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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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Student Blog
Jessica P.

Jessica P.

Thank You, Next ⟩
May 10, 2019, by Jessica P.

Beginnings and Endings What are OS/OT?

I’ve never been good at goodbyes, so I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic the past few days as my class has finished our comprehensive exam and graduation has come and gone. It feels like just yesterday that I stepped foot on campus as a fresh-faced freshman. At a large school like USC, it was easy to feel lost and like there wasn’t a place where I fit in, then I joined the Chan Division as part of the Bachelor to Master’s program. The Chan Division has meant so much more to me than just a major, it has meant having a place to call home. I never thought that a program could become family, but the OT family and CHP has become my home away from home.

When people ask me “Why USC?”, my answer is always the same: the people. The Chan Division has introduced me to the most amazing professors, classmates, and friends who will always be what I remember best about USC.

Thank you Cohort B| To the best cohort and my ride or dies. Here’s to our amazing Google docs, potlucks, and knowing how to always encourage and care for one another!

Cohort B in Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018

Cohort B in Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018

Thank you friends | To the classmates who became friends and then family. Thank you for helping me through my lowest lows and celebrating my highest highs. Whether we were camping, hiking, going to OT Vegas, exploring new cities, or studying together in CHP — you have been by my side every step of the way.

Thank you professors | To the professors that pushed me out of my comfort zone, supported me, mentored me, and taught me more than I could ever read in a text book. The life lessons I have learned from every professor have helped shape me into not just a better therapist, but a better person.

Thank you co-workers | To the best co-workers and bosses a girl could ask for. Thank you Kim Kho for constantly guiding me and encouraging me. Thank you to the entire Admissions Team for supporting me personally and professionally. Thank you to Etta, Evan, Gouen, Joyce, Melissa, Michael, and Serena for being an amazing student ambassador team. You have all made every day I go to work rewarding and not feel like I’ve actually worked an hour at all.

Thank you Mom & Dad | To my biggest supporters who encouraged me to pursue OT since I first mentioned it to them. Thank you for always explaining to people what your daughter is studying and making sure they know the difference between physical and occupational therapy. Thank you for supporting every one of my wild ideas and always making sure my fridge is stocked. Thank you for being there for every big moment and every small moment. I would not have made it this far without you.

Thank you Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy for all of the people, experiences, and opportunities you have exposed me to. But . . . you can’t get rid of me just yet.

Next: Keck | I’ll be staying another year at USC to pursue the advanced clinical track of the occupational therapy doctorate, completing my residency at Keck Hospital of USC. I can’t wait to see where my occupational therapy journey takes me, but I know that USC Chan will always be a part of my journey. So this isn’t a goodbye, just a see you later.

Fight on forever!

Jessica P.

Spring Semester Shenanigans ⟩
April 26, 2019, by Jessica P.

Getting Involved School/Life Balance What are OS/OT?

Happy last day of classes Trojans! It’s hard to believe that today was already my last day of classes in the Master’s program here at USC. Every semester always seems to fly by but this semester especially has gone by so fast I’m not sure where the time has gone.

Fall semester may get a lot of hype because of football season but I’m a big fan of spring semester also. The past few months have been packed with all different events from traveling internationally for my externship to attending my first AOTA national conference. Here is a sneak peek into what I’ve been up to the past few weeks.

AOTA Conference
In April I was able to attend my first AOTA conference and visit New Orleans for the first time. It was a jam-packed few days attending different workshops and speaker sessions. In between sessions, my friends and I explored New Orleans and of course tried beignets!

At AOTA, I really saw the power of the Trojan Family. From hearing one of my former clinical instructors and USC alumni, Laura Ferrari, speak on her work in forensic mental health to exploring posters, like the one above by Dr. Janice Rocker.

LA Times Festival of Books
This year I had the opportunity to help plan the OT booth at the LA Times Festival of Books Health Pavilion. The Festival of Books is such a fun event to spread OT to the greater Los Angeles community and celebrate OT month! We had stations for stress management, weight management, research recruitment, and sensory integration play.

The past few weeks have been busy with tours! We’ve had visitors from all over, including freshman from a local high school who are interested in pursuing occupational therapy.

