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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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Global Initiatives Team

Magic of GI >

by Global Initiatives Team

Community International What are OS/OT?

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By Maggie Goodfellow MA ’21, OTD ’22

Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

If I told you there was magic behind one of the doors in CHP, would you believe me? Well, no — not the traditional type of ‘magic’ that involves playing cards or bunnies appearing out of hats, but rather, something even better. Behind the doors of CHP 161, you’ll find the magic of a global community, the magic of pushing boundaries, and the magic of discovering what it means to “grow together”. In case you couldn’t tell, the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Global Initiatives is…. Magic (surprise!).

#1. The Magic of a Global Community. The door (and room) of CHP 161 can be quite deceiving at first glance. However, upon opening the door, you’ll immediately find a friendly face who will welcome you in and ask you about your day. As someone whose home is across the world in South Korea, the GI office quickly became my home away from home, somewhere I could go when I needed a break in between classes, somewhere I could trust would be welcoming and safe, and somewhere I knew a friend would be. The irony of our small office is that inside it lives a global community. Everyone’s culture is welcomed and the mundane interactions, such as sharing snacks from our respective countries or creating a poster for a holiday, become the building blocks of lifelong friendships. There’s something very special about the friendships built through GI, as they are grounded in our shared love for celebrating each other’s cultural differences and upbringings. Through Global Initiatives, I’ve seen the magic that can happen when you not only keep the door open for others, but also provide them with a seat, listen to what they have to say, and recognize there is always an opportunity to learn from them.

Moments in the office — our door is always open!

Moments in the office — our door is always open!

#2. The Magic of Pushing Boundaries. When it comes to magic tricks, you typically see the outcome but rarely see the hard work and determination that’s required to master them. More importantly, it takes confidence and the belief in yourself that you can do something that seems impossible. While it seems silly to compare the projects of GI to a magic trick, quite frankly, some of the projects did seem impossible at first. To name a few, just over the past 3 years our team has implemented Frientorship Circles, a global poster exchange, a global Pen Pal program, a “Global Citizenship” thread in the new Entry-Level OTD curriculum, and so much more. I’m incredibly grateful to this team who has time after time shared their creativity and demonstrated the power of creating something with their hearts and the intention to uplift others. Moreover, none of this would be possible without Danny Park, who empowers each member of our team to take their ideas and transform them into reality. Together, this is what creates the magic to push and continue pushing boundaries. 

Friendtorship Circle meeting from 2020 — we had students from across all of Chan’s academic programs!

Friendtorship Circle meeting from 2020 — we had students from across all of Chan’s academic programs!

#3. The Magic of “Growing Together”. When I first joined Global Initiatives as a student worker, I was a first year MA-2 student who was eager to learn yet shy in voicing my opinions. It’s funny how, in just three years, I’m able to see so much growth in myself, both personally and professionally. Thank you, Global Initiatives, for being part of my journey and showing me that growth rarely happens alone — it happens through the mentorship and support of others. From celebrating birthdays to accomplishing various professional milestones together, I could not have asked for a better team to grow with by my side.

Fun fact — our team used to be 8 people total! We really have grown together individually and as an office

Fun fact — our team used to be 8 people total! We really have grown together individually and as an office

AHTO: An Introductory Retrospective >

by Global Initiatives Team

Community Diversity

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By Carly Martinez MA ’23

Editors Abraham Ramirez and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

When I received my acceptance email to USC, I — like many others before me — wondered how I was going to do it. I knew that I would need a support system to keep me going. My family and I were not communicating, so I was scared. I felt alone.

Partway through the fall semester of my first year, I learned about a new organization through Global Initiatives aimed at the Spanish-speaking community — Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional, or “AHTO.” I was thrilled, and looked forward to being around people who spoke Spanish, which was reminiscent of my late grandmother who helped raise me.

However, I was concerned that I might not be “Mexican enough” to participate, despite speaking Spanish. ‘Was that enough?’ ‘Was my Spanish good enough?’

