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Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Class of 2015: A Helper By Design →

May 13, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

Former graphic designer Eun Kyung Bae MA ’15 sets out on a new career path to redesign lives for senior and disabled populations as an occupational therapist.

BY JOHN HOBBS MA ’14

Eun Kyung Bae MA ’15 didn’t think she would ever be in a position to help others.

After a fall left Bae paralyzed from the waist down, the then 31-year-old Korean native says she expected life in a wheelchair would make her always require help from others.

It wasn’t until a middle-aged woman with her own spinal cord injury approached Bae for advice that Bae’s limited vision for the future began to change.

“I shared my story with her and explained how I had started adjusting to my new circumstances,” Bae says. “I don’t know how I touched her, but she was just crying and so appreciative of me sharing my story with her.”

After their talk, Bae says she felt something she hadn’t felt in months. “I just realized I felt happy to help someone else,” she says. “It was then I realized: Oh my God! What I want is to help people.”

It was with this experience in mind that Bae, who had been working for nearly 10 years as a graphic designer, began looking to make a career change.

“I had an occupational therapist in my home country after the accident,” Bae explains. “I was depressed and didn’t know how to live, so she just gave me some solutions, and I was really impressed. I thought this was a good field for me.”

After relocating to the United States, Bae sent an email to the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy inquiring about the U.S. News & World Report’s No. 1 ranked program and whether her spinal cord injury might hold her back from pursuing an occupational therapy education.

It wasn’t long before she got her answer. In 2013, she began working toward her master of arts degree in occupational therapy and found more than enough support—from both classmates and faculty members, including the late associate professor Ann Neville-Jan—to be successful.

“When I met Dr. Neville-Jan the first time, I was really timid. It was a completely new set of circumstances and new experiences, so I was really afraid,” Bae says. “She comforted me and had a lot of advice for me.”

Bae counts Neville-Jan, who had spina bifida, as one of her role models.

“I really want to help people with disabilities live more independently and be successful like Dr. Neville-Jan was,” she says.

Bae also found support from her peers. Her classmate Donna Ozawa MA ’15 rallied their class one weekend to build a wheelchair accessibility ramp for Bae to use when visiting Ozawa’s house.

“I was really impressed,” Bae says. “I was so thankful to them. They’re all occupational therapists already. They may have only [officially] been OT students [at the time], but they’re occupational therapists in their hearts.”

Now, with commencement just days away, Bae is looking ahead to the a future as an occupational therapist.

First up, she will do her required fieldwork experiences through the end of 2015. She then hopes to begin her doctor of occupational therapy degree in 2016.

Ultimately, she says, she wants to use her undergraduate degree in woodworking and furniture design coupled with her post-graduate education in occupational science and therapy to help design interventions that will prevent injuries in the homes of seniors and people with physical disabilities.

“I’m really happy,” she says about finishing the first step toward her new career. “I thought it was impossible for me to help people, but the program helped me to do just that.”

USC’s 132nd annual Commencement is Friday, May 15, at the University Park Campus. The satellite commencement ceremony of the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy will follow at 11 am on the Leavey Library West Lawn. Details are available at commencement.usc.edu.

Class of 2015: The Courage to Change →

May 7, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

It took him nearly a decade, but Brian Wylie has found a career in occupational therapy that ties together his many disparate interests.

Brian Wylie

While one’s life is most often lived looking forward, it is perhaps best understood only by reflecting backwards.

For Brian Wylie MA ’15, a soon-to-be master’s degree graduate from the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, a decade of experiences will cohesively culminate at commencement.

“I have taken advantage of opportunities to do a whole lot of different things in my life,” says Wylie, a 33-year-old native of Novato, Calif., a Marin County suburb located in Northern California. “And now I can truly see how all these experiences led me to USC.”

After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Wylie embarked upon what he thought was his career calling by enrolling in the University of Notre Dame’s top-25 ranked law school. His career path seemed to unfurl before his eyes—except it didn’t.

“After a couple of months I knew that law school was just not for me,” Wylie recalls.

So he returned to Northern California, where he worked as a non-profit fundraiser for several years.

It wasn’t long before yet another opportunity came his way. In 2009, Wylie received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant, which took him to Cheonan, South Korea, a city located 50 miles south of Seoul. There, he taught English to school children and lived in the home of a Korean host family.

“I was thrust into a situation that was so unfamiliar, not only professionally but also personally,” Wylie explains. In hindsight, Wylie realizes that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity showed him not only who he was but—perhaps most importantly—who he wanted to become.

After a year teaching in South Korea, Wylie returned stateside, determined to pursue a career in the health professions.

As a former high school athlete and amateur Olympic-style weightlifter, he was interested in a field that could leverage his passion for physical activity. But equally important, as Wylie says, was finding a career that also integrated the all-important “human connection.”

While completing prerequisite courses through UC Berkeley Extension, Wylie earned a personal training certification, worked in corporate wellness settings to improve employee health and quality of life and even started his own personal training business.

After exploring many options, Wylie realized that a career in occupational therapy would combine many of the recurring themes spread across a decade of his personal and professional life.

