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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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Why I Chose OT ⟩
September 30, 2010, by Austen

What are OS/OT?

My 24-year-old friend Garrett was deployed to Iraq in January 2007 with the United States Marine Corps. Scheduled to come home that August after four tours, his trip was cut short when he stepped on a land mine that immediately detonated. Garrett landed in a ditch and lost his left leg, a sheer miracle that he survived. Due to the severity of his injury, he underwent multiple invasive surgeries, each cutting his left leg shorter and leaving only half of his thigh. After just months of occupational and physical therapy, Garrett recovered incredibly. Today, he uses a prosthetic leg to walk, snowboard, and ride his motorcycle. His therapists helped him maximize his skills and abilities in order to continue to live a satisfying and meaningful life. Watching Garrett’s recovery, hearing his stories, and seeing how gratifying his life is despite his condition inspired me to want to help others on the arduous journey to recovery and progress.

I quickly became interested in health care when I experienced the physical pain and emotional burden of injury. As a gymnast for 9 years, I suffered two severe knee injuries that unfortunately ended my gymnastics career too soon. I had surgery on both my right and left knees, and went through extensive physical therapy to recover. I relied on my physical therapist Leo to help me strengthen my muscles and joints, and learn how to use my environment to regain normal functioning. We established a trusting relationship, and he quickly became my mentor. After going through therapy, shadowing Leo, and volunteering as an office assistant at his physical therapy clinic, I experienced both sides of the patient-therapist interaction. I fell in love with it. It excited me to see how therapists build relationships with clients, make new friends, and learn from everyone they meet, while positively impacting someone else’s life.

I followed this initial fascination with therapy and interned at Therapy Solutions for Kids, a pediatric clinic in Portland, Oregon offering occupational, physical, and speech therapy services for children. As I shadowed an occupational therapist for three months, I caught a glimpse of what the profession entails and realized occupational therapy is more for me with its deeper psychological aspects. It touched my heart to see the young patients eager to “play” with their therapist for an hour, proving the positive influence occupational therapists impart on others. The children and parents usually left with a sigh of relief, knowing they made progress that day. I was able to see myself in the occupational therapist role, working with children and making therapy sessions entertaining, beneficial, and effective for each patient. Witnessing the difference occupational therapists made each day in the lives of children with autism, sensory-motor processing issues, or developmental delays inspired me. Later learning that occupational therapists have the freedom to work in hospitals, schools, long-term care, rehabilitation centers, or private practice with different kinds of people including children, stroke victims, elderly, and the mentally ill solidified my desire to be an occupational therapist.


Why Occupational Therapy? ⟩
September 30, 2010, by Amanda

What are OS/OT?

I arrived at the conclusion that occupational therapy was a great career path for me through the “trial and error” method of majors during my undergraduate studies. Although at the time I felt left behind and frustrated as many of my friends were declaring majors in our first year and a half of college, looking back, all the classes I took and self-discovery I went through were worth it as eventually I came out with the right fit.

I actually began my undergraduate career as an architecture major. For various reasons and interests, such as the creativity that architecture entailed, I really saw myself in this profession. However, soon all I could foresee were late nights in studio and desk-based work. I realized pretty quickly that I was looking for a field that would offer a more dynamic work environment and more human interaction! This led me to another side of the academic spectrum: education. Again, I took wonderful classes that fit many of my interests, but I still wasn’t confident that education was totally me. I found through tutoring students that my strengths are in one-on-one interactions rather than a large group setting. I also wanted to assist people in achieving what they wanted, rather than what was on my agenda.

Around this time my mom had seen an article about occupational therapy and told me that this field really reminded her of me. I did my research and found that this career matched what I valued: creativity, continuous and changing challenges, up and moving work, interpersonally based career, and allowing your clients to decide what is important for them to achieve. I loved the idea that this profession is really anything you want it to be. With occupational therapy school as a goal in mind, I choose kinesiology as a major to fulfill many of the prerequisite courses. Kinesiology was a great choice as it set a foundation for understanding how individuals experience their body: biologically, physiologically, sociologically, and psychologically.

