Faculty/Staff Resources Student Resources
University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Current PhD Students

Raymond Hernandez >

Faculty Mentor: Beth Pyatak PhD, OTR/L, CDCES, FAOTA

Research Lab: Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions (LRCC)

Year of Entry: 2017

Raymond Hernandez

My research interest lies in contributing to efforts to understand the demands of everyday activities and their impact on well-being, capacity for self-regulation, and cognitive performance. The overall demand of an activity can be measured by considering all its different types of demands including those mental, physical, emotional (e.g., frustration), and temporal (e.g., time pressure) in nature. These demands come with an associated physiological stress response, and as such there is a limit to the total amount of demands our bodies can experience. Whether or not activities are truly stressful or relaxing, physiologically, may depend on the demands required by them.

My current goals are to help advance measurement of activity demands through self-report, and in the future, to capture the physiological effects of the total demands placed on our bodies using smartphones and/or wearable technology. My goal is to develop tools that will provide metrics to help people determine if their everyday pattern of activities need to be adjusted (e.g., changing the number of high or low demand activities in which they engage) to improve or maintain well-being, capacity for self-regulation, and/or cognitive performance.

Elizabeth Isralowitz MA BCBA >

Faculty Mentor: Sharon Cermak EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Research Lab: Sensory Adapted Dental Environments Lab

Year of Entry: 2019

Elizabeth Isralowitz

As a PhD student, clinician, and educator I aspire to contribute to the growing body of research aimed at improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.  I am currently working in the SADE lab on a federally funded U01 grant.  The study’s main aim is to reduce the stress experienced by children with developmental disabilities during dental visits through environmental adaptations. My role in the lab includes setting up the adapted dental environment, conducting focus groups and interviews, and collecting and processing data, including coding electrodermal activity.

My primary research interests relate to intervention for young children with or at risk for developing ASD.  I hope to explore sensory features of young children with ASD and how these features impact parent-child interactions and later developing social-communication and self-regulation skills.  I am particularly fascinated by the transactional relationship between parent and child and how the adaptation of each contributes or inhibits the development of ASD symptoms and family quality of life.  I hope to contribute to research on the impact of early sensory differences on parent-child interactions, biobehavioral synchrony, and social-communication development.

Aditya Jayashankar >

Faculty Mentor: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh PhD

Research Lab: A-Z Lab

Year of Entry: 2018

Aditya Jayashankar

I am a neuroscientist and PhD Student at the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. I work with Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh in the A-Z Lab at the Brain and Creativity Institute. Our project revolves around the study of the contributions of the social and motor networks and their deficits in typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Development Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia).

My research interests relate to the improvement of diagnostic specificity through the use of multi-modal neuroimaging techniques in conjunction with neuropsychological testing to better understand how social, sensorimotor and cognitive learning network deficits contribute to distinguishing between different ASD subtypes.

Katie Loomis MA, OTR/L, CHT >

Faculty Mentor: Shawn C. Roll PhD, OTR/L, RMSKS, FAOTA, FAIUM

Research Lab: Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance Laboratory

Year of Entry: 2020

Katie Loomis

I am a first year PhD student working as a research assistant in the Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance Laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Shawn Roll. Before beginning my PhD program I worked in hand therapy for 8 years, achieving the title of Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) in 2017. Over my years as a clinician I became increasingly interested in the research that informs how we approach treatment of people with diverse abilities and backgrounds. Continuing research in our field is critical to improve our standard of care, especially with the growing emphasis on treatment efficiency and individualized care.

Camille Parchment >(she, her, hers)

Faculty Mentor: Amber Angell PhD, OTR/L

Research Lab: Disparity Reduction and Equity in Autism Services (DREAmS) lab

Year of Entry: 2021

Camille Parchment

I am a PhD student within the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, under the mentorship of Dr. Amber Angell. My research interests are healthcare implementation, occupational justice in healthcare and more specifically, improving access to mental health services for all, including underserved members of the mental health community. As a research assistant within the Disparity Reduction and Equity in Autism Services (DREAmS) lab, I support research projects that aim to reduce disparities in autism diagnosis and services, particularly among autistic women and girls.