Students from USC Hybrid High visiting the Chan Division

Students from USC Hybrid High visiting the Chan Division

Desert X
While things can get busy in the spring, I always try to make time for occupations outside of school that are meaningful to me. One of my favorite things to do is to explore various art museums so this year my friend and I spent a weekend in Palm Springs. We drove around the various Desert X art installations and ate tons of delicious food!

I hope you all had an amazing semester, I know I did! Good luck on finals and don’t forget to take time for self-care and engaging in your favorite occupations!

Jessica P.

Electives: OT Generalist to Specialist ⟩
April 17, 2019, by Jessica P.


In the spring semester of the second-year in the Master’s program, we get the opportunity to take elective courses. Like all OT programs, USC Chan prepares us to be OT generalists when we graduate, but we also get to take 12-14 units of elective coursework. These courses allow us to begin to focus in an area of interest, taking you from an OT generalist to specialist. Our division offers over 20 electives and also gives us the opportunity to take classes outside of the Chan division. For example, if you are interested in opening your own private practice you could take courses in the USC Marshall School of Business or if you are interested in health policy you could take courses in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

I wanted to share a little more in-depth about the electives I chose to take this semester to give you a glimpse at all of the hands-on opportunities I’ve had throughout this semester.

OT 561: Occupational Therapy in Acute Care
In this class we have a lecture portion where we learn about the blend between a top-down occupation-based approach and bottom-up systems-based approach within the context of acute care. In addition to the class, we also get to complete a clinical experience portion at Keck Hospital of USC. At Keck, we get hands-on experience working with occupational therapists in a variety of settings. During my clinical experience, I was fortunate enough to see OTs working in various ICUs, neurology, cardiology, and orthopedics.

OT 573: Hand Rehabilitation
Throughout this course we learned how to blend the art and science of hand therapy in order to first be occupational therapists and then hand therapists. It was very hands-on, using case studies, splinting scenarios, and even a functional anatomy super bowl. Our professor taught us about addressing topics such as wound healing, scar management, physical agent modalities, splinting, peripheral nerve injuries, and arthritis — and most importantly, addressing these topics with an occupation-based approach. For my classmates who are interested in pursuing advanced practice in hands, the hours from this class counts towards their education hours!

Student practicing applying a plaster digital cast

One of my classmates, Sarah, practicing applying a plaster digital cast on my finger

OT 574: Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
This course emphasizes using motor control techniques in order to increase engagement in occupations. For the first four weeks of the semester, we focused on learning basic mobilizations and facilitations on each other utilizing handling skills based on the Neurodevelopment Treatment Approach. After this, we had weekly two-hour treatment sessions with our patient models. These patient models are real people who have all experienced a stroke. Each week, we would develop and implement a treatment plan with our patients as well as give them homework to work on.

Students pictured with patient model for motor control course

For our last session with Louis, he taught our group to make cupcakes because one of his goals is to be a chef instructor

My group’s patient, Louis, was one of the best teachers I have had in OT school. He allowed us to try out different treatment ideas and was always so motivated to work with us. I learned how to grade treatment sessions to the “just-right challenge” and always have back-up plans. Most importantly, Louis taught me about resilience and the difference that a positive attitude can make on the recovery process.

OT 575: Dysphagia Across the Lifespan
In dysphagia we learned about the anatomy and physiology of the structures involved in swallowing and how this impacts the occupation of eating. We also learned assessment and treatment strategies for patients of all ages in different settings. Through lectures, case studies, and hands-on techniques we learned about how occupational therapists can have a distinct role in approaching dysphagia management. One of my favorite lectures was on performing oral exams and we even got to test our classmates’ gag reflexes! Luckily, since I am interested in pursuing my advanced practice in dysphagia, this course counts towards 24 out of the 45 hours needed for specialization in California.

Throughout all of my classes in the program at USC there has been a strong emphasis on occupation-based approaches. After all occupation is in our job title! The electives I chose to take took it even further with demonstrating how to stay occupation-based in settings or with populations where a bottom-up, biomechanical model may be more typical. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to customize my coursework with electives this semester to prepare myself for the areas of practice and specialization I am interested in pursuing.

Jessica P.

OT Career Fair: Résumé Advice and Preparation ⟩
April 3, 2019, by Jessica P.