Now moving into my second year of the entry-level Masters program at USC, I am more confident than ever that I want to be a professional that has the medical and science background, but strives to see the big picture for each individual I encounter: which is to ensure that clients are able to maintain participation in meaningful occupations. To any prospective students that are trying to figure out how to make themselves a great fit for occupational therapy school, my advice is to be you and continue to do everything that you value, as this is core to what we advocate! In retrospect, all of my above fields of study could still have led me to where I am now. In architecture, my knowledge of the built environment would contribute to an understanding of how individuals are able to participate in occupations. From the education field, the learning process is innate to the occupational therapy profession as well. Whatever you love to do and interests you is essential to your development and path to becoming a great occupational therapist!


Looking Back: 2nd Year → Graduation! ⟩
May 14, 2010, by Mari

Beginnings and Endings Getting Involved School/Life Balance

2nd Year of OT school!

There is so much that I could talk about within the last few weeks, let alone, my whole second year! I can’t believe that’s it’s already time to graduate! Have you ever felt that you had so many things to do and just not enough time to do it all?! I imagine many people can relate. That’s how I felt for the last month of this past semester. Not only was I trying to keep up with my weekly school work, I was preparing to take our comprehensive exam at the end of the year and thinking about my summer fieldwork, which I will be going to Hawaii (my home) for. Just a few weeks ago, I was wondering how I would ever get it all done, and now, I will be graduating! The comp exam, which covers all our second year material and is required to pass in order to graduate, is finally done — what a relief! Although I was really nervous for it, as I am with any exam, I felt assured that I had learned all the material once before, so I should do well. To find out that I passed was the last thing before graduation! Tomorrow, we will be graduating as the USC OT Class of 2010!! We’re making history! Next for me is my last level II fieldwork, which will be on the outpatient service at a hospital in Hawaii where I’m from. I’m so excited to be moving home! It’s really weird because I’ve been in California for a while, but I think I’m about ready to move on to this next chapter in my life! Looking back on my second year, there are so many things that happened, it’s hard to capture it all in one blog. I will post a few pictures of some of my favorite memories!

In November, last fall, I had the opportunity to attend the AOTA Student Conclave, which was held in Baltimore. I travelled with Grace, a fellow OT student and along with going to to conference, visited friends, toured D.C., and lobbied on Capital Hill Day at Senator Boxer’s office (see picture below). It was a lot of fun and a good break before the semester finished. I enjoyed spending time with my classmates outside of class and getting connected with the OT community. It was a great experience and I highly recommend it if you get the opportunity to go to something like that!

Students at AOTA Student Conclave

Another fun break toward the end of the fall semester was going to my very first and only USC football game! It was so much fun to hang out with friends and have the “real” USC experience! I was able to go to the USC v. UCLA game, and we won!! It was a great end to the semester, even though the football team didn’t do as great as they usually have done in the past! I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go to another USC football game, although USC does play UH (University of Hawaii) at Hawaii in their season opener next season! So, we’ll see!

Students at football game

Throughout the whole second year, as you probably already know, I was a student ambassador for our department, along with Sarah, Michelle, Myka, and Gus. It was truly a great experience for me to work close with our recruitment office. We were all able to do grad fairs, information sessions, recruitment for our Occupational Science minor classes, tabling events at the main USC campus, and many more fun events to promote OT! Having the opportunity to do this has made me even more passionate about my profession! It gets me so excited to talk to others about what OTs do because of the great services that OTs can offer almost everyone! Besides work, it was a great time to get to know the other ambassadors and we have really become a lot closer through our experiences together!

USC Chan student ambassadors socialising

And finally, OT banquet! What a beautiful way to end the semester, year, and OT program — yummy food, great people, fun music and dancing!! Although not everyone in our class could attend, it was a fun night to get together and just relax after our comp exam! We only talked about the exam a little, but we were able to fully enjoy the night anyway, despite not knowing if we had passed yet!

