University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog


Classical Grad Life →

Feb 11, 2015, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

Hello everyone!

One thing that I like to tell prospective students about is the various ways to get involved as a graduate student. One way is the USC Graduate Student Government, which puts on various events for graduate students on both the University Park Campus and the Health Science Campus.

There are lots of events that happen, including professional networking events, book clubs, happy hour gatherings, and discounted tickets to events in Los Angeles!

The most recent event that I went to that was sponsored by the Graduate Student Government was to listen to the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I really enjoyed it!
I haven’t listened to classical music in a really long time, and it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend evening.

This was the flyer that caught my attention!

We had seats that faced the conductor, which made our experience really interesting! I have never been able to see the face of the conductor before, and it was pretty inspiring to see how he was so immersed into the music. I found myself completely immersed in the performance and watching the conductor and all the talented musicians play. It actually reminded me about flow, a theory developed by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that comes up in our occupational therapy discussions. The concept of flow discusses the full immersion of a person in an activity which the skill and the challenge is balanced; it often results in a different experience of time. I felt like the three hour concert flew by so quickly!

In our qualitative research class last year, my group and I conducted a mini research project on the experience of performance anxiety in musicians, specifically the contrast between solo instrumentalists versus orchestra members. I was reminded of our research and interviews with musicians as we listened to the performance as well. There were trumpet and horn solos in two symphonies, in which the entire orchestra stops playing and everyone listens to the really complex solo. I almost stopped breathing because part of me was scared of the soloist messing up. The solos were absolutely brilliant and I shouldn’t have worried at all. It was interesting that during this classical music performance, I realized that we had explored so many different topics in our program!

So that’s a snippet of what’s happening in my OT grad life!


USC Student Run Clinic Experience! →

Jan 28, 2015, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

Hello! I hope 2015 is off to a good start for all of you!

Today I want to share with you about my experience with the USC Student Run Clinic. The Student Run Clinic is a really unique organization that I would recommend students to get involved in! As an interdisciplinary care team, students from USC’s schools of medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant work together to provide comprehensive health care to the underserved in Los Angeles.

This past weekend was the first time that I volunteered with SRC. I loved meeting other students and learning about how each of our professions contribute to the patient’s care. It was a busy clinic weekend, so I was able to work with four patients. It was very interesting meeting a variety of patients of different ages and backgrounds! One challenge that I faced was the Spanish speaking language barrier; I learned that language is a crucial part of the communication with the patient. Because I am not the most fluent Spanish speaker (whoohoo high school Spanish), I felt like there were many things that I wanted to offer her as an occupational therapy student, but couldn’t convey it properly to her.

On the other hand, it was extremely meaningful to see how the role of the occupational therapist is so client centered and that we are able to meet the patient as an individual person. When working with the patient diagnosed with depression, the other members of the team did a really great job at gathering her medical history. In the team huddles, I was able to bring a holistic perspective to her life and tie in the medical considerations to her participation in activities. However, I had the opportunity to get to know her and provide a safe space for her to really share what she was struggling with in her life. I was struck by how important it is to build trust with the patient and I felt honored that let me hear the full story about her experience.

Together, we explored all the things that troubled her, including the environment in her neighborhood, her relationships with family members, and challenges in her daily routine. As occupational therapists, we are also concerned about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual health of our patients. It turned out that spirituality was something that mattered a lot to this patient. With my facilitation and encouragement, she personally set a goal to engage in more spiritual reading to help calm her thoughts throughout the day. She left our session feeling empowered and motivated.

It was such a meaningful experience!


We love our cohorts! →

Dec 17, 2014, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

Third semester of the Master’s program.. check! Only one more semester to go before commencement!

The first three semesters of the Entry-Level Master’s program focus on three different immersions: mental health, pediatrics, and adult physical rehabilitation. Our entire Master’s class rotated through these immersions in smaller groups, called cohorts (A, B, C).