I anxiously brought this up during an early interaction with AHTO. When I shared my concern, this sentiment was echoed by other members who also questioned their identities due to imposed cultural markers, which can feel a lot like gatekeeping. I learned that, like me, they too were in this in-between place, where we were left asking ourselves where we belong and if we were enough.

Saludos de AOTA San Antonio, greetings from the AOTA Conference in San Antonio

¡Saludos de AOTA San Antonio! (Greetings from the AOTA Conference in San Antonio!)

I recently told a friend that the reason why microaggressions are so insidious, is that they’re often so small that they can make you question whether you are overreacting to a situation or if it even took place the way you remember. This has been my experience as a member of a minoritized group — the feeling that I am living through a continuous microaggression, and left wondering if I am making things up or should be happy with the way things are. Or, are there legitimate reasons to be unhappy and should I ask for more? It’s a bit like being in a toxic relationship, and it can mess with your head, particularly when it weighs on you alongside class assignments.

As I began compiling stories of my fellow students’ experiences, the triumphs and challenges overheard at AHTO meetings at socials and at conferences, I began to see connections that had not been previously apparent to me. That’s not only amongst Latine* students at Chan, but other minoritized students as well. Conversations have taken place that require action and advocacy. They still are, and they probably always will, leaving a need to ask for more on an ongoing basis.

This is why I am glad organizations like AHTO exist. They serve as places where I and others can verbalize our experiences and share them with others, allowing the space to process them in a way that leads to validation and support. My hope for AHTO is that it will continue to provide a platform for students to demand change from the university and express their needs in a way that will continue to elicit change, not only for the Latine population, but everyone who feels like they need to make themselves seen, heard and understood.

I hope AHTO will serve as a model for, and collaborator with students seeking empowerment and resources. It is important for us to realize our power, particularly when we work together, because it is only when we feel acknowledgement and action on the part of the division that we will be able to create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based). Isn’t that OK to want?

Photograph of AHTO End of the Year Social at Homebound Brewhouse (April 12, 2022)

AHTO’s end-of-the-year social at Homebound Brewhouse on April 12, 2022

*I prefer to use Latine over Latinx or Latin@ because it works in both Spanish and English and is more inclusive. Latinx does not work in Spanish, so it is not the preferred term by some Spanish-speakers; instead it is looked down upon by many people living in the US and Latin America as a forced idea contrived by non-Latine, white folks. Please see this comic for more information and explanation.

Everything I know about life, I learned from OT >

by Global Initiatives Team

Getting Involved International What are OS/OT?

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By Josh Digao, Post-Professional Master’s Student

Editor Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

I am from a country that still has, at its very core, patriarchal values. Not to say that the Philippines is a backwards country, but I and a lot of the pre-social media generation Filipinos were raised to believe that men were supposed to act a certain way. When you are raised in such an environment, it becomes what you believe to be right and wrong. Growing up, I felt trapped in a box that dictated how I should think, act, and speak in order to be accepted as a tunay na lalaki (real man). “Don’t care too much”, “Don’t show your emotions”, “Never let others tell you you’re wrong.” In my mind, being this arrogant, unfeeling, uncaring person was what being a man meant. But I struggled with that belief; I did not want to align myself with that archaic idea of a “real man.” It was not until I took up OT that I learned I did not have to.

It was in OT school, the pontifical and royal University of Santo Tomas, that I met some of the strongest and most wonderful people who helped me unlearn my ideas of toxic masculinity and made me the person I am today. The first of which was a professor that tried her best to instill in her students the value of being kind. A Mabuting OT (kind OT) - that is what she wanted us to be. For her, it did not matter as much that you knew all the therapeutic techniques in the book, or that you could name every muscle, bone, or nerve in the human body. What mattered was that when faced with a client, you would treat them with the utmost respect and compassion, regardless of status, age, or ability. “It’s better to be the kindest therapist than the smartest therapist” is what she would always tell us. It was not until I encountered my first few clients that I realized just how right she was. Clients, and even their family members, responded best to therapy when they felt that their autonomy and personhood was respected and cared for. 