Getting Involved Life Hacks

This past Friday, our division hosted our annual OT Career Fair. We had almost 40 organizations come to speak to and recruit our students for jobs in pediatrics, adult physical rehabilitation, mental health, school-based OT, and more! For me, it was a great opportunity to network and see what the job market is like as a new graduate. One of the most helpful parts of the day was getting feedback on my résumé. As an occupational therapy student, my résumé has evolved over the past few years to include to numerous fieldworks and experiences I have had during my time at USC.

Chan's Events Coordinator & Student Ambassadors at the 2019 Career Fair

Chan’s Events Coordinator & Student Ambassadors at the 2019 Career Fair

Putting together an OT résumé for the first time from scratch can be a daunting task so here are my tips on creating your best OT résumé.

Key Elements of a Résumé

  • Contact Info
  • Education
  • Honors/awards
  • Experience
  • Fieldwork
  • Professional associations
  • Additional information (skills, interests)

When writing a résumé, you can edit it to target the specific position you are applying to. Always include your skills and accomplishments rather than just listing your required work duties. Use action words to describe what you have accomplished.

Presentation of a Résumé

  • 1-2 page length
  • Single-spaced
  • No smaller than 10-point font
  • Print on thicker paper

Hopefully if you have a stellar résumé, you are able to secure an interview. One of the most important parts of an interview is preparation.

Interview Preparation

  • Research the company: Know the company’s mission and why you want to work there.
  • Check social media: Learn what the company is really about.
  • Prepare questions for the interviewer: What do you like about working here? How did you get into this line of work? If you weren’t working here where would you be working?
  • Practice interviewing skills: Work with someone who can give you feedback. USC offers mock interviews on connectSC which can help you gain confidence in your answers.

For any interview, remember to always dress your best!

For any interview, remember to always dress your best!

Whether you are a prospective student looking at occupational therapy programs or about to graduate and look for your first job, know that our career outlook is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected 24% growth of OT jobs from 2016-2016. This means that we need more OTs to fill jobs and I know that my classmates and I have been well prepared to be the occupational therapists of the future.

Jessica P.

Good Day Mate: Australian Externship ⟩
March 21, 2019, by Jessica P.

Externships International

If our division hallways have been a little quieter than normal, it’s because us second-years have been away for the past two weeks on our externships. As part of our course OT 540: Leadership Capstone, all students complete an externship. This is a student-driven, create your own experience designed for us to continue developing our leadership and professionalism.

We are able to create an externship that fits our personal interests and career goals, whether that is shadowing an administrator at AOTA to learn more about advocacy, learning more about private practice, volunteering, or traveling to explore occupational therapy in a global context. I had the opportunity to do my externship through our Global Initiatives, run by Dr. Danny Park, to Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia.

Griffith University's Occupational Therapy Department

Griffith University’s Occupational Therapy Department

While at Griffith, five other students and I had the opportunity to sit in on classes and go to clinical site visits. It was such an incredible experience to be able to compare global perspectives on occupational therapy. While there were differences between OT in Australia and the United States, it was more similar than different. Griffith’s courses also utilize team-based learning like we do here at USC. This means that much of their class time is spent doing case-study applications and using standardized patients.

Through our clinical site visits, I got to experience the continuum of care in Australia, specifically in the context of universal healthcare. It was amazing to see many of their brand-new hospitals and shadow occupational therapists there.

Visiting Headspace, an outpatient youth & adolescent mental health site

Visiting Headspace, an outpatient youth & adolescent mental health site

Visiting Queensland Children's Hospital's therapy rooftop

Visiting Queensland Children’s Hospital’s therapy rooftop

My externship team and I also gave a presentation on USC’s academic programs, comparing American and Australian OT, and advice for fieldwork placements.

Our two-week externship was also conveniently right next to spring break so four of my classmates and I traveled throughout Australia. We were able to explore Sydney and Melbourne, taking advantage of everything Australia has to offer . . . especially the Tim Tams!

Sydney Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Meeting one of my favorite animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Meeting one of my favorite animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Scuba diving in Gold Coast

Scuba diving in Gold Coast

Ziplining in Mount Tamborine

Ziplining in Mount Tamborine

I feel so grateful to be a part of a program that not only allows us this opportunity but pushes us out of our comfort zones to grow professionally and personally. My time in Australia will forever be one of the most memorable parts of my OT education. I know no matter where I am in the world, I am entering one of the most rewarding and amazing professions with the best people.

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