Reconnecting with my Filipino Roots at USC Chan
November 15, 2021
by Global Initiatives Team
By Abby Khou, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student and Global Initiatives volunteer
Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
When I first came to the United States as a Filipino immigrant in 1999, I didn’t realize that one of the questions I would be asked the most is “are you a nurse?” While it is one of the popular Filipina stereotypes, it does hold some grain of truth — many Filipino men and women come to the US and either study nursing or work as nurses. In Filipino culture, healthcare workers are held in high regard. I would hear some of my family members boast of their children who work in the medical field or are the pride of their families because of their line of work. Why do Filipinos make such good healthcare workers? I may sound a tad bit biased — my mom is a nurse in Pennsylvania and my dad is a doctor in the Philippines! 😊 I believe that Filipinos are intuitively compassionate, caring, and selfless. They go out of their way to make other people feel comfortable, even when they’re sacrificing their own comfort.
It seems almost inevitable that I would end up pursuing a healthcare career, but I never thought it would be Occupational Therapy. I didn’t see myself as a nurse because I was always a bit anxious when I would get blood drawn. I only found out about OT 4 years ago because of my son’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Being a big proponent of Early Intervention, I learned about OT as a parent sitting in on his OT sessions and conversing with his OTs in his Early Intervention program and outpatient pediatric clinic. His OTs made such a big impact in his growth and development that I decided I wanted to do for others what my son’s OTs had done for him. I had been working in public relations and marketing since 2007. In Manila, I was working at a TV network in 2001 and had no idea OT even existed. OT in the Philippines was at its infancy in 1917 when the Philippines’ government enacted the Revised Administrative code, which ensured that those who were injured while serving the government were compensated for ensuing disability and/or injury while serving. OT was introduced to the Philippine Civil Administration Unit I (PCAU I) General Hospital by Andre Roche, an OT of French origin. Similar to in the U.S., OT in the Philippines had its roots in the World War — the purpose of PCAU I was to care for Filipinos and Americans who were impacted by WWII.
Now in 2021, as a Filipino-American and non-traditional OT student who is pursuing the profession as a second career, I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with my Filipino roots at USC Chan. OT is quickly becoming a sought-after career in the Philippines, and I have met quite a number of Filipino international students pursuing their Post-Professional MA degrees in OT. Two kababayans (fellow Filipinos) were my instructors as OTD residents in the summer and fall. One great interaction I had was with Jerzl Awit, who is the OTD resident for our Quantitative Research class. I attended her workshop for my Literature Search paper and connected with her during the session because we both speak Tagalog (the primary Filipino language). I also met Nicole Parcon, an MA-1 student from the 2021 SOTI Program and exchanged emails with her after we met on Zoom. Now, she is a friendly face that I often bump into and chat with on campus. The sound of Tagalog in the hallways of USC Chan always brings me back home, and the connections I have already made feel like the comfort of warm sabaw (soup) on a cold, rainy day. I am proud of my Filipino colleagues who passionately pursue their OT degrees at USC Chan as part of their journey to becoming an OT practitioner.