Next Steps… >
May 9, 2016
So, here we are, final blog post…. I graduate in FOUR DAYS! (WOO!)
I’ve had the most incredible and transformative journey. I pivoted from one career path to come into the OT profession, initially aimed at going into physical rehab, then every semester showed me a new side of OT which flipped my world upside down. Now at the end of my final semester, I find myself interested in bridging between physical rehab and mental health practice, with a touch of primary care. And with one more fieldwork to go, I wonder how my interests will change by the time I take the board exam….
USC Chan has given me more than just clinical skills, but personal and professional life skills as well. If it wasn’t for the tremendous mentorship I received from our stellar faculty, I would not have become so involved with AOTA, which has opened incredible leadership opportunities and experiences, like attending conference to speak in front of hundreds of people, and even representing the OT profession at physical therapy’s national student conclave. Looking back, I can’t believe how much has happened in 2 years… it’s all just flown by!
So, what’s next?
I’ll be at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in their outpatient mental health programs. This includes working with teenagers with behavioral health problems, adults with special needs, and refugees for community integration. I’m SO excited to get started, and looking forward to being back on the east coast. I’m still waiting to hear from residency placements, but I expect to be back in the fall for the OTD program… with how much has happened in these last 2 years, who knows what that year of mentorship will bring as I’ll be a fully licensed occupational therapist!
For those of you just beginning your OT journey, some tips:
1) Get to know your faculty! I remember right at the beginning of the program, Dr. Samia Rafeedie, Director of the Professional Program, said simply: “you’re a student for now, but I see you all as future colleagues”, which really set the tone for the relationships we should develop with our faculty. I’ve made it a point to meet with each of my professors one-on-one at least once per semester. They have invaluable insight and expertise, and their input has been so crucial to my personal growth and success in the program. Make the effort, it’s well worth it! (And don’t worry, they’re all friendly and warm, they’re OTs!)
2) Learn through experience! Our classes are great at setting your foundation for clinical reasoning and developing hard clinical skills through fieldwork, but there is so much more to learn about yourself both personally and professionally through extracurricular experiences. Go to all the seminars, guest lectures, presentations, and the myriad opportunities available to you throughout your time in the program. I’ve continued to learn new skills through some unexpected ways, such as meditation training through my volunteer work with the health promotion office, and presentation skills through my work as an ambassador.
3) Get involved with our professional associations! I cannot stress this enough! Being a part of the OT profession means being a member of your professional associations at the state and national level. Not only do they act as your professional insurance to protect the work we do as OTs, but there are really great opportunities for learning and networking. Which leads me to:
3.5) Go to conferences! They’re super fun, but also give you a chance to feel part of the greater OT community. Go to the mixers and networking events, attend sessions of interest - I’ve made so many good friends from attending conferences. That’s where I meet the OTs who have similar interests as me, and who have offered invaluable advice going through the process. While there are lots of conference and symposium opportunities, attending at least once AOTA national conference is a must!
And finally, 4) RELAX. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and workload of school, but remember to take time to take care of yourself. We talk about balance a lot as OTs, make sure to apply that to yourself. Keep up with leisure and recreational activities, make time for friends and family, and give yourself permission to enjoy a delicious meal and a good night’s rest.
Ok, one more — 4.5) Celebrate your successes! You’re going to work hard, savor the fruits of that labor!
Oh, and always… FIGHT ON!
Touring with Homeboys >
April 27, 2016
This morning I had the pleasure of leading a campus tour for clients from Homeboy Industries.
Homeboy Industries is an incredible organization whose mission is “to help formerly gang involved and the previously incarcerated, by offering hope, training and job skills. Our goal: To help former gang members redirect their lives and become contributing members of their families and our community.” They offer a variety of services & programs for education, employment, legal services, as well as mental health services. They also have several social enterprises where they employ and provide job training to former gang members and previously incarcerated people.
The group I led today was from their Pathways to College program, which provides support and education in pursuit of college degree programs. The students had a variety of interests and had never heard of Occupational Therapy, so it was a great opportunity to share with them this potential profession. They were also interested to hear about the clients I’ve worked with who had been involved in gangs and had previously been incarcerated.
We had such a great time, that they offered to swap roles and give me a tour of their facilities soon!
Fun Fridays: Fave Occupations Edition >
April 22, 2016
To cap off our Lifestyle Redesign course, we develop our own 5 week group program as a team. Each team gets to decide the theme or lifestyle area they want to address as a group; some group topics include “sensory strategies for wellness”, “life management skills (e.g. finances, time management, etc)”, and “healthy eating”. My group theme is “exploring recreation”, so each week, one of us leads the rest of the group in trying out a new recreational or leisure activity. Here’s a peak at some faves:
I kicked off our 5 week program by teaching the group one of my favorite occupations: Slacklining!
We caused quite a scene in front of our building to the point that our Occupational Science professor, Don Gordon, came out to join the fun!
Last week, my classmate, Talin, led 5 of us in one of her favorite occupations: belly dancing.
Check us out with our hip scarves! Our Lifestyle Redesign professor, Camille Dieterle, joined us in the dance too, but we were having too much fun to take any action shots.
Our group is also going to explore cooking, coloring, and gymnastics. It’s a really fun class, but I’m about ready for a nap…
#AOTA16 - Trojans take on Chicago >
April 15, 2016
It’s my favorite time of year!
Last week was the AOTA National Conference in Chicago, IL. This conference is the largest gathering of OT practitioners, researchers, and students in the world, with an estimated attendance of over 10,000 people!