Loree Pham OTR/L >(she/her/hers)

Faculty Mentor: Beth Pyatak PhD, OTR/L, CDCES, FAOTA

Research Lab: Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions (LRCC)

Year of Entry: 2020

Loree Pham

I am a PhD student in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. I work in the Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions (LRCC) Lab under the guidance of Dr. Beth Pyatak. The project I work on is Function and Emotion in Everyday Life with Type 1 Diabetes (FEEL-T1D), the first large-scale study to integrate continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), ecological momentary assessment (EMA), and accelerometry to disentangle the short-term dynamic relationships between blood glucose, function, and emotional well-being in adults with type 1 diabetes.

My research interests include complementary and integrative health practices, including yoga and mindfulness. I’ve also learned the value that spirituality has in health care, with its ability to improve patient quality of life and well-being. As occupational therapy is a holistic profession, I believe it is imperative to address the mind-body-spirit connection of the clients and patients we serve. I am also particularly interested in addressing and reducing health disparities and health inequities for socioeconomically disadvantaged and medically underserved populations.

Marinthea Richter OTD >

Faculty Mentor: Bobbi Pineda PhD, OTR/L, CNT

Research Lab: NICU Therapy Lab

Year of Entry: 2020

Marinthea Richter

I am currently a PhD student in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy working under the guidance of Dr. Bobbi Pineda. My research interest relates to the neurodevelopmental outcomes of high-risk infants and early intervention focusing on neonates. I became interested in this field during my clinical experience as an Occupational Therapist in South Africa, where I worked in pediatric acute care and outpatients at a large tertiary hospital. My current role as a PhD student is to support Dr. Pineda’s work related to the Supporting and Enhancing Neonatal Sensory Experience program (SENSE), and her research on the neurodevelopmental outcomes of premature infants admitted in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. My long term goal is to return to South Africa and continue with research on factors that may influence the neurodevelopmental outcomes for NICU survivors in developing countries.

Sofronia M. Ringold BA, CCRP >(she/her/hers)

Faculty Mentor: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh PhD

Research Lab: A-Z Lab

Year of Entry: 2021

Sofronia Ringold

I am PhD Student in the A-Z Lab at the Brain and Creativity Institute under the direction of Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh. I am interested in translational research on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Neuroscience, and Sensory Processing that can be used to improve treatments, interventions, and diagnostics. Prior to beginning the PhD program in the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy I worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Division of Emergency and Transport Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Sandy C. Takata OTD, OTR/L >

Faculty Mentor: Shawn C. Roll PhD, OTR/L, RMSKS, FAOTA, FAIUM

Research Lab: Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance Lab

Year of Entry: 2016

Sandy Takata

As a career scientist, I aspire to conduct translational research that informs interventions and strengthens the evidence-base for hand therapy practice. I am interested in exploring novel assessment and intervention methods that promote holistic treatment, as well as facilitate patient adherence and engagement in their own recovery to maximize occupational performance in daily life. My current work involves examining these concepts from both theoretical and applied perspectives. I am conducting a literature review on the concepts of adherence, as well as evaluating a set of qualitative data regarding the experience of patients who received mind-body interventions as part of their hand therapy. In addition to this work, I am actively involved in exploring the use of sonographic imaging as a technique for understanding musculoskeletal pathologies in the upper extremities. Specifically, I am supporting research in the lab that uses imaging to evaluate the impact of occupational performance on changes in the median nerve. As part of this study, we are also conducting a meta-analysis that will identify reference values for the typical size of the median nerve in healthy subjects using musculoskeletal sonography. As I move forward into my own independent work, I hope to apply these concepts (i.e., adherence/engagement, musculoskeletal sonography, occupational performance) in evaluating hand therapy assessment and rehabilitation techniques. My current focus is using these concepts to enhance patient recovery and return to meaningful occupations following tendon injury and repair.

Valerie Angel Tapia >(she/her/hers)

Faculty Mentor: Beth Pyatak PhD, OTR/L, CDCES, FAOTA; Sharon Cermak EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Research Lab: Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions (LRCC) Lab

Year of Entry: 2021

Valerie Angel Tapia

My broad research interests are focused on healthcare equity, social justice, and intervention design and implementation. I aim to understand occupational needs and barriers that are critical to providing well-informed and client-centered interventions. I believe that optimized outcomes for patients will stem from a team based care approach, which requires systematic shifts that can benefit both the provider and ultimately the patient. In Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions Lab my role is to enhance Lifestyle Redesign application at LACUSC, using practice-based research to continuously evaluate and enhance the impact occupational therapists have on patients with chronic conditions in primary care.

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