Alumni Spotlight: Mineh Badmagharian
May 3, 2021
by Global Initiatives Team
Classes Externships International
Mineh Badmagharian, OTD, OTR/L
Alumni: Professional Master’s, OTD
By Brittany Inouye and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
In collaboration with James Lee
Alumni: Professional Master’s, OTD
Global Initiatives members Brittany Inouye, Michelle Plevack, and James Lee had the pleasure of interviewing Mineh Badmagharian, a double Trojan who graduated from USC Chan’s Professional Master’s and Post-Professional Doctorate (OTD) programs. We are excited to showcase Mineh’s remarkable journey of exploration, perseverance, and love for OT!
Mineh’s Armenian heritage and her experience leaving her birth country of Iran at the age of 12 led her to complete her OTD residency in a community-based mental health setting at Intra Mental Health Center, in Yerevan, Armenia. This move was a difficult transition where she found herself living in a new country, being on her own for the first time, and struggling with language barriers as Russian is the second language spoken in Armenia. Her motivation to address the stigma of mental health in Armenia, her passion for the arts, and her desire to help people led her to slowly settle into her OTD site where she “fell in love” with this setting.
Unfortunately, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mineh’s OTD residency site closed down. In a country with limited internet connectivity, her residency work transitioned primarily to phone communication with clients every day. During her year in Armenia, Mineh realized she was learning in many ways she had not previously anticipated. She found herself constantly checking her assumptions, realizing that there is no single way of thinking or perceiving, and learning how OT interventions cannot be generalized to all backgrounds. She shares that for many people in Armenia, “work” is not as meaningful of an occupation as socializing in the community — a prevalent theme in interdependent cultures. She nurtured new opportunities to connect with her clients by taking Armenian dance classes, which equipped her to engage with her clients in the meaningful social occupations that they valued.
Mineh describes a sense of community within the site’s office, and she shares that strategies from her Lifestyle Redesign class (OT 583) helped her cope with the pandemic, the trauma of the war in Armenia, and COVID-19 travel restrictions which prohibited her from leaving the country. After finishing her OTD in August 2020, she was hired as the Head of Research and Strategy at Expper Technologies. This robotics company is based in Armenia and Mineh completed her work online while residing in California. Mineh worked with a team to create Robin, an artificial intelligence-based robot companion to children undergoing medical treatments. She helped develop Robin’s personality, the way Robin interacts with kids, and game content that decreases anxiety and fear associated with medical visits. The team spent 1000+ hours acting as Robin, transcribing quotes, and gathering data for Robin’s algorithm.
Although her current job title does not specify her as an occupational therapist, Mineh believes she brings aspects of OT into her role and has future hopes to work in community mental health settings in Armenia. Mineh warmly encourages anyone interested in doing OT international work to “Go do it! Be open to learning!”
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