You, Me, and the OTD >
September 5, 2021
Being a Master’s student at USC Chan was an amazing experience filled with lots of learning, involvement in an amazing community, and one-of-a-kind experiences. So there’s no surprise that making the decision to apply and complete the Post-Professional OTD was quite simple. To me, this program means more than continuing my course of study or earning the distinction of “Dr”. To me, this program is all about personal and professional growth! Over the course of this next year I hope to work to reach a place where I will be prepared to achieve my professional goals and transform into the best therapist that I can be.
Along with choosing to complete the OTD with the above in mind, I could not pass up the opportunity for the amazing mentorship opportunities that are built into the program! Through my fieldwork experiences during the Entry-Level Master’s program I learned that I really really (really) love acute care OT. As I did my research on the different residency tracks offered, I was looking for an experience that would allow for specialized mentorship. I wanted a track that could support me while I work on my weaknesses and amplify my strengths to help me become a better therapist within my specific setting. The advanced clinical practice track consisted of everything that I was looking for and proved to be the perfect fit for me.
In the time preparing to embark on this journey and in the very short time since classes have begun, I have gained a deeper understanding of what I want to get out of this experience and ultimately made important decisions about my future career. That is honestly the biggest difference between the Master’s program and the OTD program. As a OTD resident you have the opportunity to decide and design your experience, from the practice context to your focus during your doctoral year. This freedom to tailor your residency plan is what makes this experience so meaningful and unique. And don’t worry, if the sound of that much freedom is off-putting to you, you are not alone during this experience!
Through all of the moments of feeling overwhelmed, doubting myself, and wondering if I would be able to find a residency site that was everything I wanted, I am so grateful that I stayed the course and found the site that is perfect for me! I have already gained so much so early in this journey and am excited to see where it takes me. More than anything, I am excited to be your OTD ambassador and be a part of your OTD journey as well!
Vivir Con Diabetes >
May 25, 2021
by Global Initiatives Team
By Stephanie Gomez-Rubalcava and Liz Rivera
Professional Master’s students
Vivir Con Diabetes (in English: “Living With Diabetes”) is a community service project that we have been hosting as a part of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. This fellowship requires students to collaborate with a community site and create a project that caters to the needs of an underserved population. Our project was tailored to service individuals in the local, Spanish-speaking community of Boyle Heights who have been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type II diabetes. We believe that there is an increased need for healthcare providers who can implement culturally-sensitive interventions.
This program was started in 2018 by an occupational therapy student in the Chan Division, David Saldana. It was then continued the following year by Daniel Padilla Vega and Cecilia Garcia. We began as volunteers for the program in 2019 and were awarded the Schweitzer Fellowship in 2020. With USC OT students receiving this fellowship for the third year, it provided us the opportunity to continue expanding this amazing work. Our sessions covered topics related to lifestyle modifications to improve diabetes management such as: stress management, mental health, sleep hygiene, and increasing understanding of what it means to be diagnosed with diabetes. We really wanted to focus on prevention for those diagnosed with prediabetes and on modifying the habits and routines of those diagnosed with diabetes. In previous years, these sessions were hosted in person at our project site, the LAC+USC Wellness Center, but due to the global pandemic, we had to host the sessions virtually.
Although over the last year we faced several challenges in delivering the diabetes management content via Zoom, there were some great benefits to conducting this program virtually. Some of the challenges included making the program accessible for our target population, participant difficulties navigating Zoom, and internet connectivity issues. The silver lining to all of these challenges was that over the weeks, we created a family-like, virtual community and provided participants with space to reflect on their health goals. Many of them mentioned that our Saturday sessions were the only time they dedicated to themselves, and so we decided to incorporate at least 10 minutes of mindfulness/yoga activities to each session. We also provided every participant with at least one free, at-home hemoglobin A1c test to screen for diabetes.
