Humans of USC Chan Volume 1 >
September 21, 2020
When I was applying to OT school, I remember that I really wanted to get different student perspectives on what programs were like and how they navigated graduate school. As a student ambassador, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to share my experiences with all of you, but I know that there are so many other extraordinary voices in the division too!
So, I gathered some second-year Entry-Level Master’s students to come and talk about what their OT school experiences have been like so far! We went over topics related to what kind of OT they’re interested in, what their favorite classes and memories are, and what challenges they’ve faced. They even shared some advice for all of you thinking about applying to the program! If you watch it through YouTube, the video is time-stamped with each topic in case you ever want to go back to a specific conversation.
I hope you find this video helpful and that these diverse perspectives give you more insight into what student life is like in the Master’s program! Welcome to the Humans of USC Chan!
My Mental Health Immersion Experience >
September 7, 2020
I actually started off in the Mental Health Practice Immersion but, to be honest, I came into it with little to no interest in mental health. I just wanted to get it over with so that I could focus on the pediatric and adult rehabilitation immersions since my previous volunteer experiences were more related to those settings. However, throughout my time in the immersion, my perception of what occupational therapy’s role in mental health was had changed, and I realized that it’s just as important as other OT practice areas.
On the first day of class, I felt really nervous about going into this immersion because it was my first one ever. On top of that, I had no prior experience being in the mental health field, so my knowledge and insight were extremely limited. Nerves had really taken over during the first week, but my course instructors, Dr. Celso Delgado Jr. and Dr. Tessa Milman, were instrumental in reassuring and validating the entire cohort of our feelings. They said that the purpose of this course was to help introduce us to various perspectives so that we could understand the impact of mental health on occupational engagement, as well as the influence of occupation on recovery experiences. They also emphasized that it was okay to be feeling uncertain and sensitive to the experiences ahead, so I went in with an open heart and an open mind.
The mental health immersion incorporates a related Level I fieldwork experience, in-service training, discussions with experts by experience, team debriefs and so many more opportunities. For my Level I fieldwork, I was placed at a community mental health site and collaborated with mental health professionals, as well as peer specialists with lived experience. Now, this may sound surprising, but there was actually no occupational therapist at my site. According to the 2015 AOTA Salary & Workforce Survey, only 2.4% of respondents worked in the mental health practice setting. I was definitely shocked by this statistic, but it pushed me to really try and inform my site of the distinct value of OT. However, even with that ambition, I still yearned for guidance from an OT and, towards the beginning, I had a difficult time understanding what occupational therapy’s role was in mental health.
I had this internal conflict where I felt like I had to spread my OT knowledge and make all this positive change. However, I realized that Level I fieldwork experiences are meant more to be spaces for students to learn, observe, and gain exposure to the area of practice. I also had this perception that OT’s role in mental health was restricted because it seemed similar to what social workers and case managers do. However, I discovered that this isn’t true and that occupational therapy actually plays such an extensive role in community mental health. Although there is collaboration with professionals from other disciplines, OTs have the scope and capacity to address occupational needs, promote functioning in the community, analyze performance skills, and provide unique assessments and interventions. Not having an occupational therapist to guide me through my first fieldwork experience was challenging, but I was grateful for the opportunity to connect curriculum material with my immersive experience. I was also thankful to have had a very involved interdisciplinary team by my side to advocate for the OT profession and they always tried their best to provide me with as many resources as possible!
Finally, I want to talk about my experience with my Cohort B lab team! Within these groups, we did a lot of team-based learning, discussed the course material, interacted with experts by experience, and debriefed about our fieldwork experiences. These people really made my experience in the mental health immersion and I honestly would not have gotten through this without them!
My favorite part about this course was the team debriefs, where we would each share about how our different Level I fieldwork experiences were going. This opportunity opened up a safe space for us to learn about different mental health sites, share our challenges, provide advice and feedback, and just act as each other’s emotional support systems. An expert by experience also participated by sharing their thoughts and perspectives on how to approach certain situations at our respective sites. We were also incredibly grateful to have Dr. Tessa Milman as our team’s faculty supervisor and mentor. They each imparted such extraordinary mental health knowledge and expertise while also providing us with unwavering support throughout it all. These team-based discussions opened my eyes to the various potentials of mental health and how occupational therapy plays a special role in holistically addressing the needs and barriers of individuals experiencing mental health conditions.
