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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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Externship in Thailand ⟩
April 3, 2013, by Alisa

Externships International School/Life Balance

I can’t believe I got a rare opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Thailand. Of course, I took it and ran with it. 2 weeks of externship and a week of spring break. The goal of the externship was to learn leadership skills, so I reached out to my aunt who is the owner of Sammie and Sandy Beauty Spa and the chairperson of a non-profit organization, Zonta International (Bangkok 7 region). Some of the highlights of my externship were that I got to table a booth for my aunt’s company at the Bangkok International Hair Show and a golf course. Those were two different populations, but I had to utilize my people skills to engage potential customers in our services and products. It was a tough crowd I have to say, but it was still a valuable experience. Zonta International had a Rose Day, where all of the regions met up to represent different ASEAN countries. I got to dress up in Thai traditional clothing and networked with the members through an evening of great food and music while learning about ASEAN countries and potential business opportunities there.


Mujeres Fuertes ⟩
March 19, 2013, by Kendra

Community Externships What are OS/OT?

These last two weeks I have been at my externship. This is our opportunity to ‘bridge the gap’ in our learning or expand upon specific areas of interest before we are released into the wild, wild world of REAL WORK!

I have chosen to focus on learning about the intricacies of creating, operating and funding a non-profit. The non-profit would support the current group a classmate and I run, Mujeres Fuertes. This group is a perfect example of how my education at USC OT has the potential to transfer directly to the real world. We designed the group in our Occupation-centered programs for the community class last fall. The response was so positive, we received funding from a local non-profit to start implementing the group!

Wow, right?!

The group has been an amazing success. Through our needs assessment, we were able to identify that people, specifically women, living in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of LA, have an increased incidence of chronic illness, many of which are lifestyle related and preventable. Every other week we meet with two groups of 10 women for an hour, set goals and learn about stress management, nutrition, and exercise. It’s also an opportunity for the women to become health advocates that promote change at the personal, family, and community level.

We feel so confident a group like this can have rippling effects throughout many communities, we are now taking it to the next level, obtaining more funding and potentially establishing a non-profit. Its a lot to learn, but California is incredibly supportive of little programs like ours.

Each time I feel nervous or overwhelmed, I think of the women who call me their inspiration, that are making small changes every week to improve their lives. I cannot let them down, and I’m grateful for the chance to learn how to run a business, so that I won’t.


Externship Week 1 ⟩
March 7, 2013, by Amber


This week was the first of two that my class is spending away on externship. As part of our Leadership Capstone course, we were given the freedom to create an experience of our choosing to enhance our leadership skills. My classmates are currently all over the world in Ghana, Germany, Costa Rica, Thailand, and all over the United States having once-in-a-lifetime learning experiences.

I have chosen to complete my externship closer to home at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. I am shadowing Dr. Shawn Phipps, an occupational therapist who has excelled as a leader in clinical practice, hospital administration, and professional organizations. He was an occupational therapy supervisor for a decade at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, and now serves as Chief Quality Officer and Associate Hospital Administrator. He recently held the position of President of the Occupational Therapy Association of California, and is on the Board of Councilors in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy here at USC.

In this one short week, I have learned an incredible amount about what it takes to be a leader and hospital administrator. Dr. Phipps’ focus is on spearheading quality improvement initiatives throughout the hospital. Every moment of this week has been an incredible learning experience, but the highlight was being involved in the final stages of planning the Quality Improvement Workshop which Dr. Phipps presented today to a group of individuals from 30 departments within the hospital. My knowledge on this topic grew so much this week that I was able to help hospital managers develop their quality improvement plans at the workshop today. I am eager to see what the next week will bring!


Goodbye, February! ⟩
February 26, 2013, by Paula

Externships Fieldwork School/Life Balance

So here we are, Week 7 of the semester! The Division has been buzzing with visits from AOTA Leadership visits, the AOTA Assembly of Student Delegate elections, and many exciting things coming up. This week is the week-long fieldwork experience for the first years. For the next two weeks, the second years will be out on their externship assignments. After that, we have spring break and then we are nearly to April (Occupational Therapy month) which is jam-packed with events, assignments, presentations and finally, the 2013 AOTA Conference! There are just so many things to look forward to and we all know that the time is going to fly by.

