Student Ambassador Blog
Nov 13, 2017, by Erika
One of my top 3 enriching experiences in this program didn’t take place in the classroom and wasn’t at fieldwork. It was in a men’s shelter located in the middle of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It was here where I met Ben*, a man who was living at the shelter that came to see us at the Student Run Clinic because he was complaining about itchiness on the bottom of his feet.
Hold up, what is Student Run Clinic?
Student Run Clinic is a student run organization that provides comprehensive healthcare to the homeless, chronically ill, and underserved populations in Skid Row. We work in an interprofessional team alongside students from USC’s Medicine, Physician Assistant, and Pharmacy programs operating two clinics monthly - one at John Welles CH (JWCH), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) one Saturday morning a month as well as a mobile clinic that operates out of a men’s shelter on one Tuesday evening a month.
Gotcha, back to Ben.
Ben came to see us on a Tuesday evening in which we set up shop in the men’s shelter he was staying at. As part of the clinic protocol and as the OT student, I was the first to greet Ben and introduce him to what he was going to experience throughout the course of the night. I then gathered his social history - asking him questions about life before living in the shelter, how he occupies his time during the day, if he has plans for what’s next, who his support system is, what his current employment status or past employment history is, etc. We got to talking and because clinic was running a little slow, I had time to chat him up more than usual.
Ben was a biking barber. He spent his days making money cutting hair biking across Downtown Los Angeles and was proud of it. A couple weeks before I met him, he had traveled to a bike race in Northern California and during that time, his landlord rented out the apartment he was living in without telling him leaving him homeless when he came back to Los Angeles. Thus, his current situation of living in the shelter. Despite these setbacks, Ben was upbeat in demeanor - honoring the hustle, doing what he can do to work as much as he can, confident and capable. I really enjoyed meeting him. I asked all my curious questions about being a biking barber and he asked me about being a student. ::knock knock knock:: My time was up.
After I left the room, I briefly summarized what I learned to the team (2 med students, 1 pharm student, and 1 PA student). It was there turn now to go in and ask their questions specific to their specialties. Med and PA took Ben’s vitals and administered the physical exam on his feet. Pharmacy inquired about any current medications he was taking, whether he was satisfied with those medications, if the medications affect the itchiness on his foot, etc. :: knock knock knock:: Their time was up.
While Ben was speaking with the other students, I was busy consulting our faculty preceptor, Dr. Pitts about everything I learned about him to work through the case. She helped me clinically reason through the case and ensure we have all the information we need to inform the team on a potential treatment recommendation. At the time when I met Ben, Dr. Pitts proctored both clinics but now Dr. McIntyre has taken over mobile clinic and Dr. Pitts focuses on Saturday clinics at JWCH. If there’s anything I can be grateful for in volunteering and serving on SRC board, it’s the unwavering guidance and experience of our faculty mentors.
Once all the other students returned from speaking with Ben, we engaged in “the Huddle” - the point in the night where we share all the information we learned about the patient and as a team, create a problems list and potential treatment plan accordingly. Once this was agreed upon, our attending physician, Dr. G, came in to hear us present all of our findings. As an educator and mentor, Dr. G provided us with feedback, constructive criticism on where we may have had some holes in our questioning or evidence, and a cohesive understanding of any next steps.
While Ben was a rather simple case of determining whether he had dry skin or a fungal infection, the experience was so much more than that.
1. I was able to listen to Ben’s story firsthand and gain a tiny ounce of understanding of his experience living in Skid Row.
2. I thought critically in an OT lens and assessed his living conditions, daily occupations, and motivation to inform us about his foot and skin condition and his ability to follow through on treatment.
3. I was able to make new friends in other professions, delve into each others healthcare lens, and understand how each profession contributes to a primary care model.
4. Lastly, I was able to advocate for Ben in providing the other health care professionals insight into Ben as a human outside of being a patient.
Being a part of Student Run Clinic has been a true privilege and one I would never pass up for anything in this program. It’s an experience that is unlike any other and if you’re currently a student in any of USC’s programs (Medicine, Physician Assistant, Pharmacy, or Occupational Therapy), I would encourage you to volunteer. You won’t regret it.
*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.
