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


Looking Back—1st Year

, by Mari

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Fall ‘08-Spring ‘09

The transition from summer to fall semester was nice because we had a little more free time since we weren’t in class as often. The classes that we took were in Pediatrics, Physical Disabilities, Psychosocial Dysfunction, OT Skills, Gerontology, and Occupational Science. We also had labs for “Phys Dis” and Skills, and our Level I fieldwork (FW) during the fall and spring semesters. So, although we were spending less time in class, we were still quite busy. I chose not to work during my first year, which gave me more time to hang out with friends, help coach a club soccer team, and of course, study 😉

Priscilla’s Surprise

Early on in the fall semester, we celebrated Priscilla getting married and threw her a surprise bridal shower! We try to find as many excuses as we can to hang out and have fun outside of school!

I think she was definitely surprised!

And here’s the whole group!

Casa Colina

Our first Level I FW was in the fall—I spent a full week at Casa Colina-Centers for Rehabilitation in Pomona, CA, in the inpatient rehab unit. There are different departments at Casa—inpatient rehab, pediatrics, and transitional living. In the inpatient rehab department, the therapists were split into different teams, who generally treated a certain type of patient diagnosis. For example, there were teams for such diagnoses like spinal cord injury and brain injury/stroke, my team being the latter. My Clinical Instructor (CI) was Lisa and she was very knowledgeable and friendly! It was great to be able to work with her and see what it was like to be an OT in that setting. Casa had been pretty recently remodeled, so the facility was very impressive!

Here is a picture of the “Stroke” team on Halloween! It was a great way to end my fun week visiting Casa!


My second Level I FW was in the spring—me, along with 32 other USC OT students, and 6 CIs spent two full weeks in Ghana! We worked with children with disabilities at the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC), which is a boarding school for the children. This ministry was started by a Ghanaian pastor and his wife, who is a PT from the US. When we were there, there were 20 children, ages ~5-21 years old. In Ghana, they didn’t really know exactly how old the children were, and it made it tough to tell because many of them looked much younger than they really were. In Ghana, much, if not all of their livelihood is from physical labor or skills that a person has, therefore, people who have disabilities are looked down upon and seen as useless and hopeless. It is very sad, but infanticide is quite common if a child is born atypically, despite it being against the law. So, this is why MTC is such a wonderful place! The children are taken in and they live at the boarding school for three months at a time. They will go home or to the orphanage they came from for one whole month, every three months. This is to encourage the children’s parents and the orphanage staff to be involved with their children’s health and well-being. At MTC, the children live amongst each other in a dormitory and they attend school and church together. Most of the children have chores and they are able to take care of themselves for the most part. It was so great to see how they truly act as one big family! What we were there for, was to help the children to increase their ability to do their everyday occupations. Two or three USC students were assigned one or two children. We assessed and observed them while they were in school, eating, and doing chores and self-care, in order to pin point what was going on with them and what they needed the most help with. We then developed a treatment plan, which we implemented during the week. And we created home and classroom programs (that were mostly pictures), which we taught to the children’s parents/orphanage staff and their teachers. Going to Ghana was one of my most favorite experiences since I’ve been in OT school! Everything about it was amazing—the OT aspect: I learned so much in the short time that we were there and it really challenged my clinical reasoning skills and ability to think out of the box; the Christian aspect: being in a Christian environment was powerful as I saw some of my non-Christian USC friends being touched by the love that the Ghanaian children and people have for Jesus; the Ghanaian aspect: I absolutely loved Ghanaian culture—people were so laid back and friendly, it reminded me of home in Hawaii! We have so many stories and great memories from the trip, but here are a few pictures.

Meet Amanquah (~13 years old)—isn’t he so cute!? Sarah (another student ambassador) and I were partners on this trip and we had the opportunity to work with Aman! He didn’t have a specific diagnosis, but he had CP-like symptoms and malnutrition. He was very weak—he had to use a wheelchair to get around and would scamper on the ground on his elbows, hands, and knees to get around. He had a difficult time holding his head up, which inhibited him from efficiently participating in many of his occupations—eating, self-care, and doing schoolwork. He also didn’t speak much, but we could tell he was very bright!

Barb was Sarah and my CI—it was her first time to Ghana as well. She was great! She brought a lot of good ideas and insight into our treatment and care for Aman!

Here is Sarah and Aman taking a break between one of the exercises that we were doing to increase the strength of Aman’s neck extensors (to lift his head up).

And here’s Aman and me doing one of his other favorite occupations—drawing and writing!

24th Birthday

Also, during the spring, my birthday, which happens to be Earth Day, came around, and of course, some of my friends and I used it as a reason to get together after class!

OT Banquet/Prom

And another great way to end the year—OT Banquet/Prom! A fun night of dressing up, good food, dancing, and great company!

So that was a glance back at my first year. It definitely flew by quickly! To sum up the school portion of it—FW, labs, group projects, practicums, and site visits!


Happy Occupational Therapy Month!

, by Myka

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Did you know April is Occupational Therapy Month?

How am I celebrating, you ask?

Well, let me tell you!

Today, we are tabling on campus to promote awareness of the profession. We are handing out clementines (a healthy snack) and wishing people a happy OT month! If you’re reading this blog because you’re thinking about doing OT, I’m sure you’ve come across people who have no idea what OT is! My grandma, for instance, really has no idea—I tried to tell her but I think it may be a lost cause. It’s important that we advocate for our profession so we become a powerful profession of the future!

We printed up big buttons for people to wear. Here are the slogans on the buttons:

What is OT?
An occupational therapist loves me.
OT: Living Life to its Fullest
OT=Hot Commodity
OTs Fight On!
I Heart OT
OT was my idea.