This semester was our last rotation—adult rehabilitation (as you may have gathered from my previous posts). Last Friday, our last final also meant that it was our last time as a cohort. SEPARATION ANXIETIES.

Coming in as a Bachelor’s-to-Master’s student, I met everyone in the fall semester. I learned so much from everyone in my cohort and loved working with each person! Our cohort Facebook group included SOAP note samples, cute baby videos, and much more! From potlucks to group google docs, these people are seriously the best.

Here are some pictures from our Cohort B(est)! And feel free to check out some other cohort pictures here on OTSC’s Facebook page.

This was us in our first semester together, mental health immersion!

And this is us just last week, at our post-finals celebration!

PC: Caitlin Ito!

Cohort Buddies forever!


Finding the Occupation in Occupational Therapy! →

Dec 8, 2014, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

What makes an occupational therapist a good occupational therapist?

The past few weeks, I have been so inspired by all the different kinds of activities that an occupational therapist can do to help individuals improve their participation in daily life activities!

One of my favorite highlights of this semester was working with a patient at my Level I Fieldwork site. He was referred to occupational therapy after a motor-vehicle accident that broke his right arm and and left leg. When we first met him, we interviewed him using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure and found out that he wants to get back to his hairdressing job! We also learned about his interest in cooking. During our treatment sessions, we would review some exercises in preparation for an occupation-based activity, which included making mashed potatoes (I learned his recipe—absolutely delicious. It’s all about adding a lot of butter) and braiding hair! As a Level I fieldwork student, our role includes observing the occupational therapists and also possibly participating in some of the treatment process. In this case, it meant that I volunteered my hair to be braided during the treatment session, and I also ended up receiving a free head massage! Besides all the laughter, our patient was able to practice standing for longer periods of time without crutches (important for one hair-cut session!) and using his muscles in ways that he would for doing someone’s hair. We learned a lot about both occupation-as-ends and occupation-as-means, and I felt like this treatment session really showed that. Our patient was participating in a purposeful activity which he was motivated about, but the occupational therapist was also analyzing his movement and problem-solving with the patient regarding challenges that he was facing while doing the activity. That’s super cool! I look forward to his recovery so that he can keep changing people’s lives—one hairstyle at a time.
Here’s a couple pictures of me with my new hair after the treatment session:

In class, we have been learning about developing treatment plans that help improve the daily functioning of our clients. We also looked at different kinds of adaptations that may be used in the kitchen. Here are some things that we did—a pie in time for Thanksgiving and a big brunch potluck in our occupations lab.

We are moving into our finals week—best of luck to all students, and I will update again soon!


Learning Handy Skills! →

Nov 12, 2014, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

This week, our adult rehabilitation course is focusing on hand rehabilitation and making splints! Here are some pictures of the splints that we made in lab:



There’s a lot to learn and I could definitely improve on some of the splints that I made, but it was fun to practice the skill! We made a neoprene thumb splint that is commonly used for children with cerebral palsy in our pediatrics lab course last semester. Now I have many more to add to my splint collection!

We will be having a guest lecture from an adjunct faculty, Lisa Deshaies, who also works at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center also (in about half an hour actually), and I’m really looking forward to it! Our textbook reading for this week was a chapter that was written by her as well—we are really lucky to have so many experienced OT faculty members and connections!

EDIT: We just wrapped up our guest lecture! I learned a lot about hand therapy and physical agent modalities, and Lisa also helped dispel any fears we might have about pursuing hand therapy certification. We got to try out some of the equipment and therapy techniques. We were told, “If you’re going to use these methods on your patients, you should know what the experience is like!”

Here are some pictures:

Cold Therapy: Instead of buying fancy ice cups, you can make your own by freezing water in styrofoam cups and peeling off the bottom!

Heat Therapy with Paraffin: Taken place in our occupations lab. My classmates and I got to experience what it feels like to use paraffin wax!

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