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
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn YouTube

Student Blog


Refining My Leadership Skills — Externship In LA

, by Melissa

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

Hey everyone! I’m a bit late to the game, as I have yet to post about my externship experience, but this semester has just been so busy! Nonetheless, I wanted to talk to you guys about my decision to stay local for my externship, since the rest of the Ambassadors went abroad! I split my experience into 2 different opportunities, so read on for the specifics of each one!

Shadowing Dr. Katie Jordan at the Chan Division of USC

Dr. Katie Jordan is one of the coolest and most inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my time at USC. She embodies the type of leader that I aspire to be one day, therefore I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how she manages to do it all. Before I go any further, I’m going to list out all of her roles (and I’ll probably miss some): she is a professor in our program, the Associate Chair of Clinical Occupational Therapy in the division, the Director of OT and Speech Therapy at Keck and Norris Hospitals, she works at AOTA on the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, and is the Co-Chair for OTAC’s Practice, Ethics, and Reimbursement Committee. She is also a mentor to residents going through the OTD program, as well as students like me that have an interest in advocacy. On top of all of that, she is an amazing mother and wife.

My interest in meeting with her started back when I was a first year in the program. Whenever I would meet with my mentor, Dr. Jordan’s name would inevitably come up as someone that I should get in touch with. For one reason or another, it never happened, therefore our leadership externship seemed like the perfect opportunity to do reach out and shadow her! I’m so glad that I did, because I learned so much during the short week I spent with her. I went to most of her meetings, got to listen to conference calls, and got to see what each of her roles really entail. It was amazing to see her transition in and out of each of her roles so flawlessly. No matter how crazy her schedule got, she always remained composed, which is something I admired. She speaks with authority but isn’t rude, and represents our profession really well. She is incredibly knowledgeable on all things OT — even on things we all wish weren’t a part of our jobs like dealing with billing and Medicare — and has a great ability of explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.

Shadowing Dr. Jordan taught me about where we can go as OTs as far as leadership goes, but I also learned a lot about the intricacies of her roles, and what it’s like working with large groups of medical professionals that may have differing thoughts on various issues.

Shadowing Terri Nishimura, CEO of Pediatric Therapy Network

I met Terri Nishimura when she was part of a Leadership Panel for our Capstone course this Spring. During the panel, she was very vocal about our responsibility to advocate for our profession, and how becoming politically involved is also really important. As someone who has stayed away from politics for the last couple of years, this was hard for me to accept. However, she made a compelling argument. As the CEO of a non-profit organization, the services she’s able to provide and the funding for those services are all impacted by legislation. Although our state and national organizations do a great job of trying to keep up with all of the political changes that are occurring and advocating for our profession, it is still important for us to be involved as well.

She gave the example of how decades ago, she started a friendship with one of the councilmembers in Torrance (which is where PTN is located). Over the years, he kept advancing in the political world, until he became one of our state senators. There was a bill that was threatening the services OTs could bill for in pediatrics, so she reached out to him and asked that he not only not vote for that bill, but that he help to educate the other senators on the reasons why passing this bill would have negative implications for OT. He happily did so because of their established relationship, and fortunately that bill didn’t pass. She stressed that advocacy isn’t a one-and-done situation, but that we have to put in the time to develop strategic relationships. This story was really impactful for me, because I hadn’t given much thought to what we could do, therefore I was eager to learn more. I approached her after class to ask if she’d be willing to host me for the second half of my externship, and she happily accepted!

During my time with Terri, I got to learn a lot about what it’s like to be a CEO, as well as a leader in the pediatric community. I got to help Terri plan for a legislative reception for OTAC, where I got to meet with many OTs that hold leadership positions within OTAC! I learned who my local, state, and federal representatives are, and how to find that information if I ever need it. Before this experience, I felt like the world of politics was just something I did not want to get involved in. Even if I did, i felt like I wouldn’t know where to start. Thanks to Terri’s guidance, I now have a much better understanding of what we can do and how to do it.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to going abroad and staying local for our externships. Going abroad can be expensive, but we get the opportunity to see what occupational therapy and healthcare look like in different countries! Staying in LA is not nearly as enticing as going abroad, but the connections you make are hopefully some that will last for a lifetime, and can help you when you’re venturing out into the real world as a new grad! In the end, the choice is up to you, but just keep in mind that there are plenty of wonderful opportunities no matter where you go.



, by Evan

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

It’s unbelievable that my leadership capstone class, which meets every Monday at 1pm, represents the last opportunity my entire MA-II class will have to be together in one room.  It seems like only yesterday that we were all meeting each other for the first time!  These two years have just flown by.  To be honest, at the time I entered grad school I was feeling very nervous about my choice to come back to school and pursue a second career.  Now I feel so good about that decision, and grateful that the experience has surpassed my expectations.  Simply put, I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known here in the USC Chan Division.  I have learned so very much.  Not only do I feel ready and competent to move on to an OTD residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, but the base of knowledge and experience I have gained through this curriculum will serve me as a person, father, and husband for the rest of my life.  Thanks sincerely to my student colleagues and every professor and staff member that has made this journey special for us.  It’s an amazing gift to be in a position where you genuinely feel you can help people.

