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 Blog


Checking In
Posted , by Kaho

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First of all, I’d like to start off by saying that it’s good to be “back!” It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog and been back on my regular class and work schedule. For the second years, the first 2 weeks of March were allocated to our Leadership Externship and the week after that was spring break, so I hadn’t been in classes for 3 weeks. Now, I’m “in class” virtually and it’s different, but we’re all making it work.

March has been a wild ride. It began with my externship to Ghana being cancelled and scrambling to find an alternative experience. That all honestly feels like months ago, as I’ve been sitting at my work-from-home set up in my living room for 2 weeks now with all sense of time or day of the week gone. In the past several weeks, I’ve come across so many tips and resources on how to stay healthy mentally and physically during this difficult time for everyone and I’m sure you have too. I want to add to your resource list by connecting you to blogs written by USC students outside of the Chan Division (here) because I’ve gotten questions on how USC students are handling the situation!
On this website, you’ll find more tips on how to stay healthy, connected, engaged, and successful in school, regardless of whether you’re an undergraduate student or graduate student and what program you’re in.

Specifically, for me as a student in the OT program, I’ve dealt with the situation similarly to other people. I’m engaging in indoor activities such as board games, puzzles, cooking, reading, and journaling. I go on a run or walk outside at least once a day, while making sure to maintain at least 6 ft between myself and whoever I cross paths with. Home workout videos have also been a huge help. I’m trying to exceed last year’s running mile count of 550 this year and am planning on signing up for my second half marathon once this lockdown is over, so that I have a goal to work towards during this time I don’t feel as productive and I have something to keep propelling me forward. I attend lectures through Zoom and for classes that require a hands-on clinical experience, the professors have come up with alternative assignments such as case studies and video analyses. I make sure to only spend 10-15 min each morning to read up on COVID-19 news and I’ve found that to be sufficient to stay informed and updated, but not overwhelmed. I’ve also cut back on my screen time on my phone by setting time limits on all social media apps. That has helped control the flooding of information and kept me active. Lastly, I’ve been using Zoom and other webcam apps to stay connected with friends and family. With family in Japan, calling over webcam isn’t new for me, but it’s been especially important in these recent weeks.

Many things that I’ve learned in OT school such as ergonomics, creativity, and the effects of occupational deprivation have been challenged and tested during this lockdown, so it’s been an interesting first-hand learning experience. I’ve also gotten to see the essential role of OT in a global pandemic, which has further deepened my love and appreciation for the profession. I hope you all are staying healthy and like many, I am looking forward to the day I can study and roam around campus again with all of my old and new (congrats to the class of 2022!) colleagues. Student ambassadors are still working regularly remotely so as always, email us with any questions or concerns!


A Whole New (Quarantine) World
Posted , by Japeth

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As occupational beings, we long for social interaction with family, peers, and even with unfamiliar people; we want to explore the world and be with nature; we want to establish our routines, plan for the coming weeks and months as we enjoy life day by day; and definitely, we all want to live life to the fullest! Can you imagine life when we can all do these things? Doesn’t it look perfect? Can you now imagine a life that does not allow us to do any of the said activities? Honestly, for me, I don’t need to imagine anymore – it is actually happening right here and right now.

The quarantine life has affected us in many, many ways: universities transitioned to online classes, companies decided to implement a work from home set up, restaurants and coffee shops are now only available for to-go orders, and so on. But what can we really do? As my wonderful professor Dr. Emily Ochi had told me before, this is something that nobody wanted, or this is nobody’s fault; but its effects and consequences are left for us to endure. And I think she is right – we are innocent victims of such circumstances and yet here we are still trying to keep things going! (Just a quick shout out to Dr Ochi, Dr. Danny Park and his Global Initiatives team, and the rest of the faculty and staff of USC Chan for checking in with us and for making sure that we are doing okay despite everything!!)

Just when I thought that my previous blog post was the most personal that I’ll be posting ever, I think this pandemic proved me wrong. Here are some tips (all based on my personal experience, so please don’t judge LOL), that you can do while being on quarantine:

1. Check in:
The power of checking in has never been this appreciated to some people, including myself. Who would ever thought that a simple “Hey, how are you?” would mean the world? In stressful times like this, we do not know who to contact or communicate with since everyone is actually going through the same battle. We don’t want to give additional emotional or psychological baggage to our friends and family, because surely, they are also going through a lot. But I think having a support group or being with certain people (virtually) around you and making them feel that you are there for them and vice versa, makes a huge difference!

