Apr 22, 2019, by Joyce
If you had asked me last year, I would have told you that presenting at AOTA was definitely not in my future plans. But here I was with my partner, Tabitha Lin, presenting on the role of occupational therapy in the student run clinic! && what a FUN experience this was!!
During the poster session, Tabitha and I were standing by our poster and engaging in conversations with attendees who were passing. It was interesting to see both students and program directors come up to us. We encountered directors who were trying to set up a similar student run clinic in their occupational therapy program and asked us questions about our model. I had so much fun discussing my experiences as a co-chair exec for SRC as well as the experiences our student volunteers had.
In addition, this was my first AOTA conference and my first time being in New Orleans, LA! Conference is definitely a hustling busy time with so many moving parts. In addition to the poster presentation, as a student ambassador, I also worked the USC booth during the expo hours. I enjoyed this part of conference as I was able to interact with alumni and perspective students who were thinking about pursuing their PhD or Doctorate at SC. I also got to explore other booths including Nike, Zappos, and Microsoft to explore their adaptive shoes, clothing, and gaming equipment.
NOLA was extremely fun with its culture in food and drinks. I think I consumed way too many oysters during my time there. My friends and I got drinks after conference sessions and explored the city together!
I think going to a national conference such as AOTA as a student is such a unique experience and I highly encourage all students to go! As a student, there is no pressure to go to all sessions (to accrue continuing education) but to truly explore different parts/practice areas and enjoy conference for what it is! It’s also a great networking opportunity, I found myself talking with occupational therapists from New York who were looking to hire, so opportunities all around!
Apr 22, 2019, by Serena
USC’s OT department went all out at this years annual Festival of Books event on USC’s main campus! We had many free educational, stress relieving, and fun-filled activities. We had stations where the public could create stress balls, scented lotion, and hot/cold packs. Occupational therapists from USC’s OT Faculty Practice were giving information on how to develop healthier eating and exercise habits. The USC Occupational Science research team was also giving out information on carpal tunnel. We even have an area where children were playing on the gym equipment or playing with the water beads, play dough, and moon sand! As you can probably imagine our booth was filled with people from all ages and interests. It was so great that even USC’s President, Dr. Wanda Austin, had to stop by and check out all of our stations.
Apr 17, 2019, by Melissa
One of my goals as an Ambassador has been to increase awareness about occupational therapy. In order to do so, we decided to reach out to high school students, as I often hear that people would have pursued OT a lot sooner if they had known it was an option. I’ve been lucky enough to present to a couple of high schools now, and the experiences have been both rewarding and challenging. When presenting to high school students, we really have to adapt the way that we approach them. We often present to pre-health clubs or OT-specific clubs as part of our job, therefore we go into our presentation with the understanding that these students already have an interest in OT or in a healthcare profession. Oftentimes, the students have already been thinking about graduate school and pursuing higher education, therefore we know we can tailor our presentation in a specific way. High school students, on the other hand, come from a variety of backgrounds, have different plans and aspirations, and varying interests. They are more difficult to engage, and may or may not be voluntarily attending our presentations. Before my first presentation to one of the high schools, I kept thinking to myself, “How am I going to engage them?! How am I going to give them all of this important information without putting them to sleep?!”
In an attempt to get some guidance, I approached one of my professors who had also given a talk to a group of high school students recently, and she gave me some great tips. The one that stuck out to me the most was her tip on making it RELEVANT to the students, which made total sense. I have since tried to find ways to make my presentation relatable, such as giving the students some information about my own journey, my experiences as an athlete (as there are often many athletes that attend these presentations), and what it has meant to me to be a first-generation graduate student using my bilingual skills in Los Angeles. I also like to take different types of adaptive equipment and sensory toys to show them how they are used, and why they are relevant in our profession. This gives them some interactive opportunities where they get a glimpse into what we do as well as an opportunity to ask questions. Lastly, I always like to take GIVEAWAYS. Nothing gets a group of high school students more excited than some free stuff they get to take home, and I think it’s a nice token to remind them of our presentation.
Fortunately, the students I have presented to thus far have been courteous and kind, albeit shy in the beginning. They seem receptive to the information we have to offer, and I have even gotten emails from students that are now interested in pursuing careers in OT! I’m so grateful I have had the opportunity to spread the word about our amazing profession and our wonderful program here at USC, and I look forward to the short time I have left in this position to continue doing so! If you ever have questions about recruitment or anything else in general, feel free to reach out!
Apr 17, 2019, by Jessica P
In the spring semester of the second-year in the Master’s program, we get the opportunity to take elective courses. Like all OT programs, USC Chan prepares us to be OT generalists when we graduate, but we also get to take 12-14 units of elective coursework. These courses allow us to begin to focus in an area of interest, taking you from an OT generalist to specialist. Our division offers over 20 electives and also gives us the opportunity to take classes outside of the Chan division. For example, if you are interested in opening your own private practice you could take courses in the USC Marshall School of Business or if you are interested in health policy you could take courses in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
I wanted to share a little more in-depth about the electives I chose to take this semester to give you a glimpse at all of the hands-on opportunities I’ve had throughout this semester.