And to those of you who were wondering if it is really possible to have kids in Grad School, I’m happy to report that my second child was born in December!  She is my soulmate.  Sure, these last few months have been busy.  It’s taken a lot of hard work and determination to get everything on the list done each day.  But with the sincere support of this department, which really means the world to me, I’ve been able to stay on course.

So all of you who might be wondering if a return to grad school might just be too much, I’m here to tell you it’s possible!  Keep the faith, work hard, and good things will happen.  I believe this with all my heart.

Jessica P

OT Career Fair: Resume Advice and Preparation

, by Jessica P

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

This past Friday, our division hosted our annual OT Career Fair. We had almost 40 organizations come to speak to and recruit our students for jobs in pediatrics, adult physical rehabilitation, mental health, school-based OT, and more! For me, it was a great opportunity to network and see what the job market is like as a new graduate. One of the most helpful parts of the day was getting feedback on my resume. As an occupational therapy student, my resume has evolved over the past few years to include to numerous fieldworks and experiences I have had during my time at USC.

Chan’s Events Coordinator & Student Ambassadors at the 2019 Career Fair

Putting together an OT resume for the first time from scratch can be a daunting task so here are my tips on creating your best OT resume:

Key Elements of a Resume:
• Contact Info
• Education
• Honors/awards
• Experience
• Fieldwork
• Professional associations
• Additional information (skills, interests)

When writing a resume, you can edit it to target the specific position you are applying to. Always include your skills and accomplishments rather than just listing your required work duties. Use action words to describe what you have accomplished.

Presentation of a Resume:
• 1-2 page length
• Single-spaced
• No smaller than 10-point font
• Print on thicker paper

Hopefully if you have a stellar resume, you are able to secure an interview. One of the most important parts of an interview is preparation.

Interview Preparation:
• Research the company: Know the company’s mission and why you want to work there.
• Check social media: Learn what the company is really about.
• Prepare questions for the interviewer: What do you like about working here? How did you get into this line of work? If you weren’t working here where would you be working?
• Practice interviewing skills: Work with someone who can give you feedback. USC offers mock interviews on connectSC which can help you gain confidence in your answers.

For any interview, remember to always dress your best!

Whether you are a prospective student looking at occupational therapy programs or about to graduate and look for your first job, know that our career outlook is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected 24% growth of OT jobs from 2016-2016. This means that we need more OT’s to fill jobs and I know that my classmates and I have been well prepared to be the occupational therapists of the future.


Reflections From My Residency: Using the human animal bond therapeutically

, by Antonietta

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

As I discussed in the previous blog, humans’ perception of our emotional bond with animals started being examined and debated in the mid 1700s. But when did we start to use this bond therapeutically? The earliest report is at the York Retreat, an asylum for the mentally ill, in England 1792 where the inhabitants cared for rabbits and chickens (Netting, Wilson, & New, 1987). This therapeutic strategy took quite a bit longer to make its way to the United States, but starting in the 1940s at Pawling Air Force Convalescent Hospital, veterans were encouraged to work with farm animals as part of their recovery. By the 1970s dogs became a common tool in therapeutic settings: 48% of institutes incorporated them in some way per an American Humane Education Society report. Animals are now well-established as therapeutic partners, used by many disciplines and in variety of ways. But why? History has moved on from so many other treatments of the past. Plunge baths from the 1700s aren’t used anymore and lobotomies - which were very popular in the 1950s - are considered repugnant and deemed unethical. But animal assisted therapy has gotten stronger, more common, and better supported by research. What makes it so effective? Is it the emotional bond between human and animal?

Curious about this therapeutic bond and interested in the power of images to shed light on relationships, my father Carmine, organized a field study at The Children’s Ranch. He came every Friday afternoon for a semester to observe the sessions and sketch what he was seeing. He wanted to know if he could capture the mystery of this therapeutic bond in a visual form: painting.

Carmine and Storm

Carmine and Storm

For me as a therapist, it was an interesting experience to have this observer participating in our sessions, but I was curious what it was like for him. Since he’s my dad it was easy to get an interview!

How did you decide how much time you would spend at The Ranch?
“That decision depended on a specific rule I set for myself: my documentation would not employ any cameras; all my observations would be drawn by hand. Using a camera would have sped up the work, but it also would have had a few undesirable side effects.
- Cameras reduce the actual amount of time you need to spend on the ground and therefore can lead to a false illusion of understanding the authentic experience.
- Cameras automatically create a default composition which is hard to modify. In the process, they can eliminate key parts of an experience.
- Cameras make people pose! That was something I wanted to avoid. To see genuine moments, I needed to be integrated as part of the team so that everyone was relaxed and acting naturally.
I needed to spend time on the ground to gather visual data, build relationships slowly, accrue insight, and become a participant. It took about 4 months of consistent visits to get to that point, but I didn’t know that in advance”

Sketches from rabbit pen and chicken coop

Sketches from rabbit pen and chicken coop

What were some of the challenges you encountered?
“One challenge was developing a sketch kit that was completely mobile. Since sessions at the Ranch move around a lot, I needed to be agile and flexible. In a way, I was a member of the team and didn’t want anything to be slowing me down while we transitioned from the chicken coop to the barn. So, every piece of equipment had to be portable and always ready-to-go.

