Zack Pinto OTD ’19
Hometown: Mission Viejo, CA
Program: Post-Professional OTD, Class of 2019
What brought you to occupational therapy?
In high school, I started an organization in Orange County where I taught dance to kids with a range of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. Once I got to senior year in high school, the parents of the children I had been teaching for the past few years talked with me about occupational therapy and I absolutely fell in love with the field. After doing some more research on it, I applied to USC’s Bachelor’s to Master’s program and here I am. It was scary committing my life to a career at 17, but I could not be happier!
Where are you located for your residency and what services are provided there?
I am at the USC Chan Division Autism Initiative for my residency. The Initiative is dedicated to developing research and programs to benefit individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. As the resident, I work closely with Chan Division faculty members and community partners to design and implement various projects. We are currently focusing a lot on community engagement through a variety of projects including a new research study and The Museum Project.
What do you hope to learn from this year?
As described above, I want to further explore the topic of community engagement for individuals on the autism spectrum. I want to learn how to better support these individuals in the communities and create more inclusive and accessible environments. I have special passion for working with college students with ASD, so the college campus is an environment I am extremely interested in. I also want to get more opportunities to guest lecture, help develop courses, and collaborate with faculty members because I aspire to be on faculty one day continuing to develop the profession and teach future occupational therapists.
If you could give any words of advice for incoming Master’s students, what would it be?
My advice would be to go out of your way to make connections with the people around you. Make connections with not only your peers, but also the faculty, staff, and your fieldwork educators. They are the people that will support you in the program and help guide you if you let them. They are great resources because they have been in similar situations as you will be in throughout the program. These people want to help you, but you need to make the effort to reach out and stay connected.