Nov 13, 2017, by Bryan
Maybe it is a mixture of interacting with older patients at fieldwork, dinner with my grandma for my birthday, or slowly realizing that OT school will be over in another semester, but I have been reflecting a lot on where I am going.
I know, a scary topic for us all.
From early on, my career goals were clear: find a job that provides financial stability. It is interesting how much of this mentality has shaped me today, and while I am really grateful for it, the older I get, the more I realize the importance of doing what I love. I remember receiving a card when I graduated undergrad from my cousin who was busy working on Wall Street. He is also the son of immigrant parents so can attest to a similar lived experience. I opened the card and immediately looked for the cash gift I expected. Nothing. What the heck. Should I even read the card? I was torn!
Upon reading the contents, however, I was even more surprised to reread advice I never really seemed to take seriously: follow what you are passionate about because that is what you will work hardest to be the best at. From that point forward came the discovery of purposeful paths, whether that meant running into a dead end, detour signs, or trudging through the side-brush to find another road entirely.
What am I most passionate about?
While the A+ answer might be Occupational Therapy(!), I think my greatest passion is to get to know people and help wherever I can. My career trajectory till now captures my own efforts to crystallize this very meta passion into a 9-5. I ran the 100000000m sprinting marathon of pre-med coursework believing that doctoring was the one and truest synonym for “helping others”. I utilized the beauty of storytelling to assist people find and purchase services or products that they might really need through marketing. My heart was the same all along and OT seemed like a perfect fit for it going forward.
I guess the question for you is what are you most passionate about? Does OT help you fulfill those passions? And if it does not, that is totally okay, there is so much purpose in exploring.
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.
Nov 9, 2017, by Caroline
I must apologize for my long delay in blogging, but I promise I have a good excuse! My favorite part of being a Student Ambassador is speaking with prospective students about Occupational Therapy and our programs at USC. These past few weeks, I’ve been all over the greater LA area presenting at various universities and speaking with prospective students about OT and our programs. When someone asks me about OT, my immediate response is “do you have 2 minutes or 2 hours?” OT is one of my favorite topics of conversation, so the fact that I get to spread the word about OT as my job is simply the best! Believe it or not, when I was applying to OT programs my senior year of college, I didn’t know a single other person interested in or applying to OT. I managed to navigate the process by myself, but I’ve had so much fun visiting Pre-OT clubs and other student organizations at various universities and connecting with students who are as passionate about OT as I am!
We’ve also started doing Admissions Information Sessions virtually as well. We tend to hold about two Information Sessions per month on our campus here in LA, but we want students to be able to get the same information even if they can’t travel out here. I know I would have appreciated that when I was a prospective student! We already have a Virtual Admissions Information Session scheduled for March 29, 2018, so mark your calendars and check out our website for information on how to register.
As always, feel free to reach out to any of the Student Ambassadors by email or leave a comment if you have any specific questions about our experiences or want to follow-up about something we talked about in our blog!
Oct 30, 2017, by Ali
With week ten of the semester comes midterms, unfinished projects, and the overall stress of finishing classes while choosing classes for next semester. I found myself getting caught up in the stress of it all, going straight from class to work to home only to continue studying or working until bed and then starting it all over the next day. Then one day last week, I came home to huge brown box on my front porch. My parents had mailed me a boogie board. They knew both how stressed I had been and my love for swimming in the ocean.
I had been talking for months about wanting to go to the beach on the weekend, but never found myself actually making the short twenty-minute drive. This surprise present was just the motivation I needed, as I have always wanted to take up boogie boarding but never actually knew how or owned the board. So last week, with October weather in Los Angeles being so warm, I took my new board to ocean! An eight five-degree weather day at the beach is hard to pass up.
The fresh air and salty water was the just the refresher I had been craving in the middle of the semester. It felt so good to do something like boogie boarding, which has no inherent value besides being enjoyable and fun. To engage in something purely for the sake of leisure without any productive value or in the hopes of reaching a goal, was something I had not done in a long time. There are so many occupations out there, and I am so glad I was reminded to try out a new one. I love being a beginner at something again and the joy of learning a new skill just for the sake of learning it. In the middle of occupational therapy school this semester, I was reminded of the power of occupation and the therapeutic value that meaningful activities have on our lives. I am feeling ready to take the rest of the exams and projects I have ahead (with my boogie board in my hand).