In the beginning, I was nervous to start the mental health immersion because I had no prior experience or exposure. However, through this opportunity, I was able to challenge my implicit biases and build supportive relationships within my team and my fieldwork site. This empowered me to see the bigger picture and to develop a deeper understanding of the connection between occupational therapy and mental health. Regardless of what setting I go into, I know that I will be using my foundation of mental health knowledge in every endeavor I pursue!
New Occupation, Who This? >
August 18, 2020
The bittersweet summer semester is over! This was my first full semester online and honestly after I hit the “submit” button on my last final exam, I was so relieved and just felt so much freer. Thankfully, we all get one week off to destress before getting back on the grind for the fall.
Something I really wanted to do during the break was tie-dye, and I know what you’re thinking: “that’s so random…what does that have to do with anything?” Well, in the OT 534: Health Promotion and Wellness course, Dr. Laura Cox and Dr. Kelcie Kadowaki (both on the Faculty Practice Team) gave us a class day to practice self-care and mindfulness by offering various “Wellness Workshops”. I joined the “Tie-Dye” group because I had never done it before and it seemed really fun! It was so nice to step away from lectures to loosen up, and it reminded me that sometimes I just need to breathe and be in the present. I echo the sentiments of Bethany, Lamoni and Savi’s blog posts about remembering to be good to ourselves, to do what we can, and that it’s okay to give ourselves the time and space we need. I hope that this video can serve as a reminder to practice self-care and also just give you a good laugh! Stick around until the end of the vlog for a very special clip! (**Spoiler Alert**: Liz makes a colorful guest appearance!)
Unity in the CommunOT >
August 7, 2020
With everything being fully remote this summer, there was some worry about how the Chan community would stay connected since we’re all so used to seeing each other in person. The new first-year students were also feeling uneasy because of their unexpected introduction through the online platform. There was an apparent need for support within the division, and thus the Chan Community Commission (CCC) came to fruition!
The CCC was designed to support and promote a positive environment for all students, faculty, and staff of the Chan Division to come together. We partnered closely with Global Initiatives Team and the Diversity, Access, and Equity (DAE) Committee in hopes of creating events and spaces that were welcoming for all and that fostered improved health and well-being through greater interaction and social support. Over the course of the summer, the CCC offered events and activities that surrounded four categories: social experiences, advocacy, peer mentorship, and health and well-being.
Having witnessed the Chan community unify and continue to stay connected during these times was such a special experience. I had the pleasure and opportunity of being a part of the phenomenal CCC team and am very excited to recap on some of the things we’ve done these past few months!
1. Social Experiences
OT Trivia Night
Around a month ago, students collaborated for a fun night of OT Trivia to raise money for organizations that support Black lives! There was a huge turnout for this event and we were able to donate over $600 to organizations including Color of Change, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Loveland Foundation, and Black Trans Travel Fund. As future occupational therapists, it is our responsibility to stay educated on anti-racism and stand in solidarity with our Black clients, colleagues, and neighbors. Thank you to Master’s students, Jeffrey Palomino, Nora Dixon and Ellie Bendetson, for taking the lead in organizing and hosting this tremendous event!
The Passion Show
The Chan community was invited to create 5 minute PowerPoint presentations on what they’re passionate about and, WOW, did they deliver! Individuals shared their passions ranging from potatoes, photography, Coldplay, trail running, cake, kombucha, sparkling water, fishing, art, conspiracy theories, wine tasting; the list LITERALLY goes on! Thank you to the presenters and audience members for coming through that night! Thank you to Dr. Kelcie Kadowaki, Dr. Kristin Nxumalo, and my boss, Kim Kho, for coming through too; you all rock 😊! Shoutout to Dr. Myka Winder for her unforgettable presentation on ocean swimming and for sharing about her encounter with a shark! Overall, it was such a fun time putting together and hosting this event with Jeffrey Palomino, Shawyon Aminirad, Maggie Goodfellow, Brendan LaScala and John J. Lee!
Advocacy Committee Presentations
In the “Let’s Talk About Advocacy” information session, student representatives from AOTA, OTAC, OTSC, OT Speaks, and COTAD united to discuss why advocacy is important in occupational therapy and what students can do to get involved. In the “OT Speaks Discussion Forum”, the Chan Advocacy Committee and OT Speaks collaborated in holding a discussion forum to educate students on legislative bills that will impact the future of OT practice and provide tangible ways to advocate. Thank you to these wonderful student leaders for opening up a dialogue about OT’s role in advocacy and for empowering students to pursue their advocacy interests!
