Finding My Calling: Journey to Occupational Therapy from the Heart of the Philippines ⟩
January 25, 2024, by Jared
Six years ago, I strolled along the dirt road with my mom and sister to visit the province in the Philippines where my relatives still live. Around me were homes made of crumbling concrete and tarped roofs, and fences made of plastic water bottles. Kids were running around barefoot and the broken eyes of titas and titos were trying to sell the last of their produce for the day. But behind the exterior of hardship, the Filipino culture was alive and well. Children danced traditional Filipino dances, elders played rich music once played by their ancestors, and lolas sang to the whole province on their outdated karaoke machines. The sight of a colorful culture thriving despite the poverty that surrounded my own people was not only inspiring, but life-changing in terms of my future goals of being an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy is still in its early stages of development in the Philippines. Upon our visit to the therapy clinic where my aunt worked, I observed a modest setting — a plain room with limited equipment — where therapeutic interventions were provided to a diverse range of Filipinos. As I watched therapists treat patients, I remember feeling deeply troubled watching a young man who needed maximum assistance to move a rock from one area on a table to another. But even more so, I noted that these rudimentary interventions could be transferable and more widely used.
My aunt shared insights into the challenges faced by many individuals in the Philippines who struggle to resume their regular routines after experiencing physical disabilities. This difficulty arises from the inadequate access to proper care in medical facilities. The combination of impoverished living conditions and a shortage of occupational therapists contributes to a scenario where preventable disabilities go untreated.
Initially, I found her statements perplexing, especially considering that the interventions observed involved simple materials such as rocks, cups, and paper. However, upon reflection, I came to understand the larger issue at hand. The simplicity of the therapeutic materials highlighted not only a lack of awareness about occupational therapy in the country but also a lack of advocacy. This gap was particularly evident in impoverished areas, including my family’s province, where individuals faced challenges accessing essential rehabilitative services.
Although my experience at my aunt’s clinic in the Philippines was brief, it left a lasting impact on determining the focus in my future occupational therapy career. As someone who is constantly inspired by the beauty of my own culture, I realized that I wanted to help people carry on traditions that gave them purpose, whatever their background. In undergrad, I adopted a Philippine Studies minor and served on the executive board of Kasamahan, the University of San Francisco’s Filipino cultural organization — this has given me a holistic perspective of how people’s engagement in their culture can deeply affect their quality of life. These experiences solidified my desire to give client-centered interventions that help the individual stay as connected to their occupations as possible, whether they are cultural or not.
Equally important, I want to use my awareness of negatively perpetuated systems in both the United States and Philippines to advocate for the profession and bring awareness to the field. From the occupational therapists that I have shadowed under during fieldwork and volunteering, I’ve learned how simple yet life-changing interventions can be. From analyzing post rotary nystagmus in children on the Autism spectrum to teaching older adults how to safely ambulate with a walker, my experiences have challenged me to explore how interventions can be transferred to communities that are in need of our services.
In developing nations like the Philippines, there is potential to further advocate and educate about occupational therapy to enable individuals to actively consider it as a valuable therapeutic option.
I hope to bring my passion and future knowledge of occupational therapy to the Philippines and eventually be an educator for future generations. This is in hopes that we can reform health care policies to accommodate those from lower socioeconomic classes and render needed professional service.
Through occupational therapy, I have the opportunity to apply the underlying practices and values of the traditions that I hold dear to my heart. My experience in the Philippines, a developing nation rich in cultural tradition has made me appreciate the sacredness as well as the practicality of healing and movement. I am profoundly motivated to help others share this view and work as agents of positive change in the world.
New Year, New Me? ⟩
January 17, 2023, by Tania
Starting a new year can feel weird at times because there is this weird societal pressure of being the best new version of yourself. However, if you ask me, I am already a different person from 5 months ago. In fact, each day we evolve. At times, we sit reminiscing on the things we didn’t accomplish the years before. Our minds go on and on about the should haves and could haves but we don’t have control over those anymore.
Maybe this year is not about reinventing or being the newest best version of yourself but instead about being patient, caring, and loving to the person you are right now. I invite you to instead or in conjunction with writing new year’s resolutions, take the time to celebrate ALL your accomplishments (big and small) and appreciate your life’s journey. This year block the outside noise!
This is because as first-generation, low-income, Latinx students we usually carry the weight of our families. We are forced to create our paths, we navigate unknown territories and we receive plenty of no’s along the way. Being the first in the family to do something different requires many “mistakes” that later turn into lessons for those that come after us. However, the beauty of being a first-generation, low-income, Latinx student is that we don’t take NO for an answer. It may take us longer, it may take us a few tears, and it may take us finding different ways to get there, but we are determined to accomplish what our heads and hearts set themselves to do because our families already sacrifice too much. We know how it was before so the only direction is forward. In my case, little Tania didn’t wake up every day at 3 am to commute across the US-Mexico border for 10 years for today’s Tania to give up now.
