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 | Catherine

Catherine

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!

     

    Catherine

    Reflections on Gender, Leadership and the OTD
    Posted , by Catherine

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    I knew I had found my forever occupation (the other definition), when I first walked through the CHP hallway’s “Walk of Fame” adorned with the portraits of Trojan giants of our field: Margaret Rood, A. Jean Ayers, Elizabeth Yerxa, and Florence Clark (just to name a few).  It was as if their legacies emanated through the halls, empowering me to make hard pivot, leaving behind my past career managing corporate transactions to delve into the meaningful, life changing profession that is occupational therapy. 

    Prior to Chan, I attended a small women’s liberal arts college for my undergraduate degree here in the U.S., and a larger women’s university for my M.B.A. in Korea.  I was surrounded by a false sense of security that gender was not an issue, and that my intellect and skills were all I would need to achieve my career goals.  Following my interests, I found employment in finance, technology, entertainment, fashion and journalism. 

    Entering the working world was a wake-up call.  The stories of the glass ceiling are real, and in my personal experience, every industry and profession has invisible obstacles for women to succeed.  Navigating corporate structures, traditional policies, and the socially embedded expectations for women are hurdles that are no easy feat to overcome alone.  In a recent report by World Economic Forum’s the U.S. ranked 53rd out of 153 countries on gender parity, “focusing on four main themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.”

    While occupational therapy has been one of the few professions that has been dominated by women for over a century, stereotypes about our gender, lack of awareness of the value of occupations, and what occupational therapists bring to the table are the very real barriers practitioners face in the workplace. In fact, research has shown that “Though they may feel discomfort in a feminized field, men do not face structural barriers in occupational therapy… In such jobs, men are disproportionately pushed into management positions, with better pay, more prestige, and less hands-on care” (Beagan & Fredericks, 2018).  It was no wonder that I was in awe of our “Hall of Fame”.

    The hall of fame in the main hall of USC Chan

    The OTD is a year long program that not only has allowed me to deepen my clinical understanding of meaningful, occupation focused interventions for my clients; it has given me an opportunity to hone my leadership skills and is preparing me to be a leader in my own right.  The core courses and faculty mentorship has been integral to this process.  The continuous achievements of the USC Chan Trojan network, highlighted in our news fueling the fire.  I am inspired and energized to follow in their footsteps.  I hope all women in their prospective industries are able to find strong mentors in their field, but if you are an occupational therapist, I sincerely believe there is no better place than the OTD program here at Chan to make that a reality. 

    Beagan, B. L., & Fredericks, E. (2018). What about the men? Gender parity in occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 8(2), 137-145. https://doi.org/10.1177/0008417417728524

    Jacson, S. (2019, December 23). It will be 257 years before women have equal pay, gender gap report says. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/it-will-be-257-years-women-have-equal-pay-new-n1103481

    Yeung, J. (2019, December 17). Global gender equality will take another 100 years to achieve, study finds. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/17/asia/gender-pay-gap-uk-wef-intl-hnk-scli/index.html

    Catherine

    Why I use a paper planner… in addition to all my synced ones.
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    This weekend I had the opportunity to go to Newport with my family.  Despite being a couple of weeks into the semester, meaning I am now revving into full gear of balancing residency, classes and my private life, one of the benefits of living in the Los Angeles County area is that no matter where you are living, you’re never too far away from some fun in the sun.  Luckily, having visitors from out of the area always gives us the excuse to take full advantage of this.

    family playing basketball

    Throughout my experience in the OTD program, I have found that it is helpful to not only develop a planning system that works for me, but to also to set realistic timelines for how much each task will take.  Balancing the schedules of my family member’s with my own has taken a considerable amount of trial and error, but I’ve found a way that has worked for me and my family. 

    First is my schedule, it has been natural to utilize the Google Calendar and Outlook applications that connect seamlessly with my USC and Chan email accounts to make sure I am on top of any event invitations offered by the school, and any meetings that may be scheduled throughout the semester.  I have been able to subscribe to my nephews’ school calendars that are automatically synced to my Google Calendar, so I can be aware of any school events or holidays in advance.  This has allowed for a nicely organized monthly calendar on my laptop.

    computer screen calendar

    However, this can sometimes get a bit cluttered.  While de-selecting some calendars will help in visual clarity, I have a secondary paper planner that I use to organize and orient myself daily. 

    traditional paper calendar

    I use this as my daily mental practice of calm.  Going through my “master calendar”, cross referencing with my shared calendars, and then prioritizing my tasks into a to-do list.  In my experience, taking about 10 minutes every morning to do this has been very helpful not only in keeping track of my tasks, but giving me a minute to connect with what is meaningful to me personally, and motivating me throughout my day.

    children jumping into a pool

    With this daily practice, I am able to stay on track, plan my week, and make sure I make the time for not only my work, school, but for those special memory making moments with my loved ones.