3. Peer Mentorship
This Mentorship Circle program was organized to help incoming first-year students transition to becoming a part of the USC Chan community, facilitate social connections with their peers, and have access to mentors! The circles provided, not only mentorship opportunities but also a space for students to get together and have a good time. This was such a unique opportunity for my co-mentor, Jessie Tien, and I to get to know the first-year students and be there as their support system. Although the CCC is coming to a close, we are happy to announce that Global Initiatives will be housing this program, which will be called “Friendtorship Circles”, and will continue to enhance them by including students from ALL Chan degree programs! Thank you to Master’s students, Kayla Johari and Sarah Morris, for all their hard work and dedication in facilitating and organizing these Mentorship Circles!
4. Health and Well-being
Along with being a student, Sydney is also a Certified Functional Strength Coach and we were very excited to have her on board to lead “Terrific Tuesdays” on behalf of CCC health and well-being! Everyone that joined her workouts said that they were amazing and you can actually check out her fitness Instagram @sydbastfitness. Thank you so much to Dr. Ashley Halle for taking the time out of her busy schedule to join in on the exercise fun!
We invited doctoral residents from the USC Chan Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice (OTFP) to host “Wellness Wednesdays” workshops in order to inform the Chan community about how we can live optimal lifestyles, especially during this time. Topics were related to managing time and focus strategies while sheltering in place, managing stress and anxiety (especially in the unknown), and setting up an ergonomic workstation at home. We were so grateful to have, soon to be official OTDs, Dr. Serena Hobson, Dr. Erin Bussell, and Dr. Vanessa Miller, impart their profound knowledge and expertise! Shoutout to Master’s student, Adam Strizich, for avidly connecting everyone and for bringing these gatherings to life!
If you asked me a few months ago what I anticipated the summer semester was going to look like, I definitely would not have mentioned any of this! Seeing people really come together this summer was very reassuring and reminded me that we can overcome so much as a community. Thank you to Dr. Kristin Nxumalo, Dr. Daniel Park, Dr. Julie McLaughlin Gray and Dr. Samia Rafeedie for their unwavering support and for all the behind-the-scenes work they were involved in! Thank you to the Occupational Therapy and Science Council (OTSC) and Global Initiatives for graciously offering to continue the work of the CCC! Thank you to the CCC for working so hard to bring everybody together and for making this summer one for the books! Finally, CONGRATULATIONS to all who are about to officially wrap up this semester. Whether it be with work, classes, teaching, fieldwork, research, or doctoral residencies, WE DID IT!!!!!
Flashback To My First Year >
July 24, 2020
I remember walking onto the Health Sciences Campus on my first day and being really nervous about how I was going to meet new people. I remember I was almost late because I underestimated traffic, but I ended up making it even though I was dripping in panic sweat haha... I remember the insane amount of times when we would all introduce ourselves because there were just so many people to meet! I remember taking classes in the G-37 Auditorium, a.k.a. the frozen tundra in the CHP building, where I could always rely on the A.C. to be blasting. I remember how accomplished we all felt when we finished up our first summer semester. I remember starting my first immersion in mental health, engaging in my first Level I Fieldwork, and just spending good times with friends in the program! I remember it all!
Okay, Calvin, we get it; you remember stuff! What’s your point? Well, in just one year, I was able to experience and learn so much about the profession, myself, others, and beyond. However, I would have never guessed that we would all be where we are right now. It’s been a relatively challenging past few months with everything going on, but reflecting on the past year has really helped me stay motivated. These memories remind me why I’m here, and I’d like to take you all on a trip down memory lane to share some with you!
The ones who make every impossible in my life, possible: my parents. They’ve always supported me in every endeavor and I’m forever grateful for them! Big love to my #1 fans!
The best cohort, Cohort B(EST)!!! Sorry, I don’t make the rules ¯\_( ˘ ˘̯)_/¯.Huge shoutout to this phenomenal group of individuals! They are truly some of the most inspiring, funny, genuine, and authentic people I’ve ever met!
All I can say is that I love this picture and this group of people LOL! By the way, you can actually see more of the division, virtually, thanks to the USC SMART-VR Virtual Reality Tour App that was co-created by Dr. Sook-Lei Liew!
This was taken at the 2019 Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Annual Conference. This was my first OT conference ever and it was such a great time connecting with others, attending a variety of presentations, and just being surrounded by so many OT leaders!
The Global Initiatives Team has always been so welcoming and they’ve provided multiple opportunities to learn and have dialogue about a variety of international topics. I’m incredibly thankful to Global Initiatives for fostering such a vibrant community and for making my first year experience an unforgettable one!
I hope that this gave you all a good glimpse into what my first year in the program was like. Life is very different right now, but that shouldn’t stop us from making new and lasting memories!