2. Escape but always go back:
We are humans and humans as we are, the effects of stress can easily penetrate our mind and body. We should learn when to stop, when to take a break, and when to continue again. When you have so many things at hand and you feel overwhelmed, remember this saying: “Rest if you must but never quit!”

3. Enjoy today and always try look forward to better days:
I know that when times get rough, it is just not easy to have fun and enjoy every moment. I know that uncertainty always has a way to ruin our mood, but I also know that we are bigger than our uncertainties in life. If today does not feel okay, maybe tomorrow will, or the day after tomorrow, or maybe next week! Funny how this sounds like, but there is always something better that is coming our way. Maybe my plans for this week or next week are ruined, but who said I don’t have the next month to make another set of plans?

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” – a line that represents all of us right now. We are tough and we will continue to thrive, even in the darkest of times. Fight On!

A screenshot of an online hangout by the post-professional master's students

Here is a group zoom photo of some of the students from the post-professional master’s cohort. Fight on from our screens to yours!


February is Over, Black History is not!
Posted , by Kat

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“Black history is American history” — Morgan Freeman

February is over. But that does not mean that we as a country should stop celebrating Black history and Black culture. During February, many events took place on campus at USC to celebrate Black History Month. Clubs such as the BGSN, the CBCSA, and the BSA held a variety of festivals, hosted guest speakers, and career networking opportunities in the spirit of Black History Month.

One specific event that I participated in was the Black Pharmacy Society’s “The Black Experience in Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities”. This event was a panel composed of current Black students from various disciplines that spoke on their experience of being a student of color at USC. I am honored to say that I was on this panel. The fields of occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistants, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry were all well represented. Meaningful conversation surrounding imposter syndrome, the importance of mentorship and representation were a few of the topics discussed. Seeing people who look like you in different fields is very important. For those that may not know, imposter syndrome is “the feeling that you haven’t earned your success, you simply got lucky, and you’re a fraud or ‘imposter’ around people who actually earned it and know what they’re doing” (cited from empowerwork).

Imposter syndrome was discussed from the perspective that sometimes Black students feel as though they are imposters in their respective fields due to the lack of representation within their fields. These students feel as though they are not and will not be able to compete with their counterpart peers. These feelings can be overwhelming, isolating, and can have rippling effects to the success of Black students, or any student experiencing imposter syndrome.

However, I believe Maya Angelou’s quote, “the more you know of your history, the more liberated you are,” calls students, in this case specifically Black students, to look to history for empowerment. Students may be the first in their family to go to college, graduate school, or may be the only Black student in class. But let’s take a look at history:

These are only a few of the firsts in America that belong to the Black community. I do not mention these first to compare the Black community to other communities. I state these facts to empower all minority students to stand together, be great, and keep breaking barriers. Be the first. Be the best. Black history should serve as an inspiration to us all.

“Black history is American history” — Morgan Freeman

Pictured are 9 Black students who spoke on the panel

Pictured are the panelists from the Black Pharmacy Society event. (All individuals pictured agreed to be shown with this article.)


Ergo Externship
Posted , by Kevin

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic escalating each day, I had an unforgettable externship experience that kept me uplifted during these difficult times. My original externship plan was to attend an ergonomic certification course in-person and shadow Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS at the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice. As the situation escalated, I chose to do most of my externship remotely from home. Ultimately, I decided on three main objectives for the externship:

1. Become a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist
To kickoff this externship experience, I enrolled in the online version of the CEAS course to increase my understanding of ergonomics and further my professional development. The CEAS taught me the basics of evaluating ergonomic risk factors and areas for improvement in a wide variety of workplace settings including offices, hospitals, and manufacturing plants. While much of the information from the course had been covered in the ergonomic elective, my grasp of ergonomics was strengthened, and I was able to apply what I learned to the shadowing experiences with Dr. Marchioni and in the design of my ergonomic device. Additionally, at the end of the course, I received an official certification to assess workplaces for ergonomics which I hope will be a valuable asset in my future career.

