Chika with Mika: Life as a Post-Professional Master’s Student 2022 Edition >
November 18, 2022
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!
OT for a day! >
October 31, 2022
This month I had the opportunity to collaborate with another student organization on campus called Flying Samaritans. Flying Samaritans is an international volunteer organization that provides free health care for the underserved population in Tijuana, Mexico. The group meets on main campus and drives together to the border, parks on the US side, and then travels via taxi to a clinic in La Colonia Independencia in Tijuana, Mexico. I was very excited to participate in this project because I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico and having the opportunity to give back to my community feels amazing. I drove to the site and met the rest of the team there as the clinic was only a 10-minute drive from my parents’ house.
When I got there, I introduced myself to the volunteer group in Tijuana called Casa de Leones, which had partnered up with USC Flying Samaritans to run the free clinic. I helped set up tents, tables, and chairs for patients to sit in while they waited their turn for services. Patients first checked in and signed consent forms. Then they transitioned to the first room where undergraduate students will check their blood pressure, oxygen levels, insulin, height, and weight. Here, students will also collect patient history and ask questions regarding any concerns that brought the patient to the clinic. Patients will then transition to the second room to see a clinician for a general check-up and receive their free prescriptions. Finally, patients will meet with me to work on medication management, diabetes management, or lifestyle interventions.
Some of them shared that it was very hard to remember and be consistent with medication. Therefore, I created an individualized plan for each patient. For some, using a pill box and labels seemed to be the best option while for others teaching them how to put cellphone reminders was the way to go. Many of them had been told in the past that they needed to exercise more. However, their idea of exercise only consisted of running or weights. We had discussions of what typical days looked like for each patient and together we planned movement throughout their days.
Some patients had been coming for months and shared that they look forward to clinic days. Flying Samaritans have done a great job building rapport and providing free services that allow individuals to manage their chronic conditions. Being the OT for that day was extremely rewarding. It allowed me to put my classroom learning into practice. Not only that, but I was able to be part of an interdisciplinary team where we put our knowledge together making the patients our priority.
WFOT Conference: Who Am I to Even Network? >
October 25, 2022
by Global Initiatives Team
By Christelli Carmona, MA ’23
Edited by Abby Khou, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student
When I hear of networking, I think of sharp blazers, stern handshakes and well-groomed speeches about how accomplished you are. Because of that, I never saw myself as someone who could go out there and network. I mean, who am I to network? I cannot consider myself established in our profession. I am not even a licensed OT yet. I have not even attempted taking the infamous NBCOT and still do not have a perfect spiel explaining what occupational therapy is. So why would they want to talk to me? I am just a student who still turns in her assignments late. I guess you can say that I show symptoms of imposter syndrome.
However, one random interaction on a long, typical day at work selling sandwiches changed that mindset. It was a busy afternoon at work with long lines of customers when a man wearing a USC hat approached me at the counter. As a staff, we were encouraged to initiate small talk with guests. Naturally, I pointed at an easy conversation starter: “Oh you go to USC too?!” He then followed with, “Yes, I am actually the admissions officer for the school of Business.” Definitely not the response that I was expecting. As I assisted him with his order, I quickly chatted with him about his work, and he asked me about our OT program. I finished assisting him with his transaction, and we thanked each other for our time in the end.
The next day, I saw that he had connected with me via Linkedin and sent me a message thanking me for my service and the good food. He told me to reach out to him whenever I needed help with any business-related questions. Without even knowing it, I had just networked with the USC business school admissions committee. Although I do not think I will be applying to business school anytime soon, it was a connection that I valued and appreciated.
Fast-forward to the WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) conference that was held in Paris, France, this past August, I found myself in a complete 180 — the student who thinks she is not worthy to network because she turns in her assignment late and because she thinks she’s not accomplished enough was successfully networking with Japanese OTs and OT students around the world.
