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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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Externships

Bethany

The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part I >

by Bethany

Admissions Diversity Externships Getting Involved International

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As a Bachelor’s-to-Master’s student, I have been a part of the USC OT community for nearly five years. While learning to call this school home, I have realized that I am so lucky to be where I am. I’ve decided to compile an A-Z list of USC OT attributes that drew me to the program and that I learned as a part of the Trojan Family.

Area — USC is located in the wonderful California city of Los Angeles. Not only can you find a lot of OT volunteer opportunities nearby if you want to check out OT, but you can also drive to the beach, hike to the Hollywood sign, or check out amazing eateries.

Beyond classes — Outside of classes, there are a multitude of student organizations that allow students to encourage growth within the school and also growth in the community we serve.

Creativity — Creativity is so integral to occupational therapy that we have an entire Foundations course on creativity. Not only do we look at crafts occupations, but we use creativity to find new ways to approach and solve problems with engaging in these occupations.

Diversity — Our division places a high value on representation from people of all different backgrounds. Whether it be looking at ethic diversity in admissions, gender representation in OT, or even diversity in ages and stages of life, our students and faculty are open to difficult and perspective-building discussions.

Early Level II — Some OT schools have classwork first and both Level II Fieldwork placements after. But we have our first placement the summer in between academic years, getting to bring our fieldwork experience into our final year of classes to build on that new understanding.

Finances — Funding school can be a difficult discussion. The division offers their own scholarships and financial aid resources. In addition, USC has resources for their students and scholarships through the university itself and other organizations.

Global — Students can expand their global perspective by planning an externship abroad. Or we can increase our understanding of OT around the world through our very own Global Initiatives program!

Hands-on — Whether in labs or in fieldwork or even in practice activities in lectures, I have been grateful for learning-by-doing opportunities. Now in fieldwork, I can see how small activities that we may have done in class can be used with my clients.

Interdisciplinary — We study how OT fits with other health professions, such as PT and social work. Students can also take advantage of other incredible programs at USC by taking electives in other schools, such as the Davis School of Gerontology, the Marshall School of Business, or the Rossier School of Education.

Jobs — There are good job prospects in OT, as it is a quickly growing field. You can also pick up a student worker position while in school, like my job as a student ambassador.

Knowledgeable professors — Our professors are open to talking about coursework and the OT field outside the classroom. They work with us to make sure that we can get a full experience, working with different accommodations needed and through different life circumstances.

Lifestyle Redesign — Lifestyle Redesign was created at USC. Students can both learn about a unique framework and experience it, too. Our faculty practice offers services to students who can experience Lifestyle Redesign and its impact on their lives and occupations as students.

Mental health — This is an area of OT that is not often given enough space, but here, it has its own immersion. After this class, I was more open to the idea of mental health and how occupational therapists can impact mental health and therefore performance in occupations.

New perspectives — In our classes, we discuss how different people would approach different cases and how our various perspectives can be expanded through others’ experiences. We learn from each other to expand our own creative thinking.

Stay tuned for Part II. 😊

Kevin

Ergo Externship >

by Kevin

Externships

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic escalating each day, I had an unforgettable externship experience that kept me uplifted during these difficult times. My original externship plan was to attend an ergonomic certification course in-person and shadow Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS at the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice. As the situation escalated, I chose to do most of my externship remotely from home. Ultimately, I decided on three main objectives for the externship:

1. Become a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist
To kickoff this externship experience, I enrolled in the online version of the CEAS course to increase my understanding of ergonomics and further my professional development. The CEAS taught me the basics of evaluating ergonomic risk factors and areas for improvement in a wide variety of workplace settings including offices, hospitals, and manufacturing plants. While much of the information from the course had been covered in the ergonomic elective, my grasp of ergonomics was strengthened, and I was able to apply what I learned to the shadowing experiences with Dr. Marchioni and in the design of my ergonomic device. Additionally, at the end of the course, I received an official certification to assess workplaces for ergonomics which I hope will be a valuable asset in my future career.

2. Shadow Ergonomic Assessments with Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS
Before the “Stay at Home” order was put into action, I had the opportunity to shadow several ergonomic assessments with Dr. Marchioni. This was an amazing experience because I was able to see everything I had learned from the CEAS course in real world practice from the lens of an occupational therapist. Dr. Marchioni skillfully used her knowledge of ergonomics, activity analysis, and psychosocial factors to deliver comprehensive ergonomic assessments that were tailored to each person in their specific work setting. I was especially amazed at Dr. Marchioni’s ability to impart her own leadership skills on her clients to create “Ergo Leaders” in the workplaces she assessed. An “Ergo Leader” is a person in the workplace who advocates for positive ergonomic changes such as adjusting the lighting in the space or leading periodic stretch breaks. After observing several assessments, Dr. Marchioni gave me the opportunity to assist on an assessment! While I was nervous to jump in so quickly, I took this offer as a leadership opportunity to put my ergonomic education to practice. As we started our assessment, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I had learned over a short period of time and with Dr. Marchioni’s support the assessment went well!

