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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


Before I Let Go . . . One Last Blog ⟩
May 14, 2019, by Serena

Diversity Videos

It is nearly unbelievable to think that my time in USC’s Occupational Therapy Master’s program is coming to an end. And Before I Let Go . . . I had to post one last time about my graduation ceremony and a surprise Beyoncé dance video that is near the end of the blog!

At USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony in a feeling of utter bliss and joy after receiving my master’s degree and Award for Professional Promise and Personal Excellence

It is a bittersweet feeling to come to the end of a program that has given me so much! One of the most difficult parts is saying goodbye to the friends and mentors that I have made while in the program.

At USC’s Black Graduate ceremony with Miriam Brown and Natasha Strickland

At USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony with another student ambassador and friend, Jessica Pederson

With a few of my friends and cousin at USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony

At USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony with a few of my mentors (top to bottom, left to right): Dr. Stefanie Bodison, Dr. Julie McLaughlin Gray, Ms. Bianca Ojeda, and Dr. Camille Dieterle

I am thankful to have received a master’s degree but I am most grateful for the lifelong friendships I have formed and mentors I have gained while in the program. We have memories, pictures, and videos that we will cherish forever. In honor of graduation here is one of my favorite videos some of my friends and I put together with the help of our friend in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Lastly, I would like to thank my family for supporting me during my OT and life’s journey. At a time of great accomplishments comes the need to remember how you achieved your successes. Without my family I would not be who I am or where I am today. As OTs we know that the community and social supports play a huge role in quality of life and health. My personal accomplishments will always and forever be my community’s accomplishments, my family’s accomplishments. 

At USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony with my family (left to right): my dad, baby sister, me, mom, and middle sister

At USC’s Occupational Therapy Graduation ceremony with other family members (left to right): grandfather, mom, me, and aunt

My graduation cap decorated by my mother in memory of my grandmother who instilled courage, exceptional work ethics, and kindness into my heart

Thankfully, I will be staying at USC for another year to complete my doctorate at USC’s Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice (OTFP). At the OTFP I will be pursuing my interests in health and wellness by receiving mentorship while delivering Lifestyle Redesign® interventions to promote healthier habits and routines.

Fight On!


Festival of Books with USC’s President ⟩
April 22, 2019, by Serena

Getting Involved Living in LA

USC’s OT department went all out at this years annual Festival of Books event on USC’s main campus! We had many free educational, stress relieving, and fun-filled activities. We had stations where the public could create stress balls, scented lotion, and hot/cold packs. Occupational therapists from USC’s OT Faculty Practice were giving information on how to develop healthier eating and exercise habits. The USC Occupational Science research team was also giving out information on carpal tunnel. We even have an area where children were playing on the gym equipment or playing with the water beads, play dough, and moon sand! As you can probably imagine our booth was filled with people from all ages and interests. It was so great that even USC’s President, Dr. Wanda Austin, had to stop by and check out all of our stations.

USC Occupational Therapy Student Ambassadors with USC’s President Dr. Wanda Austin at the Festival of Books!

USC Occupational Therapy Student Ambassadors with USC’s President Dr. Wanda Austin at the Festival of Books!


Culturally-Informed Healthcare: Modifying treatment to match the needs of the community. ⟩
April 1, 2019, by Serena


One of the many benefits of attending USC’s OT program is having the ability to attend other healthcare department’s events. Ms. Gwendolyn Flynn, the former policy director of the Community Health Council, presented at USC at an event hosted by USC’s Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and USC’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA). Although the groups are apart of the medical school, the students welcomed me to join the presentation as an occupational therapy student.

She spoke on the health inequities experienced within the Black communities due to the inaccessibility of whole plant-based foods. She highlighted the higher rates of lifestyle related chronic conditions in the Black community such as obesity and high blood pressure. In addition, she presented information on the food deserts (now more accurately called food apartheids) found in urban communities such as higher rates of liquor stores and lower frequencies of supermarkets with fresh produce. At the end of her presentation she made 5 recommendations for healthcare professionals to address this issue, which I have listed below.

  1. Emphasize disease prevention and wellness programs.
  2. Partner with local community organizations (i.e., Healthy Food Zones) in order to advocate for policy change. If you are unable to join then write letters, set up a meeting, or make a public testimony to show that this change matters because your voice is influential.
  3. Promote nutrition education classes/ workshops in order to make the knowledge more applicable to patients’ everyday lives.
  4. Write food and exercise prescriptions to change lifestyle (i.e., a prescription to go to the gym). I would like to add to make that prescription something meaningful and doable, think SMART goal.
  5. Give out recommendations such as books and documentaries while in practice to help inspire and further educate your clients on the benefits of lifestyle changes.