For the externship, many of the second years will be going out of the area, some are returning to the home-state while others are travelling to entirely new places. There is a group of students travelling to Ghana, another group to Costa Rica, and other students will be travelling to China, Thailand, Scotland and Canada. I will be staying in the Los Angeles area and learning more about how occupational therapy services can be better integrated into the palliative care services within an acute pediatric hematology-oncology population. I am very excited to take this opportunity to widen my scope of experience within this population and to find more ways of helping the families involved in such life-changing experiences.

Although it is a challenge, it is so important to not get ahead of yourself (balance, right??). I always take a moment to be sure to be present and appreciative of what is happening today. This has always been something that I need to work on since I tend to be a ‘planner.’ So instead of becoming stressed about “will everything in my externship turn out just as I hope it will?”, or “what will my schedule be during the two weeks away from class?”, I think back on the semester and on the year, and I just slow myself down. This year has been a year of growth for all of my peers. It is awesome to see how everyone interacts in class and in clinical scenarios now that we have gone through the practice immersions and are investigating the elective courses. It has also been amazing to see how viewpoints and career goals change. The different things which I see inspire passion within my classmates is so refreshing. Imagine if we were each interested in the exact same thing. Our practice would never grow and flourish as OT has had the opportunity to do.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire — W. B. Yeats


The Road to Centennial Vision: USC–Thailand Collaborations ⟩
December 17, 2012, by Alisa

Classes Externships International

I recently had a poster presentation for my community programming class! It was super exciting to be able to see the finish products of our semester long work. Throughout the project, I learned that although working independent has its perks and glory, it could be very hard to motivate oneself to do project. No joke. Even though I felt comfortable asking my professor any questions I had, it would have been nice to have a partner whom I could bounce ideas with. So, I’ve learned my lesson, but in case you’re wondering about my project, which I’m really excited about. Here is a little synopsis of it.

Title: The Road to Centennial Vision: USC–Thailand Collaborations

Goal: My goal for this potential collaboration is to help USC occupational therapy students and faculty realize the American Occupational Therapy Association Centennial Vision through expanding international experiences and collaborations in ongoing and future projects in order to become more “globally connected.”


  1. To foster a relationship between USC OT Division and Thai universities and organizations
  2. To address a lack of resources available for students and faculty interested in getting international experience in Thailand
  3. To provide unique opportunities for collaboration in future projects and research
  4. To offer a reference by those interested in joining or creating new programs in Thailand so that they know what services are already being provided, what needs remain, and what   possibilities for collaborations exist
  5. To foster a better understanding of the Thai culture and way of life and promote tourism

One potential collaboration I see happening is with the Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project. Here’s a little more about the project:

From the research that I have gathered, a unique opportunity for collaboration is with the Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project (TETP): an innovative intervention for individuals with autism. The TETP was started in 2007 with a two-fold intention: to sustain conservation and welfare of elephants and address autism. The program has provided a binding force that allows for collaboration across disciplines from researchers, practitioners, and students. The research studies have collected data from participants ranging from 11-19 years old and only female elephants were used. Animals that have been known to provide such therapeutic benefits include horses (hippotherapy) and dogs. Young elephants are used in the program since they tend to be more playful, which is considered a plus when working with children with ASD since they tend to have difficulties engaging in play. According to Zailani (2012), the activities incorporated in the program are preparation (e.g., money management when buying snacks for elephants), sensory integration (e.g., singing the elephant song and riding), social skills (e.g., with each other and elephants), and daily living skills (e.g., bathing and grooming). This program is available for free for children with ASD and has been researched by Dr. Nuntanee Satiansukpon, at Chiang Mai University.

I’m planning to do my leadership capstone in March in Thailand and would love to be able to see this in action. Stay tuned!

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