3. Designing and Prototyping a New Ergonomic Device
One of the main goals of my externship was to bring together all the education and shadowing experience to design a new ergonomic device. After over 100 hours of 3D design, prototyping, and feedback sessions with Dr. Marchioni, my final prototype is finished! This device will help people to be comfortable on the go and in shared workspaces. While, I cannot give away the details as I am in the process of obtaining a patent, I will be presenting the device during the Mark and Semira Moshayedi Innovation Competition that is scheduled to be held in April!

Kaho

Throwback Thursday >

by Kaho

Admissions Externships Housing and Transportation International Life Hacks Living in LA What are OS/OT?

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As I was brainstorming what to write for my upcoming blog posts, I found myself at a complete blank. Nothing came to mind. I thought, what unique information can I provide as a student? As an ambassador? Social media chair? Then, a lightbulb switched on. Why don’t I take advantage of the data I’ve learned to analyze this year and make a compilation of other amazing blog posts? So, here we are. Here are the top 10 most popular blog posts from past and current student ambassadors (from Jan 1, 2015 through today), according to page views by you all! There are some oldies but goodies and they’re all definitely worth a read, so check them out.

  1. How to write a personal statement
  2. How to explain what occupational therapy is
  3. A Leadership Externship experience in South Korea
  4. A breakdown of the workload/life of an OT student
  5. Pros and cons of living at Currie Hall
  6. Pros of living in OT House vs. Pros of living somewhere else
  7. A different Leadership Externship experience in South Korea
  8. Pros and Cons of living in OT House
  9. Incorporating yoga into occupational therapy
  10. The role of occupational therapy in oncology

Hope you find these helpful!

Joyce

Ghana Part 2 — Facilitating OT and CBR Collaboration >

by Joyce

Diversity Externships International

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One of the coolest parts of this externship was the fact that we, USC students, were able to participate in one of the leader’s, Jenna Kobara, OTD project. As part of her OTD, Kobara is pushing for interprofessional collaboration between OT students/OTs and community based rehabilitation workers (CBRs). An equivalent of a CBR in the states are the Community Health Workers, many of whom work with spanish-speaking communities, promotores de salud, to support health education and prevention efforts. Similarly, in Ghana, CBRs venture out into the communities, identify individuals with disabilities, and work on educating and building rapport with the community to facilitate inclusivity throughout the village. The community in Ghana is not only the immediate family but also their neighbors!

On the first day of this collaboration, USC students met with the Ghanaian OTs and the CBR students. I worked with my partner, Liliian, to facilitate a discussion about scope of practice and definitions around independence and therapy. Our job was not to lead the discussions but to open the doors for the Ghanaian students to participate and converse with one another. We were able to touch upon several points including the definition of independence, function, and ways for future collaborations.

After about 30 minutes of thoughtful conversation, we moved onto completing a task analysis of tie dying. For the CBR students, this was the first time engaging in task analysis.

I realized that the Ghanaian students were grappling with this novice task of tie dying shirts! It was a new activity for both of them and I believe that while it was new, the students worked well together to task analyze the tying of the rubber bands around the t-shirts.  After task-analyzing together, the MTC students came out to complete the activity with us! This was a great time for the Ghanaian OT and CBR students to interact with MTC students, not to mention, they were a lot more fluent in the local language of Fante so communication was so much smoother!

Seeing all of this unfold, I was in awe and have come to fully understood Bonnie’s mission, “To be out of a job”. Bonnie truly wants to plant the seed of collaboration between Ghanaian professionals to create the sustainability without the help of obrunis.

The next few days, my partner and I worked together with our matched CBR students in their specific community attachments to explore and learn about CBR work. As we engaged and problem solved with different individuals with various diagnosis (ie. CP, lower extremity pain), we made it a point to provide education that can carry with the CBRs for their future clients and to encourage the strength of collaborating with Ghanaian OTs.