USC Chan is world known for our contributions to research & practice through global leadership and innovation. It’s so exciting to meet Trojan alums who are blazing new trails in OT practice and leading the profession in local, state and national organizations. There were over 100 Trojans speaking at conference, myself included, and several alums receiving prestigious awards such as the AOTA Roster of Fellows Award, and the AOTA-AOTF Presidents’ Award.
As the Chair for AOTA’s Assembly of Student Delegates, I preside over an annual meeting with students from OT & OTA programs across the country.
Aren’t we a fun looking bunch? The Assembly brings the student perspective to AOTA at large, and also acts to bring AOTA initiatives & opportunities to students around the country. There are 3 Trojans on the Assembly Steering Commitee: Myself as the Chair, Ellen Wleklinski MA ‘15 and current OTD student as the OT Vice Chair, and Lizzie Peters MA ‘16 as the Secretary. We also have 2 USC Student representatives in the photo: Kelsey Peterson, current first-year, and Ann Borreson, current second-year.
AOTA President, Ginny Stoffel, addresses over 10,000 attendees.
Lizzie and I with Heather Thomas, USC Alum MA ‘98, and California representative to AOTA’s Representative Assembly (basically AOTA’s “congress”).
Keynote speakers: Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downs shared their experience with Occupational Therapy after surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. #BostonStrong (You can read more on their story here).
New practitioners share stories of their transition from student to full-time practitioners. Ellen Wleklinski (middle of panel) shares her experience as an OTD Resident at USC Keck Medical Center.
Line up of previous awardees of the Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecture, one of OT’s highest awards given to those who have “creatively contributed to the development of the body of knowledge of the profession through research, education, and/or clinical practice”. USC Chan’s Associate Dean, Florence Clark is the 4th person from the left; other USC winners include: A. Jean Ayres, Ruth Zemke, Wilma West, Mary Reilly, and Elizabeth Yerxa, among others.
Me and Susan Lingelbach, USC MA ‘13, AOTA Emerging Leader, and the former chair for the Assembly. We’re keeping this USC leadership legacy going strong!
Dancing off until next year’s Conference!
Where Should I Live? Part 2: University-Housing Edition >
January 29, 2016
Earlier this week, Ariel wrote a great post about housing and her deciding factors when looking for a place to live. Her post is very thorough, so click that link to check it out. I’m chiming in to give the flip perspective as someone currently living in USC housing near the University Park Campus (UPC).
I’m originally from NY, but I’ve been living in LA since 2003, and pretty much lived all over it: West Hollywood, Silverlake, Downtown LA, and Monterey Park/San Gabriel Valley… and now back to USC housing. I don’t live in the OT house, but I live in another graduate student apartment building across the street from it. This gives me all the same benefits that Ariel mentioned (gotta love sharing books!), but I also get my own space in my one bedroom apartment. You can read up on more of the university housing options and amenities, such as internet, premium cable, etc, on the housing website. UPC is ~15 minute drive to the OT building (or take the USC shuttle, which is really convenient!), and is conveniently located next to several public transit options as well as freeways to connect to the other parts of the city.
I went to USC for undergrad, so I’m already very familiar with the campus and its resources. I first came back into USC housing last year as an RA (Resident Assistant); I really enjoyed doing the whole RA-thing with my sophomore kiddos, and the free housing and meal plan were a nice bonus. However, I decided to stay in USC housing for a few specific reasons:
#1 Easy Access to the University Park Campus
I love living close to the University Park Campus and all of its resources. There’s tons of art & cultural events, free movie screenings, sports matches, and all sorts of great events. I also volunteer on campus with the Office of Wellness & Health Promotion as a Wellness Advocate, facilitating meditation workshops; I also volunteer with the Lambda LGBT Alumni Association where I mentor undergraduate LGBT students in all areas of life, particularly professional development.
I just love the energy on this campus from all the different types of people (students, faculty, staff, etc), and the different disciplines/fields that people are a part of. Football tailgates and other social events are a great time, and we often walk over from the OT House en masse to the free events on campus. Through the Visions & Voices arts initiatives on-campus, I’ve seen spoken word performances, Ira Glass do a live podcast, live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in NY, and seen free shows at the LA Philharmonic, Pantages Theater, and Ahmanson Theaters.
Oh, and I love swimming and the various athletic options at UPC. I’ve gone dancing with the salsa club, gone shooting with the archery club, and taken free yoga classes.
#2 Leasing Follows the Academic Calendar
This is a big bonus for me. Since I’m from out of town, I knew coming into the program that I would want to do my Level 2 Fieldwork experiences outside of LA. Since the USC apartments are tied to our academics, I don’t need to find subletters for the months that I’m out of town on fieldwork. They simply ran my lease August-May when I was in class, then let me out from May-August when I was at Level 2 Fieldwork. The same thing will happen this year, and for my OTD year, I don’t know where I’ll be because I haven’t confirmed a residency site/dates just yet… but whenever I do confirm it, the university will adjust my lease accordingly (whether that means staying shorter or longer).
#3 The Trojan Family
USC students & alums form an incredible community known as the Trojan Family, and being near UPC is a great chance to feel a part of this larger Trojan network. Whether you’re near campus or out in LA, you’re a part of this amazing family alongside A. Jean Ayres, John Wayne, Shonda Rhimes, Neil Armstrong, over 400 Olympian athletes, among others. Make the most of your time at USC, and…