Meet the Trojans — like María Cristina Jiménez MA ’20 — pushing occupational science and occupational therapy forward. (Interview by Trevor San Antonio MA ’20.)
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Los Angeles
Theatre and Women’s Studies at College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Mass.); Master of Fine Arts at The New School for Social Research (New York City)
Reading books and re-reading them, watching movies and re-watching them, traveling and cooking
Describe OT in a few words
Helping anyone, anywhere, through creativity and scientific knowledge to become more engaged in life.
Can you talk about life in Puerto Rico and how it affected you?
Growing up in Puerto Rico, which is a small island, we stuck with the same group of people. There is a sense of tribalism; it feels like a village and a community. When I think back, I think of the ocean and I think of family. My experiences in Puerto Rico made me realize it takes a village to help and heal each other.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in occupational therapy?
I had a severe motor vehicle accident when I was 15 years old. I had to rely on a lot of physical therapy and psychotherapy during my recovery. All my adult life has been about helping people out of pain. I first did that through yoga and then Rolfing [editor’s note: Rolfing is a bodywork and massage approach focusing on the physical manipulation of fascia]. I wanted a better job prospect and I had some friends who were OTs. I asked them questions and their answers inspired me to pursue this profession, to continue to help people out of pain.
What is your favorite memory made at USC Chan to this point?
I was on the [admission] waitlist and I found out I got in three days before the start of the program! On my first day, I met a second-year student and I told him I felt out of place because of my age, my acceptance date and my own insecurities. He looked at me and said, “You belong here.” What he said stuck with me, and I want to share that feeling of belonging with not only my classmates and colleagues, but also with my future clients.