OT 561: Occupational Therapy in Acute Care
In this class we have a lecture portion where we learn about the blend between a top-down occupation-based approach and bottom-up systems-based approach within the context of acute care. In addition to the class, we also get to complete a clinical experience portion at Keck Hospital of USC. At Keck, we get hands-on experience working with occupational therapists in a variety of settings. During my clinical experience, I was fortunate enough to see OT’s working in various ICU’s, neurology, cardiology, and orthopedics.
OT 573: Hand Rehabilitation
Throughout this course we learned how to blend the art and science of hand therapy in order to first be occupational therapists and then hand therapists. It was very hands-on, using case studies, splinting scenarios, and even a functional anatomy super bowl. Our professor taught us about addressing topics such as wound healing, scar management, physical agent modalities, splinting, peripheral nerve injuries, and arthritis – and most importantly, addressing these topics with an occupation-based approach. For my classmates who are interested in pursuing advanced practice in hands, the hours from this class counts towards their education hours!
OT 574: Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
This course emphasizes using motor control techniques in order to increase engagement in occupations. For the first four weeks of the semester, we focused on learning basic mobilizations and facilitations on each other utilizing handling skills based on the Neurodevelopment Treatment Approach. After this, we had weekly two-hour treatment sessions with our patient models. These patient models are real people who have all experienced a stroke. Each week, we would develop and implement a treatment plan with our patients as well as give them homework to work on.
My group’s patient, Louis, was one of the best teachers I have had in OT school. He allowed us to try out different treatment ideas and was always so motivated to work with us. I learned how to grade treatment sessions to the “just-right challenge” and always have back-up plans. Most importantly, Louis taught me about resilience and the difference that a positive attitude can make on the recovery process.
OT 575: Dysphagia Across the Lifespan
In dysphagia we learned about the anatomy and physiology of the structures involved in swallowing and how this impacts the occupation of eating. We also learned assessment and treatment strategies for patients of all ages in different settings. Through lectures, case studies, and hands-on techniques we learned about how occupational therapists can have a distinct role in approaching dysphagia management. One of my favorite lectures was on performing oral exams and we even got to test our classmates’ gag reflexes! Luckily, since I am interested in pursuing my advanced practice in dysphagia, this course counts towards 24 out of the 45 hours needed for specialization in California.
Throughout all of my classes in the program at USC there has been a strong emphasis on occupation-based approaches. After all occupation is in our job title! The electives I chose to take took it even further with demonstrating how to stay occupation-based in settings or with populations where a bottom-up, biomechanical model may be more typical. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to customize my coursework with electives this semester to prepare myself for the areas of practice and specialization I am interested in pursuing.
Apr 8, 2019, by Joyce
One of the coolest parts of this externship was the fact that we, USC students, were able to participate in one of the leader’s, Jenna Kobara, OTD project. As part of her OTD, Kobara is pushing for interprofessional collaboration between OT students/OTs and community based rehabilitation workers (CBRs). An equivalent of a CBR in the states are the Community Health Workers, many of whom work with spanish-speaking communities, promotores de salud, to support health education and prevention efforts. Similarly, in Ghana, CBRs venture out into the communities, identify individuals with disabilities, and work on educating and building rapport with the community to facilitate inclusivity throughout the village. The community in Ghana is not only the immediate family but also their neighbors!
On the first day of this collaboration, USC students met with the Ghanaian OTs and the CBR students. I worked with my partner, Liliian, to facilitate a discussion about scope of practice and definitions around independence and therapy. Our job was not to lead the discussions but to open the doors for the Ghanaian students to participate and converse with one another. We were able to touch upon several points including the definition of independence, function, and ways for future collaborations.
After about 30 minutes of thoughtful conversation, we moved onto completing a task analysis of tie dying. For the CBR students, this was the first time engaging in task analysis.
I realized that the Ghanaian students were grappling with this novice task of tie dying shirts! It was a new activity for both of them and I believe that while it was new, the students worked well together to task analyze the tying of the rubber bands around the t-shirts. After task-analyzing together, the MTC students came out to complete the activity with us! This was a great time for the Ghanaian OT and CBR students to interact with MTC students, not to mention, they were a lot more fluent in the local language of Fante so communication was so much smoother!
Seeing all of this unfold, I was in awe and have come to fully understood Bonnie’s mission, “To be out of a job”. Bonnie truly wants to plant the seed of collaboration between Ghanaian professionals to create the sustainability without the help of obrunis.
The next few days, my partner and I worked together with our matched CBR students in their specific community attachments to explore and learn about CBR work. As we engaged and problem solved with different individuals with various diagnosis (ie. CP, lower extremity pain), we made it a point to provide education that can carry with the CBRs for their future clients and to encourage the strength of collaborating with Ghanaian OTs.
It has been such a great experience to get to know our CBR students and how they have come to this profession. For some, it was not their first choice. In their univiersities, they may be placed into a major like occupational therapy or CBR. But even though it wasn’t their first choice to study this specific major, I have heard that many hearts were changed throughout their studies. It allowed students to change their perspectives on what the definition of disability, community integration, and function. I truly enjoyed and was inspired by the work of these students and the passion that they hold to increase awareness and acceptability of individuals with disabilities or illness into their communities. I even have pen-pals from Ghana to continue discussing about OT, CBR, scholarship, funding, NGOs through email 😊