2. Shadow Ergonomic Assessments with Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS
Before the “Stay at Home” order was put into action, I had the opportunity to shadow several ergonomic assessments with Dr. Marchioni. This was an amazing experience because I was able to see everything I had learned from the CEAS course in real world practice from the lens of an occupational therapist. Dr. Marchioni skillfully used her knowledge of ergonomics, activity analysis, and psychosocial factors to deliver comprehensive ergonomic assessments that were tailored to each person in their specific work setting. I was especially amazed at Dr. Marchioni’s ability to impart her own leadership skills on her clients to create “Ergo Leaders” in the workplaces she assessed. An “Ergo Leader” is a person in the workplace who advocates for positive ergonomic changes such as adjusting the lighting in the space or leading periodic stretch breaks. After observing several assessments, Dr. Marchioni gave me the opportunity to assist on an assessment! While I was nervous to jump in so quickly, I took this offer as a leadership opportunity to put my ergonomic education to practice. As we started our assessment, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I had learned over a short period of time and with Dr. Marchioni’s support the assessment went well!

3. Designing and Prototyping a New Ergonomic Device
One of the main goals of my externship was to bring together all the education and shadowing experience to design a new ergonomic device. After over 100 hours of 3D design, prototyping, and feedback sessions with Dr. Marchioni, my final prototype is finished! This device will help people to be comfortable on the go and in shared workspaces. While, I cannot give away the details as I am in the process of obtaining a patent, I will be presenting the device during the Mark and Semira Moshayedi Innovation Competition that is scheduled to be held in April!


When You Have a Full House Sheltering in Place
Posted , by Catherine

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Having just come back from Spring Break, many of us are trying to figure out our new routines.  I am grateful that despite being an international student, my family and I are together, safe and well.  Nevertheless, living in a house with a kindergartner, a fourth grader, two active older adults, and two adults working remotely makes one full house.  Boundaries need to be set in place, while new structures will need to be created while some old ones must be maintained.  As the resident OT in our home, I have set some new house rules that I hope will pull us through, and might inspire some ideas for you.

  • Get out of your pajamas.  Despite having to stay home all day, we still have school and jobs to attend to.  Maintaining our morning routines as though we actually have to leave the home has been helpful in getting the day started.  Getting a little dressed up before I sit down in my work area has helped me get in the zone and stay focused.  I have seen that this has also worked with the kids.  Getting into their school clothes has reminded them that we are not on an extended vacation, but trying to go through business as usual.
  • Separate your space.  Even before the struggles of “shelter in place” we had heard countless times that it is helpful to separate our work and rest space for our mental and physical health.  While working remotely has been a privilege, it can sometimes feel that I am constantly working, when I am never able to leave the confines of my desk in my bedroom.  To address this, I recently moved all work related materials into our shared “office” aka the dining room table that we rarely use.  This has become our new space where we each do our respective school assignments and work. A makeshift open office space if you will.  When we are sitting here, we are learning to be respectful of our time, but I can see that it is also teaching the little ones to practice social etiquette.  Nevertheless, I am just one poke away to answer any geometry questions should they come up.
  • Make yourself a quiet place. During the unpredictable and challenging times we live in today, a quiet place to meditate, think, and even just breathe for a couple minutes have been a luxury.  Social distancing aside, as a caregiver and a member of the “sandwich generation” sometimes you need to give yourself some me time.  Especially if you can hear children screaming in the background for 90% your waking hours, silence is golden.  I have found that the car has been a refreshing place of a few minutes of peace and quiet.
  • Don’t forget to connect- to other people.  While I can not emphasize enough how much I love my family, it has been important to keep in touch with those I am not blood related to.  Thanks to the internet and all the apps out there, I have been able to stay connected with my network.  Whether it be through text or video chat, or just commenting on posts, it’s good to stay connected and check in.
  • Communicate.  Sometimes when we are with our family we can forget basic communications.  We can make assumptions that we fully understand each other’s needs, leading to more misunderstandings and possibly even hurt feelings.  Extended periods of close connectedness,  can be met with unexpected challenges we may not have anticipated.  For example, when I need to concentrate, I prefer a calm environment, but my sister does her best work when she is talking and walking in circles, and prefers to use her speakerphone.  I never knew this until we tried to share a work space and I will leave the details out, but you probably can imagine.  Through open communication we were able to reach a compromise. I gifted her a pair of wireless earphones and she has agreed to take her important calls on the lawn.
  • These are just some reflections on my attempts to create some balance and productivity while we adapt to our current state of life in my family.  I hope to continue to share with you my progress with any new ideas or updates that I think may be helpful or entertaining.  As always, I am here for all of you who may have any questions about my life as an OTD resident, student, and as a resource of support.  Fight on!


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