Although a couple of weeks ago we celebrated our final Vivir Con Diabetes session, we are truly grateful for the opportunity to learn with and from our participants. As soon-to-be Latina graduates of occupational therapy, we are excited to continue working with our Latinx community in our future careers and helping them bring about positive and meaningful change in their lives. Lastly, Stephanie Perez, a previous volunteer of Vivir Con Diabetes, has recently been awarded a 2021-2022 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (see contact information below). We are excited for her to bring innovative ideas to the program, and we encourage current or incoming students to contact her for an opportunity to volunteer with her project during the Fall and Spring semesters. Thank you to our mentor Dr. Jesus Diaz, Daniel, Cecilia, and all of our 2020-2021 student volunteers for making this program possible. Fight on Trojans!
A Week in the Life: OTD Residency Edition >
April 30, 2021
As I prepare to go into the last semester of my OTD Residency, I wanted to share with you all what a typical week looks like for me. Completing my residency at the LAC+USC Primary Care Adult West Clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a student, and now licensed occupational therapist.
I hope you find this vlog helpful and enjoy it!!!
Fighting Feelings of Imposter Syndrome During Fieldwork >
April 9, 2021
Just last week, I completed my first Level II Fieldwork at Prototypes: A Program of HealthRIGHT 360! I was placed with the agency’s Adult Full Service Partnership (FSP) Program and Children’s Program where I was able to provide individualized occupational therapy services to clients across the lifespan who struggle with mental health concerns, needs, and barriers.
This was my first full-time fieldwork placement. I was expected to be there every day from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, whereas my previous Level I Fieldwork placements did not require me to come as often. Although I had heard amazing things about Prototypes from previous fieldwork students, I knew that things would be different given the pandemic situation, and also just that everyone’s experience is different. I was feeling anxious about taking on telehealth services, potentially meeting clients in-person, documentation, and more. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the team or if I was going to represent OT well enough in the mental health field. The imposter syndrome was real. However, after my first few weeks of fieldwork, those feelings of impostorism gradually began to fade away. I was able to build my confidence to thrive in what turned out to be a beyond-stellar fieldwork experience.
My clinical instructor (CI) was the only occupational therapist at my site, but they truly advocated and raised OT awareness within our client and provider population. I am so fortunate to have had their supervision because they helped further my understanding of what occupational therapy’s role in mental health is. I also appreciated how they always challenged me to ask questions and tested my clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills. At first, I was nervous about making mistakes, but I kept reminding myself that it’s okay and that I should take those as opportunities to learn and grow. Additionally, with the rest of the agency team (inclusive of case managers, clinicians, administrative support and program directors), I felt very well supported and empowered to make an impact as an occupational therapy fieldwork student. It wasn’t long after the beginning when I started to more confidently plan clients’ treatments, document my sessions, present cases to my fellow colleagues, and really highlight the unique capacity of occupational therapy within the mental health community.
It was this sense of community and appreciation for OT that made me feel like I belonged, and uplifted me to bring my skills and knowledge of resources to the table. I was able to creatively collaborate with my caseload of clients to address hygiene management, budgeting their finances, accessing resources, accountability with task completion, social participation, engaging in habit change, and building and maintaining routines so that they can independently participate in their daily lives. I realized that this is the beautiful work of occupational therapy in mental health (and of course there’s so much more to it)! These are meaningful occupations that may be difficult for individuals to participate in because of their mental health needs and barriers. As occupational therapists, we have the power to use occupations as a means and as an ends, as well as to support our clients with health promotion and education, holistic interventions, and our therapeutic use of self.
Overcoming self-doubt and persevering through my own imposter syndrome enabled me to come out of this fieldwork with a wealth of insight, about OT and about myself. I’m grateful for My Mental Health Immersion Experience for providing me with such a solid foundation that prepared me well for this experience. Also, the interprofessional collaboration that I experienced here was extraordinary, and I am incredibly thankful for all the mental health practitioners that I was able to collaborate with. Finally, thank you to my CI, my new West Coast University OT student friends, and especially my ambassador teammate, Bethany Yew, who was placed there along with me — WE DID IT, BETHANY!!!