A second challenge was that children are curious, and my tools often piqued their interest. The kids wanted to play with them and once they saw some of the sketches, there was a risk they would be distracted from the work they were doing with the therapist. I had to find the line between engaging them and building our relationship, and redirecting them back to the focus of their time at the Ranch, which was the caring for the animals.

However, the fact that the kids were conscious of being drawn was significant in another way. I’m interested in how these sketches, and eventually the finished oil paintings, might serve as a mechanism for self-reflection for the children. I believe that how we picture ourselves is a big part of our identity formation. When the paintings are exhibited at my studio later this year and everyone is invited to the opening, I am curious how the children and their families will respond to visualizations of themselves participating in really unique and meaningful experiences.”

Child and horse

Child and horse

Talk about your trip to visit me at Skyline Therapy Services in Albuquerque:
“You and I had talked a lot about the differences between Animal Assisted Therapy and Hippotherapy, but it wasn’t until I got to see both that I really understood. Your work at the Ranch grows out of a relationship you foster between the children and the animals. The activities are structured around caring for the animals’ needs and understanding their well-being, as a way for the child to develop their own sense of self, autonomy, and identity as well as any other goals you are working on. From a visual point of view, that kind of relationship is subtle and elusive.

At Skyline, where Hippotherapy is the main treatment tool, it is not about the emotional bond, but the relationship between bodies. For an artist, that kind of spatial relationship is more visible and more direct; you you don’t need to visualize a mood, or a state of mind. With Hippotherapy, it much more physically evident how the therapists are helping and how the child’s body changes before and after their session.”

Team at Skyline/Client Intervention

Team at Skyline/Client Intervention

Now that you have finished your field work and are starting on the oil paintings, do you think you have achieved your goal of visualizing the bond?

“After I finished amassing the sketches my next big challenge was to create compositions for the paintings. These were based not just on the drawings, but also my memory and a kind of intuition that had been created by everything I had seen. The compositions were also determined by basic pictorial conventions and requirements. I know that amounts to a lot of variables. My concern as an artist is that what results might be an interesting picture, but not real documentation. I guess the critical test will be when the kids, therapists, and families see and judge for themselves.”

Child with rabbits

Child with rabbits

When I look at the paintings, I see what looks like my treatment sessions but also feel what it is like the be at the Ranch. It is amazing to see a visual image of that sense of calm when a child with ADHD sits quietly with the rabbits, because that is what makes them feel happy and “green.” It is incredible to see in a permanent form, the fleeting connection between a child and horse that is so strong it can get a kid out of her home despite immense rigidity. I was happy to have an extra member of our team when my dad was visiting the Ranch and I’m very excited to see what my students think of these pictures.

Netting, F. E., Wilson, C. C., & New, J. C. (1987). The human-animal bond: Implications for practice. Social Work, 32(1), 60–64.


Culturally-Informed Healthcare: Modifying treatment to match the needs of the community.

, by Serena

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn email

One of the many benefits of attending USC’s OT program is having the ability to attend other healthcare department’s events. Ms. Gwendolyn Flynn, the former policy director of the Community Health Council, presented at USC at an event hosted by USC’s Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and USC’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA). Although the groups are apart of the medical school, the students welcomed me to join the presentation as an occupational therapy student.

She spoke on the health inequities experienced within the Black communities due to the inaccessibility of whole plant-based foods. She highlighted the higher rates of lifestyle related chronic conditions in the Black community such as obesity and high blood pressure. In addition, she presented information on the food deserts (now more accurately called food apartheids) found in urban communities such as higher rates of liquor stores and lower frequencies of supermarkets with fresh produce. At the end of her presentation she made 5 recommendations for healthcare professionals to address this issue, which I have listed below.

1) Emphasize disease prevention and wellness programs.
2) Partner with local community organizations (i.e. Healthy Food Zones) in order to advocate for policy change. If you are unable to join then write letters, set up a meeting, or make a public testimony to show that this change matters because your voice is influential.
3) Promote nutrition education classes/ workshops in order to make the knowledge more applicable to patients’ everyday lives.
4) Write food and exercise prescriptions to change lifestyle (i.e. a prescription to go to the gym). I would like to add to make that prescription something meaningful and doable, think SMART goal.
5) Give out recommendations such as books and documentaries while in practice to help inspire and further educate your clients on the benefits of lifestyle changes.

Ms. Gwendolyn Flynn, the former policy director of the Community Health Council, presented at USC at an event hosted by both USC’s Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and USC’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA).

It was really motivating and inspiring to receive information on specific actions that I can take to combat the increase of chronic conditions within my own culture. As I come closer to gaining my OT license, I am looking forward to the ability to serve the community with the recommendations the community has given me and then combining it with my educational, volunteer, and life experiences.


Page 3 of 148 |  < 1 2 3 4 5 >  Last ›