The second lesson was that of empathy. This one I attribute to the remarkable group of humans I call my friends. I have been lucky enough to be around people who are deeply loving, sensitive, and emotionally mature. Through them, I learned that in order to truly understand the emotions of others, we need to be attuned to our own. However, before I could learn to comprehend my emotions, I had to allow myself to first feel them. This realization would come to not only help me in my personal growth, but in my professional growth as well. In clinics and hospitals, I would often encounter people at their lowest points. During those moments, I realized more than ever the importance of being empathetic to other people’s struggles.

The last lesson came from my clinical instructors during my internship. Being new to the field, I was largely unconfident in my skills and abilities. I had no experience, and on top of that, the knowledge I was heavily relying on was purely theoretical. But when my clinical instructors (all of whom were amazing OTs) gave me feedback, they would focus on what it was that I did well. They recognized my strengths first, and that gave me the foundation that I needed to develop my own professional identity. I learned not only to accept the person I was, flaws and all, but to also be confident in what I bring to the table.

I believe that OTs are some of the most incredible people out there. The kindness and wisdom that I have seen from every single OT I have met continues to amaze me. Though I consider myself to be a deeply flawed person, they have taught me that the person I am is enough. I have learned that the only way to be a “real man” is to be true to yourself. As I am currently in the process of unlearning outdated values from my childhood, I know that perfection is not my goal; kindness, understanding, and acceptance are. If we extend these values toward ourselves, we will realize that at the end of the day what really matters is we are all trying our best - and we can already be proud of that.

Josh and his friends back at UST

Josh and his friends back at UST

Ramadan Mubarak >

by Global Initiatives Team


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By Vanessa ElShamy, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student

Editors Michelle Plevack and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In short, this is the month where Muslims believe that the Qur’an (our holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Most people know that Muslims fast during this month (no food or drink from sunrise to sunset, and yes, not even water), however, it goes much deeper than that. Muslims do not just fast from food and drink, we also fast from poor habits such as bad mouthing others and seek stronger spirituality and connection to God (Allah), pray heavily, read the Qur’an more often, and participate in profound self-reflection. Additionally, we are obligated to give to charity (zakat) and perform good deeds as often as possible — selfishness has no place in Ramadan. While individuals may approach Ramadan slightly differently around the world, it is understood that the main objective is not to make ourselves suffer, but to become more conscious of our beliefs and look inward to pursue true self-improvement. When you strip your life of worldly pleasures, you are only left with yourself. It may seem intense to some, but I truly feel that it cleanses my heart.

My prayer mat and Qur’an

My prayer mat and Qur’an. We always face our mats and bodies toward the Kaaba, the sacred center of the holy city of Mecca.

Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so it starts on a different date every year. This year it began on April 2nd and will continue until May 2nd. This is the first year that I am observing Ramadan on my own, out of my parents’ house. It is also the first year in a long time that I am fasting during classes and exams, which I will admit, I am not exactly looking forward to. As beautiful and transformative as Ramadan is, it is not easy, and it is not supposed to be. We are 3 days into this year’s fast and so far I am surprised by how capable I have been without my morning coffee. I have not had any headaches from lack of caffeine thus far, and for this I say “Alhamdulillah” (“thank God” or “praise be to God”). While I have been a bit sad because I miss my family and our Ramadan traditions — feeding each other dates before Iftar (the meal that ends the day’s fast), drinking decaf coffee and eating baklava together after dinner, and more — I feel optimistic about what the month will bring me. As humans, we will make mistakes — they are a part of life. I know this to be true but I usually do not give myself the same grace I give others when I make mistakes. Ramadan reminds me time and time again that we are worth forgiving when we make mistakes, as long as we take responsibility for them and commit to doing better. Shame and guilt are powerful forces, but forgiveness is always stronger. Due to this, I have left Ramadan every year with a heightened sense of self-worth and a clearer picture of life’s purpose.

The Mejdool dates that I have been breaking my fasts with this year.

The Mejdool dates that I have been breaking my fasts with this year. Dates are high in sugar and vitamins, which makes them good to eat after a long day of fasting.