Little me would be so proud to see what was once a dream is now a reality. Present day Tania is working towards becoming a doctor in occupational therapy and accepted a paid residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)!
This 2023 there is no newest best version of me and there is no need for the newest best version of yourself either. So as hard as it can be, appreciate the now and be patient with who you are because past you once dreamed of who and where you are today. I’m sure little you is proud of how far you have come and your validation is the one that matters!
Silver Linings ⟩
December 3, 2022, by Aisha
On Thursday, my team and I presented a poster on our community program proposal for our OT 537 course. I felt incredibly proud of the hard work we put into developing a justice-based occupational therapy program called Silver Linings to help previously incarcerated youth successfully reintegrate into the community. Using an occupational therapy lens, we aim to reduce recidivism which is the likelihood of rearrests, and occupational deprivation, which is when external circumstances restrict or limit people’s ability to engage in meaningful activities that promote health and well-being. As many of you may know, youth of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and treated worse than their white counterparts (Gigante et al., 2022). Although this is a proposal for a class project, my team members and I are passionate about increasing access for marginalized groups and promoting occupational justice. Therefore, we would like to see programs like this implemented in the future. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, one of our inspirations and role models in this field, tell us we should make this happen. That moment was invigorating and reignited the drive I felt when I began OT school!
I’m not going to lie; this semester was very challenging. I struggled with imposter syndrome, burnout, and personal issues while balancing family obligations, work, and school. All of these factors impacted my motivation and mental well-being. I’ve had one too many crying sessions while battling self-doubt and the urge to give up.
No matter how challenging a situation is, there are always silver linings. As I write this, I am grateful for my countless blessings this semester. The first is my supportive family, friends, peers, and professors, who constantly encourage me to take care of myself, produce quality work, and remind me of how far I’ve come. I am forever thankful to be surrounded by brilliant human beings who challenge and inspire me to be the best version of myself personally and professionally. Second, I discovered rock climbing, my new hobby and restorative occupation. Lastly, in the field of occupational therapy, where there is only 5% Black representation, I am filled with joy to be in the midst of incredible history in the making.
Gigante, C. I., Rak, K., Kaplan, A., Helmcamp, L., Otoo, C., & Sheehan, K. M. (2022). A community-based youth diversion program as an alternative to incarceration, Illinois, 2017–2019. American Journal of Public Health, 112(9), 1265–1268. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2022.306946
Latinx Heritage Month Celebration ⟩
November 29, 2022, by Tania
Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional (AHTO) is a student organization in the Chan Division, with the goals to improve the educational experience of Latinx students and to provide care/resources to the Spanish-speaking community. We are a group of aspiring OTs passionate about working with underrepresented and underserved communities. AHTO hopes to support the retention of students of color within the division and to advocate for the needs that our community requires. AHTO is a student organization made by the students and for the students.
We all know the importance of representation in higher education and healthcare. Therefore, the AHTO board worked together to create several events in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.
The first event was café con pan dulce, which allowed students to connect over some cafesito and conchitas. That same day during lunch students gathered to play Loteria, which is similar to Bingo.
The next event was Case Studies en Español, and this event was made possible with the collaboration of Dr. Celso Delgado Jr.. Our two presenters, Dr. Marilyn Thompson and Dr. Daniel Padilla reviewed two different case studies in Spanish and provided tips on how to best serve the Spanish-speaking community.
We also had a social at a local Latinx-owned restaurant, Casa Fina Restaurant, to support businesses in the community. We enjoyed good food, good music, and great company. We had over 30 people at the event. It was beautiful to see so many people in one room building community.
We closed the celebration with Dia de Los Muertos. Students enjoyed tamales, pan dulce, and crafts.
AHTO hopes to create a safe space and a home away from home for those in the division. We understand that there have been other Latinx organizations before us that maybe have not lasted, but the fact that an organization keeps arising time by time lets us know the need for support in the division and the willingness of our community.
If you are a student and you are interested in getting involved, stay on the lookout for elections next semester!
If you are staff / faculty and wonder how you can best support our student group here are a few ways:
- Attend our events
- Promote our events
- Advocate for funding for student orgs
- Ask us what we need
Chika with Mika: Life as a Post-Professional Master’s Student 2022 Edition ⟩
November 18, 2022, by Mika
So in Tagalog, chika means “chit-chat”. For this month’s blog post (or rather vlog post), I wanted to chika with you what’s it like to be a post-professional master’s student here in USC Chan! Get to see the Health Science Campus where we have most of our classes and meet some of my friends here in the program. I also shared some clips of my adventures here in LA, particularly in the Grand Central Market, Griffith Park, and Venice Beach!