short weeks!
The present and future Student Ambassadors:
During Spring Break last week, I took the opportunity to unwind and take time for rest and relaxation. It was good timing, coming on the heels of my two-week externship, which was a wonderful challenge and learning experience. I used my break to spend quality time with my friends and family while having fun! For the first half of Spring Break, I traveled to my family’s vacation home in the Sierras near Yosemite National Park. My sister brought my 12-month-old nephew and I got to witness his first snow experience! We cooked meals together and played games. We also hit the slopes for a day of skiing.
For the second half of break, I returned to Southern California and my aunt flew down from the Bay Area. We spent a long weekend in Newport Beach at a beautiful resort, soaking up the sun and exploring the area. We shopped, swam in the pool, ate delicious meals, and explored several beaches. We even rented an electric boat to cruise the harbor, which broke down and resulted in us being towed back to the resort by the county sheriff! It was a fun adventure and a silly way to end the weekend. My experiences over the break were rejuvenating and put me in a wonderful refreshed state of mind. Now I am back at school and the countdown is on to graduation! The next several weeks are sure to fly by, and I will be a graduate before I know it!
This week was the first of two that my class is spending away on externship. As part of our Leadership Capstone course, we were given the freedom to create an experience of our choosing to enhance our leadership skills. My classmates are currently all over the world in Ghana, Germany, Costa Rica, Thailand, and all over the United States having once-in-a-lifetime learning experiences.
I have chosen to complete my externship closer to home at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. I am shadowing Dr. Shawn Phipps, an occupational therapist who has excelled as a leader in clinical practice, hospital administration, and professional organizations. He was an occupational therapy supervisor for a decade at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, and now serves as Chief Quality Officer and Associate Hospital Administrator. He recently held the position of President of the Occupational Therapy Association of California, and is on the Board of Councilors in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy here at USC.
In this one short week, I have learned an incredible amount about what it takes to be a leader and hospital administrator. Dr. Phipps’ focus is on spearheading quality improvement initiatives throughout the hospital. Every moment of this week has been an incredible learning experience, but the highlight was being involved in the final stages of planning the Quality Improvement Workshop which Dr. Phipps presented today to a group of individuals from 30 departments within the hospital. My knowledge on this topic grew so much this week that I was able to help hospital managers develop their quality improvement plans at the workshop today. I am eager to see what the next week will bring!
Over the long President’s Day weekend, I mostly did one thing: schoolwork. However, I did want to do at least one thing out of the ordinary to feel like I properly celebrated the holiday. My husband and I both love being outdoors and hiking, and the weather this weekend was beautiful, summery, and clear. So we decided to go for a hike. I had heard that a park near our neighborhood had good trails, so I looked it up. It turns out that Elysian Park is the oldest and one of the largest parks in Los Angeles. In less than 10 minutes, we were enjoying a wonderful hike with lots of shade and great views of downtown. It was refreshing and a great way to spend the holiday! Please leave a comment and let me know what you did over the long weekend!