Participating in Ramadan is a meaningful occupation to me. During the month, fasting becomes an activity of daily living. When looking at the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF), Ramadan encompasses client factors such as personal values, beliefs, and spirituality. While these factors may not be important to all, they are vital to people like me who shape their everyday lives off of certain spiritual sentiments. As the OTPF states, spirituality is “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred” (AOTA, 2020). I honestly cannot imagine my life without Islam or Ramadan. Every time I waver from the spiritual path, I find myself being pulled back in. Every time I get annoyed that I “have” to fast and pray, I remind myself how beneficial it is for my spirit and mind. I think it is beautiful that so many people feel similarly about different religions and other forms of worship — this was a little glimpse into mine.

Me, a few years ago on Eid

Me, a few years ago on Eid (the celebratory day after Ramadan ends).

A spicy podcast from the land of spices! >

by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity International

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By Prutha Satpute, OTD USC alumni; Cohost and editor of HOTP
By Sakshi Tickoo, BOTh, Personal Counselor; Cohost and PR head of HOTP
By Varada Pisharody, MsOT, OTR/L; Cohost and CEO of HOTP

Editors Brittany Inouye and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Who are we?
We’re the three best friends
that anybody could have
We’re the three best friends
that anybody could have
And we’ll never ever ever ever
leave each other!

We are three OTs from India, who are at different phases in our (professional) lives, with three completely different personalities, living in 3 different time zones (east coast, west coast, and India). Regardless of these differences we have one thing in common — our love for each other and what we do.

We decked up for a long-distance photoshoot for the launch of the podcast. For more details on who we are check out our website: hornotplease.com

What do we do?
Well, throughout our Bachelor degree years we found ourselves within the grasp of knowing what OT was but never really being able to pinpoint how the core values and fundamentals of our profession related to the everyday lives of people. At the same time, when we would watch Netflix shows or social media trends, we would find these amazing links back to the things we were learning in our textbooks about environmental context and human behavior. The more evidence we found of such links, the more we felt the need to create a platform that would appeal to the minds of OTs who were tired of their mid 20th century Western world-view textbooks. So, in June 2021, we founded Horn OT Please — a student friendly podcast that uses Occupational Science as its backbone to understand OT practices, values, and principles with the help of modern-day educational perspectives. Horn OT Please ended up being the first ever Indian OT podcast available on all listener platforms; this was not only special but it added to the sense of value and responsibility for the work we are doing. So, every week despite our busy schedules and unkind time zone differences (I complain because I wake up at 7am on a Saturday!) we hop on Zoom to study, research, and record our sessions. We try to cover a wide range of topics like:

  • Student life
    • Ups-downs, perks-disappointments, joys, and wonders of being an OT
    • What is OT education like in India and other countries?
  • OT Education
    • Reforms in OT books and teaching methods
    • OT soft skills
    • Prepping for the big scary world
  • OT Practice
    • Non-traditional settings, areas of practice, and interventions
    • Personal anecdotes

How do we do it?
Simply reading words on paper did not challenge us to think critically in a client-specific scenario. On the other hand, watching the Oscar winning movie ‘The Father’ gave a visual, auditory, cognitive, mental, and emotional character to the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, making it more real and relatable. We are constantly in search of narratives and stories fictional/non-fictional that can act as a medium for learning and understanding OT concepts. We use scientific manuscripts, journal articles, movies, documentaries, history, art, trends on Instagram, TikTok, and other non-traditional media to blur the line between academic and non-academic learning materials.

Horn OT Please logo

Check out our podcast episodes on Anchor or Spotify.

Why do we do it?
Because we can. For a long time we waited for OT professionals who could answer our questions and make sense of our fanatical ideas. As the three of us have started diverging into different practice areas and settings, our inquisitiveness has only led to more questions that remain unanswered. Horn OT Please is our safe haven. And we hope that it becomes a space where disparate worlds of thought can come together; challenging OTs globally to think outside the box, and further advance our profession.

If you have any questions or would like to know more you can reach us through our socials — email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Instagram: @hornotplease, website: hornotplease.com.

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