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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Refining My Leadership Skills — Externship In LA ⟩
April 3, 2019, by Melissa

Externships Living in LA

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.


Externship: Opportunity to Explore What I’ve been Interested ⟩
April 1, 2019, by Goeun


In the Leadership Capstone Course, I had a chance to participate in a two-week externship to learn communication and leadership skills. I went my leadership externship in the USC Davis School of Gerontology, National Resource Center on Supportive Housing & Home Modification, and Fall Prevention Center of Excellence. I chose the site as I’ve been interested in home modifications since I was in my country, Korea. I was working in a hospital as an occupational therapist and after patients were about to be discharged, they naturally planned to move to other hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, or rehabilitation centers. However, after their stay at other facilities, they need to go back to their homes anyway and I could not help patients to go through the process and build a bridge for them. That brought me interests in home modifications but since there hasn’t been any research or resources about it, I had less chance to explore.

Thankfully, now I’m here, and the USC Davis School of Gerontology, they are well-known for home modifications and fall prevention which is a key factor in home modifications. Moreover, from January, I’ve been taking the Executive Certificate in Home Modification Program from the USC Davis School of Gerontology, so I wanted to learn more from them.

During the externship, I did a lot of research regarding home modifications in general, assessment tools in home environments and fall prevention, health-related issues about Asian-Americans and home modifications related specifically. Also, I had an opportunity to attend a class, Housing, and Community Policies and Program. In that course, I visited an assisted living facility for older adults with dementia or other physical problems. The other thing that I did was interviewing and meeting various professions. I was able to interview gerontologists from different settings, an occupational therapist and a building contractor. By talking with them, I was able to listen to different perspectives and advocate what occupational therapy is especially for students who are not familiar with it. The good thing was that people that I interviewed already knew about occupational therapy and our roles as well. Lastly, I combined and synthesized what I have done and set goals in short-term and long-term.

It was a precious experience to learn more about what I’ve been wanting to know and I hope I can expand later in the future!

With Dr. Pynoos, who is a pioneer in home modifications.

I took a picture with Dr. Pynoos who is a pioneer in home modifications.


Ghana Part 1 — Cultural Exposure ⟩
March 26, 2019, by Joyce

Diversity Externships International

Hello everybody! It feels weird blogging again because of the long hiatus but boy do I have things to share with you! As you probably have read about already, the second years were away on externships + spring break these past few weeks. While Jessica and Serena went to Australia, Melissa stayed local, I decided to go to Ghana.

I’m splitting this topic of externship into various posts because there are just so much that I want to highlight about this experience and I want to make sure to create the time and space that they deserve. To talk about my experience, I need to go a few years back to the beginning of it all . . .

Alumni and therapist, Bonnie Nakasuji has been coming to Ghana for two decades. In partnership with the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC), a school and vocational training center for children with disabilities, Bonnie has garnered a close relationship to bring USC OT students. It was once a level 1 fieldwork opportunity now a leadership externship location.

So what was our purpose there? Firstly, Cultural Exposure.

Bonnie as well as the other co-leading therapists, Jenna Kobara and Mariko Yamazaki, have taught us about the importance of sustainability and empowerment. We all have this righting reflex embedded within us, especially as future healthcare professionals, to fix things, whether that’s through offering advice or materials. Instead, the therapists encouraged us to be comfortable in the stillness of the uncomfortable. As Americans, regardless of whether we were Asian or Hispanic, etc. as Americans, we are all called “obrunis”, to which the term has evolved from meaning white person to a privileged, educated, rich person. It is our responsibility to acknowledge that privilege and the cultural differences when stepping into into another culture.

I strongly believe that short term trips like this are not served to drastically change a community, let alone a country’s way of life. Moreover, we as visitors are actually disruptive to this school’s daily routine. For two weeks, they had to accommodate the meals and living arrangement of a team of 40 Americans. I believe that this experience was meant for students to experience and become exposed to the different occupations in a different culture.

Bonnie gave a great example which made me reflect and think about how the things we do as Americans can make waves of effects that are often unseen. She told us how sometimes she feels uncomfortable bringing shoe donations to MTC. While it’s great that the students receive often new shoes to wear for free, we are disrupting the economic flow. Now these students and their families are not spending money at their local shoemakers and these shoemakers will feel the effects, challenging their ability to make money. In addition, how long can one pair of shoes sustain a child? It’s more powerful to work with individuals with what they have and where they are at, something that I have learned must be applied when working in a client-centered profession, meet your clients where they are at, not where you want them to be at!

When observing both the occupational therapists and physical therapists community consultations, I realized that they were very intentional in using assessments that could be understood regardless of culture and language barriers. They also provide education to the child, parent, caregiver, brother, sister, aunt, etc. so that this training and education can sustain the therapy even when they weren’t there.

In addition, I love how we as tourists were able to contribute to the economy. First, a sister of the principal of MTC, a seamstress came by MTC with her measuring tape and differently patterned fabrics. All students and therapists bought fabric and service in creating us individualized pieces. I was so excited for this part . . . to have a dress that will fit me all in the right places is something I have never experienced before!

Secondly, at the end of our externship, we went shopping at the local crafts village. I bought some cute earrings and leather sandals. It was also fun to participate in their cultural norm of bargaining to which Bonnie added, “It would be rude to not bargain!” I had so much fun conversing with store owners, asking them where they got/made the items, learning their language, and bargaining for a lower price. What an experience!!

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.


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

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

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