Students at OT banquet

Thank you for reading our blogs! I know the ambassadors next year will do an amazing job to continue what we have been doing! I hope you’ve enjoyed it! =)


OT Prom ⟩
May 12, 2010, by Sarah

School/Life Balance

Maintaining wellness results from a good balance of work, rest, and play so I’m getting a good amount of play before my last fieldwork starts!!!

OT Prom


It all winds down . . . ⟩
May 10, 2010, by Gustalvo

Fieldwork Getting Involved Living in LA School/Life Balance What are OS/OT?

So, I’ve passed my comprehensive exam (i.e., comps), I’ve recently come back from AOTA’s 90th National Conference in Florida, and I am looking forward to one more fieldwork this summer — I feel pretty satisfied with myself right now. 😊

These last couple of weeks have been intense with papers, exams, and comps. But I survived, and part of what has helped me is reading and playing music. I’ve been able to squeeze in some leisurely reading (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), play some gigs with my mariachi ensemble, and jam on my own. Speaking of playing gigs, the mariachi that I’m in, Mariachi Sur de California, recently played a few gig on 5 de Mayo one of which was really fun; Los Angeles Southwest College put on a 5 de Mayo event on their campus for local elementary school children. The band had never had a crowd that was so in to the music, just about everyone stood up; children clapped, people sang — it was the most gratified I’ve ever felt at a gig. Also, we played at a church for Mother’s Day; that too went very well. It feels good to be playing and engaging in one of my most favorite occupations.

I also like to record on my free time, but lately I haven’t been able to and so I just jam on my own and I keep practicing snippets of ideas that I come up with so that I can record them over the summer when I have some time.

I can’t wait to get to get this summer started; you could say that I’m about to embark on my dream fieldwork experience. I’m interested in going in to the field of mental health, preferably in community mental health settings, but I also am interested in phys-dys. So, long ago when I was picking out my top ten choices for this summer’s fieldwork I spoke with Jaynee, our Fieldwork Coordinator, about what I wanted and she really helped me out in finding locations to pick from; she brought up transitional living centers (TLCs). I was excited about this for I had observed a TLC during one of my earlier rotations. A TLC basically helps individuals that have come out of inpatient acute rehab to reintegrate themselves back in to their communities. It involves facilitating how to get around, going grocery shopping, and helping them organize their day so that they may be independent among other things. To me it’s the perfect balance between the two worlds I want to combine, though mental health is and can be applied in any setting at any moment, I think the TLC will be a great fit for me!

OH! also, about a week ago I went to AOTA’s national conference in Orlando! It was a great experience. There was a workshop that caught my attention which I’m glad it did: “Engaging Marginalized Populations Through Qualitative Research.”  This was one of the the most up was one of the most interesting workshops I attended. It touched about understanding the experience of marginalized populations, and how these experiences influence their occupational choices and participation. There were three speakers each touching upon the experiences of the the undocumented in the US, people suffering from obesity, and women who have just come out of incarceration. Learning of how stigmas influences these populations occupational choices and participation was very eye opening to me and has further encouraged my desire to do research in the future. The Q&A afterward was very engaging as well. I think the main take home message was that as OTs we need to advocate for populations that are suffering from occupational injustices**. That in addition to advocating for our profession we must also prioritize advocating for populations in need of occupational therapy and break the borders that currently create this schism between OT and underserved populations! It was a very exciting, uplifting, and refreshing workshop to say the least, and it was very unfortunate to see that so few people attended!

This conference was significant not only because it was my first, but also because Dr. Florence Clark was inaugurated as AOTA’s president! Congratulations Dr. Clark!

Anyway, I’m “walking” this Friday and I’m very excited, but also a little stressed since my cap & gown have yet to arrive!!! But I’m sure all will be fine, as everything always does!!

**Occupational justice = the concept that, to develop and thrive, humans are beings that need and want to participate in occupations. So, when there’s an occupational injustice due to a disability or environment, the focus is to enable these populations/individuals to access opportunities and resouces so that they may develop and thrive.

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