Student Ambassador Blog
This post is about my recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee for this year’s AOTA conference! First off, I have to give a big thanks to the division for making this trip possible for me, as I was fortunately awarded a scholarship to attend the conference. This was a huge help, especially since I probably spent half of this amount on some bah-beh-cue dry ribs alone. Haha totally kidding, but jokes aside, having the opportunity to attend this year’s conference really brings my entire gradschool experience full circle. Exactly two years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the AOTA national conference right before I started the program, in which I volunteered. For any individuals who are hoping to gain a conference experience, I highly recommend volunteering, even if you are not yet a practitioner or a student! Typically if you volunteer, you get to attend the conference for free, as was the case for me two years ago. I remember going two years ago, just being admitted to the program, with excitement of what was to come. I remember running into Ricky and Rob, two former ambassadors, and little did I know that I’d be filling their shoes two years later. With that said, as Leila mentioned in a previous post, this year’s conference was the largest ever! It was a pleasure getting to attend several educational sessions, meeting other practitioners and fellow students, and just enjoying the OT pride that was definitely palpable in the atmosphere!
This year’s theme was “giving voice to the distinct value of occupational therapy.” Personally for me, this means being able to articulate, advocate, and express the unique skillset occupational therapists can provide to help all people, in utilizing occupation to help everyone we serve reach their fullest potential. Whether that’s helping a Grandfather who’s recovering from stroke gain the upper extremity strength to hold his baby granddaughter, helping a Mother who’s battling cancer find meaningful occupations while she receives treatment, helping a child with special needs gain the skillset they need to access their school curriculum, or helping a veteran with PTSD foster therapeutic relationships within the community through surfing, our value is diverse, essential, and most definitely distinct. This was actually one of my favorite things about the conference; the fact that I was able to attend several educational sessions and poster board presentations that demonstrated how occupational therapy is evolving on a daily basis, and just how occupational therapist are utilizing their unique skill sets to help people of all backgrounds. One of the practitioners I had met was formulating an occupation based program for refugees from other countries, who have a long history of oppression, abuse, or trauma. A fellow student I had met had implemented a creative arts and crafts program at a local women’s penitentiary, which I really identified with especially given my experiences at Project 180. Several relatively new professionals spoke about their transition from student to working clinician, and it was great to gain their insight about their challenges and their keys to success.
All in all, AOTA 2015 was an amazing experience that gave me greater insight about my profession, and where it is headed towards the future. Needless to say, It’s an exciting time to be in the profession and to see what my fellow colleagues have been working on to help our profession grow and evolve. In addition, Nashville was an amazing city as well and it was tons of fun checking out the city with my classmates and several new friends in our spare time. I can definitely say that I have never in my life heard so many country covers of 90’s hip and R&B songs. Here’s a video documenting some my AOTA 2015 experience.
Y’all take care now,
Hello everyone! Hope you’re all doing great! Over here at the division we are wrapping up OT month and it’s been an absolute blast so far! This blog post is actually dedicated to one of the events of OT month that my classmates and I had the privilege of participating in, the 35th annual Swim with Mike Swim-a-thon! As the Occupational Therapy and Science Council Philanthropy Chair, it was my second year coordinating a USC OT team to participate, and I have to give a shout out to my friend Ali Adams for helping me coordinate USC OT’s involvement over the last two years. For those of you that don’t know, Swim with Mike is an annual swim-a-thon that is held to raise money for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. The fund was first started through the generosity of three time All-American Swimmer Mike Nyeholt. In January 1981, Mike was in a Motorcycle accident that resulted in paralysis from the chest down. As a gesture to show support for Mike, his family and friends started a swim-a-thon fundraiser to help Mike purchase a specially equipped van that he could utilize. On the day of the swim-a-thon, Mike surprised his supporters by joining them in the pool, straight from the hospital! More than $58,000 was raised that day, which far surpassed the donation needed for the van. As a result, Mike used the excess funds to start the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund at the University of Southern California. The aim of the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund is to raise money for student athletes who have sustained a life-altering injury. Through the generosity of the Swim with Mike supporters, the donations are utilized to help student athletes with disabilities pursue higher education.