    Catherine

    New Year, New Challenges, But We Got This!
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    This is my first blog post of 2020 and it feels great to be back.  The holidays are a magical time of the year, but my passion for occupational science and occupational therapy puts a little more pep in my step when I walk into CHP.  And while we are talking about the subject of the new year, we cannot exclude the popular tradition of setting goals, resolutions for our self!  I had an interesting discussion recently during my OT 649 course about health behavior change models and in particular, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), that might provide you some insight if you feel that you are having trouble sticking to any resolutions of your own. 

    In short, SCT states that people are in charge of their lives and environment and can be motivated to overcome challenges through a positive sense of self efficacy.  This theory can inform health promoting behavior change interventions in occupational therapy, and other health professions.  In other words, we are taking about the just right challenge.

    One of the requirements of during the first semester of the OTD program is to pass the NBCOT exam and become a certified occupational therapist.  Trying to juggle my residency hours in preparation for the 2019 Occupational Science Symposium, attending class, and studying for the boards required a lot of balancing priorities and self-control.  I did not think that I had the mental and physical capacity to achieve this goal.  What got me through this time was the support from faculty, colleagues, and the overall sense of community I have always been provided here at Chan.  This support allowed me to maintain a level of self-efficacy that motivated me to overcome my doubts and proactively push myself to close the gap of what I thought I could not do, and what I wanted to do.  And according the SCT, self-efficacy is key.

    Experiencing and overcoming the challenges of the Fall semester has enabled me to increase my sense of self-efficacy and will motivate me to challenge myself in this semester, and the next.  ntil I achieve my long-term goal to obtain my OTD degree!  So if you feel like you might not be able to keep up with your news year resolutions, find yourself a cheerleader, adjust the goal, tackle it in parts, instead of going to the gym 5 days a week, start with today.  And then next time, your mind and body will know, if you did it once, you can do it again, and you will be better positioned to go twice a week, and then three times a week, until you ultimately reach your goal.

    Catherine

    Totally Worth It
    Posted , by Catherine

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    Having a family with two school aged children to take care of, and leaving the comfort of a steady income from having a job, was not an easy decision that I had to make before coming to USC.  Yes, the financial burden of paying the cost of attendance was one part, but another part of me felt guilty about not being home for my nephews, who I co-parent.  I was worried if I could be successful in my academic pursuits, while also maintaining a household. However, I knew that I had found a profession that I was passionate about, and would somehow make it work. As I reflect on my first semester in the OTD, I can confidently say, it has.

    If you are like me and decide to pursue the standard progression of courses in the OTD, the OT-620 core course is the only one you are required to take this first semester.  Because most of your week is dedicated to your residency, and your hours are negotiable with your site, this provided me a certain amount of flexibility.  I have been able to continue to maintain my morning school drop off routines, and come home to have dinner, do homework and be present for my nephews consistently.

    Taking advantage of the benefits of technology has also made my life a lot easier.  Subscribing to their school calendars, and knowing in advance important school events has allowed me to not be thrown off-guard if my fourth grader forgot to tell me “Pastries with Parents” is tomorrow.  And even though I may not be able to volunteer for every class event for my Kindergartner, the share sites teachers and parents utilize have kept me in the know.  Not to mention the grocery delivery apps that have often saved me when I forgot to stock up on a lunchbox essential.

    I am not saying that this process has been easy.  It was not easy to study for my boards exams while negotiating with a five year old to take his bath.  I have been lucky to have had wonderful support from other adult members of my family, the school (mine and theirs), and to be able to access the comforts of modern technology.  However, looking back at my experience in the OTD so far, it has not only been manageable, but totally worth it.  If you are like me when I was considering applying to graduate school; worried about how you are going go through graduate school and be a caregiver, I am here to say you can do it!  If you have any questions about my experience, or want to know more about the OTD program, i am here for you, and would love to hear from you. 

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