It has been such a great experience to get to know our CBR students and how they have come to this profession. For some, it was not their first choice. In their univiersities, they may be placed into a major like occupational therapy or CBR. But even though it wasn’t their first choice to study this specific major, I have heard that many hearts were changed throughout their studies. It allowed students to change their perspectives on what the definition of disability, community integration, and function. I truly enjoyed and was inspired by the work of these students and the passion that they hold to increase awareness and acceptability of individuals with disabilities or illness into their communities. I even have pen-pals from Ghana to continue discussing about OT, CBR, scholarship, funding, NGOs through email 😊

Melissa

Refining My Leadership Skills — Externship In LA >

by Melissa

Externships Living in LA

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Hey everyone! I’m a bit late to the game, as I have yet to post about my externship experience, but this semester has just been so busy! Nonetheless, I wanted to talk to you guys about my decision to stay local for my externship, since the rest of the Ambassadors went abroad! I split my experience into 2 different opportunities, so read on for the specifics of each one!

Shadowing Dr. Katie Jordan at the Chan Division of USC

Dr. Katie Jordan is one of the coolest and most inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my time at USC. She embodies the type of leader that I aspire to be one day, therefore I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how she manages to do it all. Before I go any further, I’m going to list out all of her roles (and I’ll probably miss some): she is a professor in our program, the Associate Chair of Clinical Occupational Therapy in the division, the Director of OT and Speech Therapy at Keck and Norris Hospitals, she works at AOTA on the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, and is the Co-Chair for OTAC’s Practice, Ethics, and Reimbursement Committee. She is also a mentor to residents going through the OTD program, as well as students like me that have an interest in advocacy. On top of all of that, she is an amazing mother and wife.

My interest in meeting with her started back when I was a first year in the program. Whenever I would meet with my mentor, Dr. Jordan’s name would inevitably come up as someone that I should get in touch with. For one reason or another, it never happened, therefore our leadership externship seemed like the perfect opportunity to do reach out and shadow her! I’m so glad that I did, because I learned so much during the short week I spent with her. I went to most of her meetings, got to listen to conference calls, and got to see what each of her roles really entail. It was amazing to see her transition in and out of each of her roles so flawlessly. No matter how crazy her schedule got, she always remained composed, which is something I admired. She speaks with authority but isn’t rude, and represents our profession really well. She is incredibly knowledgeable on all things OT — even on things we all wish weren’t a part of our jobs like dealing with billing and Medicare — and has a great ability of explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.

Shadowing Dr. Jordan taught me about where we can go as OTs as far as leadership goes, but I also learned a lot about the intricacies of her roles, and what it’s like working with large groups of medical professionals that may have differing thoughts on various issues.

Shadowing Terri Nishimura, CEO of Pediatric Therapy Network

I met Terri Nishimura when she was part of a Leadership Panel for our Capstone course this Spring. During the panel, she was very vocal about our responsibility to advocate for our profession, and how becoming politically involved is also really important. As someone who has stayed away from politics for the last couple of years, this was hard for me to accept. However, she made a compelling argument. As the CEO of a non-profit organization, the services she’s able to provide and the funding for those services are all impacted by legislation. Although our state and national organizations do a great job of trying to keep up with all of the political changes that are occurring and advocating for our profession, it is still important for us to be involved as well.

She gave the example of how decades ago, she started a friendship with one of the councilmembers in Torrance (which is where PTN is located). Over the years, he kept advancing in the political world, until he became one of our state senators. There was a bill that was threatening the services OTs could bill for in pediatrics, so she reached out to him and asked that he not only not vote for that bill, but that he help to educate the other senators on the reasons why passing this bill would have negative implications for OT. He happily did so because of their established relationship, and fortunately that bill didn’t pass. She stressed that advocacy isn’t a one-and-done situation, but that we have to put in the time to develop strategic relationships. This story was really impactful for me, because I hadn’t given much thought to what we could do, therefore I was eager to learn more. I approached her after class to ask if she’d be willing to host me for the second half of my externship, and she happily accepted!

During my time with Terri, I got to learn a lot about what it’s like to be a CEO, as well as a leader in the pediatric community. I got to help Terri plan for a legislative reception for OTAC, where I got to meet with many OTs that hold leadership positions within OTAC! I learned who my local, state, and federal representatives are, and how to find that information if I ever need it. Before this experience, I felt like the world of politics was just something I did not want to get involved in. Even if I did, i felt like I wouldn’t know where to start. Thanks to Terri’s guidance, I now have a much better understanding of what we can do and how to do it.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to going abroad and staying local for our externships. Going abroad can be expensive, but we get the opportunity to see what occupational therapy and healthcare look like in different countries! Staying in LA is not nearly as enticing as going abroad, but the connections you make are hopefully some that will last for a lifetime, and can help you when you’re venturing out into the real world as a new grad! In the end, the choice is up to you, but just keep in mind that there are plenty of wonderful opportunities no matter where you go.

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