35 years later, Swim with Mike has raised over 15 million dollars, has 61 current scholarship recipients, has granted 178 total scholarships, reaching students from over 85 different universities. Swim with Mike is a fun aquatic festival that brings people together to swim, dive, and most of all, have fun for a great cause. Last year, I had the privilege of participating in a 34 hour swim-a-thon with participation from 40 fellow OT students who made up our team! I covered the night shift from 2 am to 7 am with my good friend Anna Redfern, and best believe I got supah pruny. This year, Swim with Mike was different in that it conducted its first ever triathlon. Inspired to answer the question “what is your 35,” participants donated 35 dollars to participate in a 35 minute bike, 35 minute swim, and 35 minute run to support the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund. We had 20 OT students represent our team this year, and we all had a really fun time supporting a great cause. If you’d like to support the Swim with Mike Scholarship fund please visit https://swimwithmike.org/. If you’d like to meet the awesome recipients of the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund and hear their story, please feel free to check out https://swimwithmike.org/recipients-3.
Here’s a picture of some of our team this year, but I am currently making a video that I will be posting shortly. Here’s a video of my awesome team and I enjoying our SWM experience. Enjoy!
Please stay tuned for my next blog, in which I’ll be writing about the AOTA conference. In the mean time, Leila has written a blog about the conference as well, check it out, it’s a good read!
Until next time my friends,
Hello everyone! Hope you’re all doing great! OT Month is in full effect over here at the division, and best believe you can catch me walking down the hallway sporting one of our signature OT Month pins! In addition, I just got back from an awesome experience at AOTA, which I will be writing about more later in a future upcoming blog. Today’s blog is about the second part of my leadership project, in which I had the opportunity to carry out a philanthropic project I had curated in preparation for the leadership capstone experience, which I named PhilaPinas. In the beginning stages of preparing for this project, my initial goal was to raise $250 of funds to be utilized in purchasing slippers to be distributed to children walking barefoot in the rural provinces. However, through the amazing generosity of my family, friends, and classmates, we were able to collectively raise $1700 dollars of funds. Given this monumental donation, this evolved and expanded the project to reach several different sites in which we could extend our positive impact. In addition, I had no idea just how far this money would take us, as the dollar goes such a long way in the Philippines. Just to give you some perspective, I was able to purchase 100 slippers for only $33! Thus, you can only imagine how far $1700 dollars of raised funds would take us. In each site, we had the opportunity to meet the coordinators of these respective sites, meet the people who found refuge in these safe-havens, and assess what these places needed the most in terms of donated supplies. The donations consisted of various necessities and supplies, including baby soap, baby shampoo, milk, crackers, detergent, clothes, slippers, toothpaste, and much more!
The first site we had the pleasure of visiting was the Hospicio de San Jose Orphanage and Elderly home. This home provides refuge for all types of individuals, including pregnant mothers who are homeless, children with special needs, women who have been domestically or sexually abused, orphaned children, and homeless elderly. Their motto is “welcoming all people, from womb to the tomb.” Over 200 people call Hospicio de San Jose home, who have opened their doors to help underserved communities dating all the way back to 1810. To my pleasant surprise, Hospicio de San Jose even had an occupational therapy department! I had the opportunity to meet with their team members, and hear about their inspiring mission of helping all people who enter Hospicio De San Jose’s doors.
The second place we visited was St. Rita’s orphanage and school, which is the elementary school my Mom once attended! St. Rita’s provides care to orphans and children who have special needs. The children at this site had a real enduring nature about them, and were an absolute joy to be around.
Next on our list was Philippines General Oncology Ward. I had the opportunity to hang out with these resilient kids, a lot of whom spent their time doing art while receiving chemotherapy. Thus, to support them in this occupation, we provided various art supplies in addition to food.
Following this visit, we had an opportunity to check out Bahay Ni Maria, a home for grandmothers who have been abandoned. These women had a lot of wisdom to share with me about life, resiliency through struggle, and God’s providence. I learned a ton from them and the light that they shared.
Next, we visited the College of Perpetual Help, where my Aunt is the dean at the college of health sciences (which includes an occupational therapy department!) She mentioned to me that they do an outreach program at National Belibid Prison, in which they send teachers to educate the inmates. We decided to visit and donate at National Belibid Prison, and learned more about their program. They incorporate a true “rehabilitation through education model” and they are only 1 of 2 schools in the world that offer an opportunity for their well-behaved inmates to attain a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship while still serving their sentence. My aunt was telling me about what the graduates of the program have gone on to do, and how the program has decreased recidivism rates. The model that I saw here was truly inspiring, and I believe their rehabilitation through education model serves as a successful platform that other institutions can take after.
In our last couple of days, we had an opportunity to distribute slippers in the Lagunas, Pasay, and Manila rural areas. At first I was a little weary as to whether or not we would be able to distribute all these supplies, but I quickly found out just how many kids walk the streets barefoot. The gratitude expressed was truly heart felt, and the smiles on their faces were priceless. Our last stop was at San Roque Parish, a church that does outreach to a community in which 70 families had lost their homes to a fire. The sisters at this church emphasized just how far our donations would go in helping these families.