Ms. Gwendolyn Flynn, the former policy director of the Community Health Council, presented at USC at an event hosted by both USC’s Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and USC’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA).

It was really motivating and inspiring to receive information on specific actions that I can take to combat the increase of chronic conditions within my own culture. As I come closer to gaining my OT license, I am looking forward to the ability to serve the community with the recommendations the community has given me and then combining it with my educational, volunteer, and life experiences.


Health and Wellness in Australia ⟩
March 19, 2019, by Serena

Externships International

Where did I go for externship?

So I traveled internationally for my first time! I participated in the Global Initiatives student exchange program in Australia at Griffith University for the Leadership Capstone course. I was able to develop a stronger ability to connect with people from other parts of the world, enhance my leadership qualities, and heighten my awareness of the Australian occupational therapy and occupational science cultural differences and similarities. My time was spent observing and shadowing occupational therapists specifically in the Gold Coast in settings such as acute care, emergency, community, persistent pain services, children’s hospital, geriatric, and emerging areas focusing on health and wellness.

How did I decide where to go for the externship?
The externship is so incredible because you are able to travel anywhere in the world to strengthen your understanding of OT leadership. Some of my friends like Joyce went to Ghana and others stayed within the Los Angeles area like Evan, Melissa and Goeun. The reason why I decided to go to Australia is due to my passion for health and wellness.

I have been following an occupational therapist, Mrs. Jacqueline Edser, who I admire via the Internet for over a year now. I decided to apply for the Global Initiatives externship in Australia when I noticed that Mrs. Edser was less than an hours drive from the partnered University. I immediately reached out to her and she was happy to meet! She is an Occupational Therapy member of the Australian Lifestyle Medicine (LM) Association and is currently utilizing her OT skills while delivering LM interventions to employees of the bus and train systems in Australia. She is an occupational therapy leader within the Australian country by focusing on an area of need that is at times overlooked and not staffed with an OT to address preventative healthcare needs. After learning from her, I aspire to take the leadership skills she has given me to deliver occupational therapy informed lifestyle interventions to the population in my surrounding American community.

Meeting with Mrs. Jacqueline Edser, an occupational therapist at Burleigh Beach in Australia for the Leadership Capstone externship.


Black College Expo ⟩
February 5, 2019, by Serena

Admissions Diversity

Increasing diversity within the OT profession at the Black College Expo!
What a great way to start off Black History Month! Last year I attended the 2018 Black College Expo, a couple of months ago I attended the Latino College Expo, and this past weekend I was at the 2019 Black College Expo! The annual event is held at the LA Convention Center to increase Black students’ awareness of and acceptance into higher education. It was an honor and joy to be able to mentor college, high school, middle school, and even elementary school students at such a life-changing and well put on event! So many incredible memories were made today, one of which I would love to share about a very bright 4th grader I met.

Future OT: At the age of 9
As I saw a little girl approach the USC OT booth, I immediately became very excited! I mean, I wish someone would have told me about OT while I was in elementary school. I asked her, “Do you know what Occupational Therapy is?” And she replied, “No.” So I then asked, “What do you like to do?” And she said, “I like to play on my iPad.” And I said “Well, if you were to get sick and not be able to play on your iPad then occupational therapists would help you play on your iPad.” She instantly grabbed an OT flyer and clipped an OT pin to her jacket.

After I gave her a more in depth description of OT, she left . . . and then quickly came back with her dad. By the end of the conversation we had planned for her to tour USC’s Health Science Campus to learn more about OT and the various fields of healthcare at the young age of 9!

Thank You!
I am so grateful for events such as the Black College Expo for allowing me to have these wonderful experiences and for having USC’s Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science program in attendance. The other OTs and student ambassador present made the experience that much more special by spreading their love for OT. By attending, we were of course having a great time and helping students find their passions, while addressing AOTA’s Vision 2025 by working on one of the 5 pillars, diversity.

Looking forward to next year!

USC occupational therapists and occupational therapy student ambassadors at the Black College Expo Event at the Los Angeles Convention Center

USC occupational therapists and occupational therapy student ambassadors at the Black College Expo Event at the Los Angeles Convention Center. From left to right: Natasha Strickland (OTD student), Serena Hobson (me), Melissa Martinez (student ambassador), Diego Lopez (OTD student), and Laryssa Green (OTD student).

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