“Working for a non-profit was about advocating for a cause and working for what you believe in,” Wylie says. “Teaching in Korea was not only about education but about reaching people across seemingly insurmountable barriers. Becoming a personal trainer and corporate coach reminded me of how passionate I am about physical activity, health and wellness.”

Wylie happily admits that he, in his own words, “stumbled” upon occupational therapy. But the various experiences that led him to the USC Chan Division only seem to make all the more sense as he looks ahead to the next chapter of his professional life.

“Occupational therapy holds a very unique place in the world, in society and in health care,” Wylie says, “and learning how I can be a part of that has been a very exciting process.”

But the soon-to-be graduate isn’t finished with his formal education just yet; he will be joining USC’s doctorate of occupational therapy degree program this August. As a doctoral resident based at the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice located on the USC Health Sciences Campus, Wylie will continue advancing his education and interest in delivering lifestyle-based interventions to maintain and improve quality of life for people with chronic health conditions.

“This is a very special time for OT,” Wylie says, “and I want to see where I can make an impact to effect change on as large of a scale as possible.”

As for his advice to the USC occupational therapy master’s class of 2017, who begin the program in June, “Stay open, stay flexible,” Wylie says.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day pressures of classes, papers and tests. But don’t lose sight of who you were when you began the program, how excited you were to come to USC and remember that ‘spirit of occupational therapy’ which we’re all in tune with.”

USC’s 132nd annual Commencement is Friday, May 15, at the University Park Campus. The satellite commencement ceremony of the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy will follow at 11 am on the Leavey Library West Lawn. Details are available at commencement.usc.edu.

USC Chan Aligns with the HollyRod Foundation to Focus on Common Needs of Those Affected by Autism →

Apr 23, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News

The USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has aligned with the HollyRod Foundation as part of the division’s ongoing commitment to understanding and providing family-centered resources to people with autism spectrum disorder.

“USC is home to a community of scientists and clinicians who are engaged in research and treatment to ensure that children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders and their families can fully thrive,” said Dr. Florence Clark, associate dean and chair of the USC Chan Division.

Together, HollyRod and USC will strive to support the immediate needs of families and individuals affected by autism. From day-to-day needs of the family such as ensuring each member has a valued role to prevocational training of the diagnosed child for successful transition into adulthood, the partnership hopes to empower all individuals who are impacted by an autism diagnosis. 

The HollyRod Foundation was started in 1997 by actress Holly Robinson Peete and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete ’89 after the Peetes’ eldest son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism. The foundation helped create RJ’s Place — safe havens in children’s hospitals and autism centers across the country that provide refuge for siblings of those with autism who might accompany them to treatment.

Autism can impact families physically, emotionally and financially. In fact, a person with autism will spend on average between $1.4 to $2.3 million over a lifetime for educational interventions, training and health care, according to Autism Speaks, a leading autism advocacy organization.

Rodney Peete said, “Holly and I are thrilled that our dream of helping families living with autism through a partnership with my alma mater is finally a reality. We know firsthand that the annual cost for quality care is over $60,000 per child, which is far too high for most families to bear. We are truly excited to help these families provide their child with a solid start and to find ways to provide support throughout that child’s lifetime.”

“This unique alignment between the USC and the HollyRod Foundation will accelerate our mission of enabling people to realize their optimal potential for participation in the everyday activities that make life meaningful,” Clark said.

The partnership also contributes to USC’s multidisciplinary initiative focusing on autism research, treatment and resources for day-to-day and community intervention.

Ten Years of Occupational Therapy in Africa →

Apr 22, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

More than 200 USC students have taken advantage of an ‘amazing journey’ that led to Ghana

BY JAMIE WETHERBE

Bonnie Nakasuji ’74, MA ’94, OTD ’08 first went to Ghana in 2003 with a simple mission. She wanted to match patients with wheelchairs.

Two years later — thanks to her passion for occupational therapy and a good deal on airfare — Nakasuji returned to Ghana with 10 students from the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy to help adults and children with disabilities.

During the past decade, Nakasuji, an adjunct associate professor at USC Chan who coordinates the division’s leadership externship to Ghana, has ushered 232 USC occupational therapy students to Ghana, taking on some 50 duties, from arranging air travel to lecturing at universities.

“It’s just been an amazing journey. When a student has an opportunity to give professionally, it’s really rewarding,” Nakasuji said.

Continue reading at USC News.

Video game developed at USC lets patients play their way through rehab →

Apr 20, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News

Mystic Isle tracks the coordinates of players’ movements, giving therapists valuable data on progress and future sessions

BY TANYA ABRAMS

Video games for health are not just for fitness gamers who’d rather stumble through Zumba alone than with a judgy gym rat.

Clinicians and game developers at USC are teaming up to advance and validate video games for rehabilitation, a segment in the games-for-health industry that is helping stroke patients, paraplegics and others regain their dexterity through play.

The USC therapists and technicians have teamed to develop Mystic Isle, a game that quantifies and tracks patients’ movement in space as they tackle a series of rehab exercises.

Mystic Isle is being played in clinics all over the world as patients recover from the physical and cognitive effects of stroke.

Continue reading Video game developed at USC lets patients play their way through rehab at USC News.

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