When I look back at the leadership capstone experience as a whole, all I can say is that it was truly a life changing experience that helped me grow in many ways. I’ve never felt more connected to my culture and roots, and to be able to give back at this capacity was truly a dream come true. I would like to thank my family, friends, and classmates for their generosity, and letting me be an agent of sharing their positive impact. Yes, there’s no doubt that there’s still a lot of work in the Philippines to be done; there is corruption, war, and a tremendous amount of people living in poverty. With that said, the most refreshing aspect of this experience was to witness the generosity, gratitude, and resilient nature of the Filipino people, despite the daily struggles they face. This is definitely not the last time I will be carrying out the PhilaPinas project, but I have to give big props to all the people who made this possible, and to our program for affording me the opportunity to carry out this dream
Here’s a video capturing the leadership capstone experience and some pictures documenting the PhilaPinas drive. Enjoy!
Until next time,
Hello everyone! Hope you’re all doing great! It’s been a very busy time around the division as we try to finish up the last couple weeks of the semester strong. As for myself, I have been keeping myself busy with my awesome electives, preparing for AOTA, and coordinating OTSC philanthropy events. Most recently however, I had one of the best experiences of my life, which was my leadership capstone project that I led in the motherland of my ancestors, Philippines! I have not been back to the Philippines in 20 years, thus it was an opportunity that I had developed a lot of excitement and anticipation for. I had the pleasure of conducting my externship with one of my dear friends and fellow classmates, Amy. My leadership capstone project had two major phases: the first revolved around the overarching goal of deciphering the conceptualization of occupational therapy services in the Philippines. The second main emphasis focused on being able to give back and spread a positive impact through a philanthropic drive I curated in preparation for my leadership capstone project, which I named PhilaPinas. Through the generosity of my family, friends, and fellow classmates, we were able to raise up $1700 worth of supplies and necessities to be distributed amongst several rural provinces, orphanages, elderly homes, hospitals, and even a University that provides a “rehabilitation through education program” for the national prison. I will write more about the PhilaPinas in my next blog, but first I will start off with my first week on an island called Cebu, where my journey started.
I had the pleasure of spending the first week of my trip at a place called Dynamic Pediatric Therapy Services. It was first started by Berry and Apple Sepulveda, who both had envisioned a model of delivering quality care occupational therapy services in the Philippines, something they both felt was lacking. Apple is currently an occupational therapist and manages several clinics in California. Berry is a fellow Trojan and received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California in 2010. Based on the principles she had learned in her pediatric courses in addition to Apple’s vast experience in pediatric occupational therapy, they opened Dynamic Pediatric Therapy in February 2014, and their clinic provides the following services: sensory integration, social skill groups, feeding clinics, and free developmental screenings and caregiver training in the rural provinces. Being able to navigate healthcare in the Philippines presents its own challenge, as there are some stark differences. For one, health insurance is not mandated; most people do not have health insurance, and even if they do, the support given is often times very minimal. A majority of consumers compensate occupational therapy services through private pay. In terms of specific occupational therapy adaptive equipment, Berry has had to be creative, as most equipment is not accessible domestically or it is too expensive. As a response, Berry has had to resort to other creative solutions; one specific example is a proprioceptive shirt designed by Berry that provides deep pressure for her clients that need this input to modulate. There are additional contextual differences which affect the delivery of occupational therapy services, the largest most likely being financial resources. Berry and Apple both envisioned occupational therapy as something that should be accessible to everyone, no matter what their circumstances. Thus, they provide developmental screenings in addition to caregiver training in the rural provinces, in order to address this gap. Being able to spend the first week with Berry and her team was a great experience, and it was enlightening to see how Berry has translated the foundation she attained at USC and implement it in another country. That being said, Berry, Apple, and their outstanding team of occupational therapists are tremendous advocates for high quality occupational therapy services in the Philippines, and the passion is definitely exhibited in their work.
Here’s a picture with Berry and her amazing therapist team:
During the same time in Cebu, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Miljoy and Ken King, whose family legacy revolves around three generations of spreading a positive impact in the Philippines, through an organization started by and named after Ken’s grandfather, Juanito King. Founded in 1991, the Juanito I. King Foundation aims to serves as a resource agency to help individuals in need. Their foundation is rooted in the belief that education can break the bonds of poverty, thus the organization first launched as a scholarship program to help individuals in need pursue higher education. Since its inception, the Juanito I. King foundation has expanded its reach and capacities to help others in several ways. The program also focuses on education enhancement projects focusing on building school classrooms, computer laboratories, and teacher training. In 2003, they created a mobile dental van that provides dental services in poor and marginalized communities. In 2009, they created the DREAM for Children with Special Needs project, aimed at providing quality and sustainable therapy services to children with special needs in Cebu. One of the quality therapy services provided through the Juanito I. King foundation is occupational therapy, providing subsidized services that reach individuals who otherwise would not be able to access occupational therapy services.