I have dreamt of doing my level II fieldwork in Japan for a long time, but I did not have any connections or know of any possible placements in Japan. I was so determined and passionate about doing my fieldwork in Japan that I was willing to talk to anyone at the conference who may be able to point me in the right direction. On the first day of the conference, I scouted for people who might be able to help me. I then saw two people reading a Japanese magazine. Unassumingly, I approached them and asked what country they were from, to which they responded, “Japan.” I was so excited to hear that they were from Japan and I started to talk to them about my admiration for their country. A simple conversation sparked a lengthy and amicable conversation about OT in Japan, which ensued in a friendship between Japanese OT professors and a USC OT student who never imagined that she was even qualified to network.
At the end of our conversation, one of the OTs kindly offered to host me at her home in Japan if I ever did fieldwork there. I was astounded and touched by her kind and generous offer. She also handed me a handkerchief from Japan as a parting gift, which also warmed my heart. I will always cherish her gift, but I will treasure the connection and friendship we made even more.
At the end of that day, it was not stern handshakes, crisp suits, sharp blazers or self-promoting tidbits from my Linkedin profile that connected me with these wonderful people around the world — it was kindness and a shared passion (for OT) that manifested these connections and friendships.
If there is anything I learned from working at my old job selling sandwiches, it is that networking can happen anytime and during the most unexpected times. In addition, I realized that you should probably wear your USC merch more often to increase your chances of networking with people within the USC network.
In all seriousness, I learned that networking is not a task that needs to be attached to a prerequisite of having accomplishments to boast about. All that it necessitates is for you to be yourself and the desire to connect with others with kindness and a shared passion for something.
So go out there, be kind, stay passionate, and most importantly, be yourself — you are your greatest asset.
10 Things I Hate About Occupational Therapy >
October 19, 2022
International What are OS/OT?
The other night I was watching the classic romantic comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You, featuring the spunky Julia Stiles and the ever-so-charming Heath Ledger. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the scene of Patrick (Heath) dancing to Can’t Take My Eyes off You to swoon Kat (Julia), I think my favorite scene would still be the one where a tearful Kat lists down the 10 things she hates about Patrick in front of their whole class.
This scene got me thinking of a new idea for a blog post; and since World OT Day is coming, why not write a blog about 10 things I hate about OT?! Ironic, I know, but bear with me in this one.
So, without further ado, here are 10 things I hate about occupational therapy:
1. I hate that there is a lack of OTs.
2. I hate how OT services are viewed as a “privilege,” creating a lack of accessibility, especially for clients living in rural areas.
Back home in the Philippines, occupational therapy is deemed to be a profession in demand as there are more patients compared to the number of OTs. Although this may be a good thing for us in terms of job security, it is not quite ideal since a lot of patients who need our services are not receiving them immediately due to long waitlists and financial constraints. Most especially in rural areas, a lot of clients are usually left at home without proper care due to these issues. It is definitely not the best feeling to know how to help these clients but unable to do so due to lack of resources, time, and energy.
3. I hate how most OT principles are mostly based on Western perspectives.
Currently, I am taking a class in Occupational Science where my classmates and I are divided into small groups to discuss common issues in the practice of OT. One issue we discussed was that OT principles, frameworks, and models were mostly based on Western perspectives, making it difficult at times to adapt to non-Western cultures. With this, I think OTs, especially those who come from non-Western countries, should strive to adapt and promote their own culture and expertise to make the current knowledge more global.
4. I hate when some patients think OT is “magic” like a prescribed drug.
I say this not with the intention to put blame or shame on anyone, but rather, to put to light how a medical perspective is still favored over a more holistic one. Because of this, I strive to educate the caregivers of my pediatric clients to trust the process, to be patient with themselves and their children, and to always be mindful of the little wins they have in therapy.
5. I hate it when the profession is not known and often confused with Physical Therapy or with “Over Time.”
6. I hate how I get a professional identity crisis from time to time.
Numbers 5 and 6 are basically how you tell someone is an OT without saying you’re an OT. I would like to continue emphasizing the need and importance of Occupational Science to address these very common issues we face as a profession.