I am very much looking forward to transitioning into my next, and final, Level II Fieldwork for the Summer 2021 semester, and I can’t wait to continue translating everything I’ve learned through my experiences! Whether if it’s our first or last, or if it’s Level I or Level II, good luck to all of us going into fieldwork. Let’s continue to support one another and make the most out of our experiences!
Mixed Status Families >
March 29, 2021
According to the National Immigration Law Center, “a mixed-status family is a family whose members include people with different citizenship or immigration statuses. One example of a mixed-status family is one in which the parents are undocumented, and the children are U.S. born citizens”. The state of California has the largest number of U.S. citizens in mixed status families filing taxes, at 1.5 million people. This is a topic I would like to bring more attention to because many people may come from or know someone from a mixed status family, this includes students at USC and clients seen during fieldwork or residency, and this may not be something that is often brought up in the classroom. Personally, I live in a mixed status family, which includes DACA recipients and people without any documentation, with some extended family having other statuses as well.
This past year has been really tough financially for my family and me. The multiple stimulus packages that were passed came with a lot of limitations for mixed status families. For example, as a USC student who is undocumented with DACA status, I was unable to apply to the CARES Act financial assistance for college students. After doing some research and waiting for the final relief bills to be amended and passed, I was fortunate to receive the stimulus check because I have a temporary work permit via DACA. However, not all undocumented students are DACA recipients, and many undocumented people did not qualify for anything, even though they pay taxes every year with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) number. In the last year, I saw many people be excluded from federal assistance simply because of their immigration status, personally at home, with friends, and at residency. My parents and many of my clients in primary care were impacted by the exclusions in the COVID-19 relief bills, including the most recent under the Biden administration.
During this time, many families continue to rely on food banks, are behind on rent, and are surviving on the little help they can get. For example, I helped my parents and some of my clients apply to local and state specific relief programs which provided some financial assistance, but not nearly enough. And for many it’s not an easy process due to technology access, literacy levels, social support, etc. Last fall, I helped my parents write a letter and email it to a rent relief program that provided $500. I was appreciative that non-profit organizations and certain school departments took it upon themselves to be more inclusive and provide some type of financial assistance for students that may have not qualified for the CARES Act. As a current student, I was able to apply for the USC Ostrow Emergency Fund, the USC Graduate Student Government Emergency Assistance, and Immigranted (non-profit organization) for financial assistance to get through the year. Most of that assistance and my stimulus checks went to home expenses that my parents were simply unable to cover.
I believe this is an important discussion we need to have or at least consider in the academic setting and occupational therapy world. As I stated earlier, this impacts students at USC and in the OT programs, as well as clients being seen by occupational therapists/residents and/or fieldwork students. It’s important to consider how students may be navigating their own experience within a mixed-status family or perhaps have family/friends, clients, or colleagues that are experiencing this. As the Chan Division continues to push for more diversity and students from different backgrounds come in, it’s important to consider how prepared we are to support their education and clinical experience within the context discussed above.
- As a current or future occupational therapist, how are you going to support clients experiencing occupational injustices due to their immigration status?
- How are the needs of students within mixed-status families being met? How can we best support them in reaching their educational and professional goals?
Feel free to comment below as well!
- Chishti, M., & Bolter, J. (2020, December 11). Vulnerable to COVID-19 and in Frontline Jobs, Immigrants Are Mostly Shut Out of U.S. Relief. Migrationpolicy.Org. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/covid19-immigrants-shut-out-federal-relief
- Fact Sheet: Mixed Status Families and COVID-19 Economic Relief. (2020, August 13). National Immigration Forum. https://immigrationforum.org/article/mixed-status-families-and-covid-19-economic-relief/
- Mixed-Status Families Ineligible for CARES Act Federal Pandemic Stimulus Checks. (2020, December 9). Migrationpolicy.Org. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/content/mixed-status-families-ineligible-pandemic-stimulus-checks
- The Affordable Care Act & Mixed-Status Families. (2017, October 20). National Immigration Law Center. https://www.nilc.org/issues/health-care/aca_mixedstatusfams