We’ll also be supporting events such as Global Health Awareness Week, Earth Day, and Disability Awareness Week throughout the month on campus!

What are you doing for OT month? Spread the word!


Staying for another year

, by Myka

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I am having such a good time at USC that I am going on for a seventh year to pursue my clinical doctorate (OTD)! I completed my bachelor’s degree at USC and am almost done with the Master’s. Why leave now? The clinical doctorate is just one more year!

Actually, it is a hard decision- to go out in the working world now, or to stay on for one more year? As you likely know, a Master’s degree is all that is required to practice as an OT. So why am I staying on for the clinical doctorate?

I am really interested in teaching part-time and practicing part-time. Having a clinical doctorate will give me an edge in this regard and more opportunities should open up in teaching. Next year I am planning on being involved in teaching in the Master’s program and developing curriculum.

I also want to develop myself as a leader in the profession. I also feel we’ll be on more equal footing with other healthcare professionals who hold doctorates in their fields. I’ll be continuing on in Lifestyle Redesign(R) at our Faculty Practice and working to develop a lifestyle program. I’m still thinking about what type of program I want to develop, but I want to do something that hasn’t been done before. Doing the clinical doctorate will allow me to broaden the horizons of the profession while being mentored by expert faculty.

I love learning and being a student. I know that even after another year at USC, I won’t be finished with my education. As OTs, we are constantly learning and in fact must attain continuing education each year to keep our licenses. We will all be engaged in the pursuit of expanding our profession as the nature of healthcare changes and as our society’s needs change. I want to be at the forefront of that change!

One more reason—I won’t mind being known as Dr. and Mr. Winder (my husband and I). I’ll be sure to order the return address labels as soon as I graduate! 😉  Though really, I’ll probably just stick with Myka.


Part-time Fieldwork

, by Myka

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I love my part-time fieldwork doing Lifestyle Redesign(R) for College Students here at USC! In our program, there is an option to do part-time fieldwork during the second year of the Master’s degree. Because I was a teaching assistant for the summer classes last summer, I am doing my first Level Two fieldwork right now. It’s a big commitment—about 20 hours a week for the whole school year, basically.

Although this is really time consuming, I really enjoy doing my fieldwork. I’m working through our USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice with college students. I mainly work through the Disability Services and Programs office with students with learning disabilities, ADD, anxiety, and depression. I also work with other students who want to improve their coping skills and maximize their time in college. This is an exciting area because I am really working on wellness and prevention for these students—it’s a lot like life coaching. I am able to be a full OT and use the range of skills that I’ve learned in practical and theoretical classes. At one of my Level One Fieldwork opportunities, I was basically stuck with the upper body (it was an acute inpatient setting). In my current fieldwork, I can help students with time management, stress management, weight management, focus, and goal-setting to improve their lives. I can go to the store with them to pick out healthy, easy to pack lunches for long school days. I can go in their dorms and apartments to help them organize and create a healthy environment for studying and sleeping. I can go for a long walk or to the gym and work on weight management and increasing energy.

As you might imagine, it’s a pretty fun job! It blends some aspects of psychosocial work with health promotion and wellness. I also get to lead groups at our gym on campus regarding the topics I have listed above. Next week, I’m leading a group on stress management to help students prepare for finals and final projects. Because I’m a college student, too, these topics really help me to be the best student I can be! I definitely need to utilize stress management techniques- I had a midterm on Monday and have another one due next week!

I really feel that I help other students on campus live their lives to the fullest! I’m planning on incorporating the things I’m currently learning and utilizing in my future practice as an OT—in any setting!


Robotics and Occupational Therapy

, by Myka

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Different disciplines can work together to help people live their lives to the fullest! Right now I am taking a really exciting class through the Engineering department called Innovative Technology for Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It is taught by Olga Solomon, a linguist and autism researcher in the OS/OT department here at USC and is funded by a grant from Autism Speaks.

This class has been really great because it is interdisciplinary and we have both engineering and occupational therapy students. We are in small groups and each group is developing a grant proposal for an innovative technology to use for people with autism to help them do the things they need and want to do.  Last week in class we learned about socially assistive robots, which are robots that don’t touch people but can help encourage people and help people with autism learn social behaviors. Here is a video of a socially assistive robot helping someone in therapy to do exercises:

The video also mentions at the end that these types of robots are being used with many different populations, including people with autism.  You can see from the video that socially assistive robots may become more used in occupational therapy, as we can have them work with our clients for a different method of providing therapy. I asked the class whether they thought robots could ever take over OT jobs if trained well enough. We agreed that we should be safe from a robot-takeover (I, Robot, anyone?) but robots can definitely be used to supplement occupational therapy.

David Feil-Seifer, a PhD candidate in Engineering, came in to speak to our class about his work with these robots. He showed us videos of his research and we saw that children with autism responded positively to the robots and that using this type of technology may be very beneficial in teaching social skills to people with autism and helping them communicate.  He then took some of us to the Interaction Lab, which is featured in the video. We got to see the robots (including the one in the video) and meet some of the other students who work in the lab.

I wanted to take this class to become a well-rounded clinician, and this class is a great opportunity to blend disciplines and engage in mutual learning with engineering students. I can see using robots and other technology in all forms of OT, and am excited to learn more about technology that is used therapeutically. When I started OT school, my dad told me to be the most cutting-edge clinician I could be. “Develop OT robots!” was one of his ideas.  At the time, I just rolled my eyes (this is the guy who thought OT was helping people find jobs), but now I think this is a really exciting idea.  I’m so glad I’m getting this opportunity to learn about exciting new trends in the fields and work with engineering students to develop technologies for people with autism!

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