Here’s a picture of me with the family behind the Juanito King Foundation:
Being able to spend time with both Dynamic Pediatric Therapy services and the Juantio I King foundation was inspiring in so many ways. I developed a deeper appreciation for the work I do as an occupational therapist, and just how great our impact can be. It was a refreshing experience to see that both of these organizations are leading the forefront in being able to provide high quality occupational therapy services, and assuring that these services are provided to all individuals regardless of their economic background. The fact is, the Philippines is a third world country, and there is still much work to be done. However, with organizations like Dynamic Pediatric Therapy and the King foundation, this instills hope in thousands of individuals who hope to provide the best care for their families, to assure that they are living their lives to their greatest potential.
During the time I had off, I had the opportunity to explore Cebu and Bohol and take in the beauty of the Motherland! Here are some pictures of the amazing sights, and a video of some whale shark diving for your viewing pleasure
Please stay posted for the continuation blog of my leadership capstone project, in which I’ll be writing about the PhilaPinas drive. Thank you for reading!
As an occupational therapist, one of the things we are best at is being able to capture the details of any given occupation. We are trained to develop this skill, because we are constantly breaking down activities into components to find out where our clients/patients may experience challenges or successes during a given occupation. From there on, we have a better idea of where our treatment efforts should be focused. With that said, during the course of the program, I’ve gotten better at developing this skill – almost to the point in which I can’t turn it off. Here are some examples of what I would like to call the “OT lens.”
This one time, I was hiking with Leila and her sister at a pretty challenging course. I remember for one of the pathways, the hill incline grade was ridiculously steep (almost 45 degrees.) I remember Leila’s sister was wearing one of those drawstring backpacks, in which she had only one strap over her shoulder. Almost automatically, I found the following words coming out of my mouth: “It may be easier if you put on both straps of your backpack on so that way there’s no muscle imbalance. Also, get down more towards the floor to lower your center of gravity, and spread out your feet to increase you base of support; it may be easier to get up the hill.” I remember Leila smirking, and I found myself laughing as well, because I totally OT-geeked out. Best believe we got up that mountain, here’s a pic from the top!
This other time, I was on my way to a concert with some friends from the program. I remember being in the backseat of a full car, faced with a dilemma I’m sure you’ve all been through: trying to find your seatbelt buckle between the tiny crevice between you and your friend, without looking. I remember saying to my friends, wow, the stereognosis demand on this task is through the roof! For those of you that don’t know, stereognosis is defined as the ability to perceive the form of an object utilizing the sense of touch. I debated with my OT homies and they just laughed, saying “Jon, can we not talk about anything school related right now!?” I responded by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t help it! I can’t turn it off!”
To preface these last examples, I’ll give you a little background about my family: it is currently being overran by numerous cute babies. It’s straight up baby land at my family parties. With that said, I find myself sort of becoming the baby guru of my family. I remember one of my cousins was mentioning that her daughter loves to wash her hands. I then asked, “Does she like to do anything regarding water?” She immediately replied, “Yeah. She loves the water.” I replied with, “Well, she may be sensory seeking towards anything that involves water, much alike me.” It’s important to note that during any family party, I will take my niece an average of 4-5 times to wash her hands (even if her hands are clean,) and every time I do take her, all I can think to myself is…. “I feel you girl, I feel you!” Haha lastly, during a recent Superbowl family party I was hanging out with my 9 month nephew and I was rocking him side to side as he rested in my arms. In 5 minutes, he was sleeping… a friend called me the baby whisperer, to which I replied “I can’t take the credit… it’s the vestibular input magic at work.”
Yeah, sometimes the OT geeking out can get a little crazy and out of control. The fact is, once you’re an OT, you can’t really turn it off. Call it what it is, but it’s one of the things that comes with being an OT: we are trained to analyze people in the context of their meaningful activities; the occupations that are embedded in everyday life. The lens never really comes off, even if you try. I guess idealistically, I would like to compartmentalize school, work, and my personal life, but the fact is, having an OT lens doesn’t feel like work… at this point in time, it’s second nature, and it’s something that I love to do. I guess Confucius said it best: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, that’s what occupational therapy is.