7. I hate when I was baptized by fire on my first day in my first job as a pediatric OT with tantrums, bites, and projectile vomit.
Honestly, I don’t hate it as much because I just think of it as a very funny fake-it-till-you-make-it story from my first years as a young professional. Looking back, I’m proud of myself for my growth as an OT in handling these situations and I thank my mentors in my pediatric centers (Shoutout to Therabilities South Therapy Center!) for guiding me.
8. I hate when parents or patients forget the big picture and get frustrated with their performance toward their goals.
I have worked with a lot of amazing parents who would move mountains for their children if they could. I would at times witness them (or even my patient) frustrated when their children are having bad days and would blame themselves for it. With this, I always reminded them that progress in therapy is not linear. There will be good days and there will be bad days. I would be the proudest therapist when my clients don’t let these bad days define their worth.
9. I hate when I could not hide my ugly-cry when I had to say goodbye to my clients before moving here to the States.
I would definitely say that my toxic trait is being a clingy therapist. It was absolutely the greatest honor to have been a therapist to my amazing, sassy, and silly kiddos whom I miss everyday.
10. (And in the most dramatic Julia-Stiles-performance I can give) “But mostly, I hate the way, I don’t hate [OT]. Not even close. Not even a little bit. Not even at all!”
I love my job and I believe that I have found my niche, my ikigai, in OT. Cheers to the profession that has helped me find purpose and meaning in my own life! <3
Advanced Happy World OT Day, everybody!
Life Goes On >
September 27, 2022
From the words of the great BTS,
“Life goes on.”
This song lyric often comes to mind while I scroll through videos online that romanticize life abroad, sometimes too much. Don’t get me wrong, having the opportunity to study abroad at a prestigious university is a great honor, especially during the pandemic. I thank the great gods of the universe for helping me manifest this dream. However, things are not always what we imagine, like anything in life. My first month in the States was a rollercoaster of emotions — 30% crying because I miss my home, 20% feels like I’ve been living like a caveman as I explore the wonders of Trader Joe’s and Bath and Body Works, and a great 50% being an absolute FOB* (or in my case, a FOP — Fresh Off the Plane) trying to learn and adapt quickly to an entirely new culture. Believe me, it takes a great deal of cognitive power to constantly convert Fahrenheit and miles to the metric system, understand why cars turn right at a red light, wondering why no one uses the umbrella to shade themselves from the killer heat of LA summer, and try to find the whereabouts of any celebrity visiting LA.
Kidding aside, I think the greatest adjustment I had to deal with as an international student was the grief I felt about the loss of occupations and the usual routines I performed back home. One thing I learned from the pandemic is that grief does not only come in the form of dealing with death; it is also what you feel when you lose anything — a person, a pet, an activity, or an object — that is of value to you. I felt grief because I could no longer walk my dogs and play with them after coming home from work. I could no longer drive to my favorite coffee shops back at home anytime I wanted nor randomly messaged my friends to bike around with me in our neighborhood. I struggled with this feeling mostly when I realized I would no longer see my child clients weekly and feared losing friendships since I’ll be in a time zone different from those I valued most. I often doubted my decision to move and worried that I was wasting my energy, time, and resources.
My perspective of things changed when I recalled one of my favorite quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” My why — my patients and the desire to be a better Occupational Therapist for them — pushed me to refocus my energy back on this ordeal and take things day by day. Slowly, those nights of grief and loneliness turned into nights of endless laughter and amusement as I got into the rhythm of new routines here in LA. Pushing myself to go out of my comfort zone and develop new friendships eventually led me to meet the kindest people. Somehow, they felt like home even if I had just met them.
My first month here in the States taught me that we are where we’re supposed to be and that everything will eventually work out as it should. Life does go on for the better, and if we choose to see the beauty of everyday despite the little adjustments and changes, we move one step closer to who we are meant to be.
*FOB — Fresh off the Boat, A slang term used for someone who recently moved to America