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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Marvyn

My Class is a Nexus Point ⟩
September 29, 2021, by Marvyn

Diversity International Living in LA

A nexus is a connection of multiple links into a common point or place. In the Post-Professional Master’s program, it’s just that.

If you read about my previous blog post (OT was not my first choice . . . but I have no regrets), I mentioned that time and destiny have their unique way of bringing people together. The program I’m in is no exception to this. For the most part, it’s almost serendipitous. Can you imagine that more than 30 unique individuals, having each their own personal experiences and life stories across the globe, flew into Los Angeles to study OT? On top of that, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic!! It sounds so crazy and thrilling to me that I have classmates from India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Colombia, the Middle East, and of course my home country the Philippines. Being at class in person, it’s essentially a melting pot of unique stories and personalities: flavors from all around the world! It still baffles me that despite all the circumstances we were all dealing with individually, life just situates us to be together in a class to learn and grow from each other.

You see, experiencing LA is one amazing thing. But can you imagine exploring it with a class that’s as diverse as this? Check out this hike we did at the Eaton Canyon we did on our second week of class! Some say the trail is pretty basic, but it’s much less about the hike but more about the company you’re with. And if you’re hiking with this bunch, you will always run out of breath from having endless, great conversations (oh, and from hiking too of course).

Classmates on a hike

The PP-MA class on our first hiking trip in Eaton Canyon! Photo credits to Yu-Hsuan (Florence) Yang.

On top of that, Dr. Danny Park along with the Global Initiatives team has been very hands-on in support of International Students at Chan, like us in our class. We had events like social mixers and support groups to emphasize togetherness in a culturally diverse environment. A chance to meet and learn from somebody else’s stories and experiences are really irreplaceable, and they are doing an amazing job at that. Fun fact: Did you know that Mooncakes symbolize togetherness and prosperity? Look at some of my classmates celebrating the Mid-Autumn (Mooncake) Festival at the CHP Patio!

Classmates in patio celebrating Mooncake festival

One of the many events hosted by Global Initiatives: Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival! Photo credits to Joshua Digao.

In my classes so far, I have learned the importance of togetherness and community as a crucial part of a person’s optimal occupational performance. My class is the epitome of that. I thought that coming into a class full of foreign students would isolate me, but I was wrong. It is in our different backgrounds and experience that actually makes us even more together! I found an even bigger, cohesive community that is PP-MA. A home outside of home, as you may say.

So to my classmates at PP-MA, you’re all awesome. I am so honored and thrilled to be part of this class as if I haven’t made that clear in this blog post. We all come from different parts of the world, but USC Chan was the nexus point that linked us all together. How cool is that?? I am looking forward to learning more from each of you and to taking even more unforgettable adventures and experiences together this school year. Fight On!

Class on white coat ceremony in front of the CHP building

Our White Coat ceremony! Photo credits to Godfrey Lok.

Externship project — The experience of spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities in an evangelical church in Hong Kong ⟩
September 15, 2021, by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity Externships International

By Rebecca Ka Ki Tam
Post-Professional Master’s student

This externship project was inspired by the concept of occupational justice. I worked as a pediatric occupational therapist in preschool settings in Hong Kong before studying at USC. During those days, I had little knowledge about occupational justice. My studies at USC have expanded my understanding of occupational justice and greatly inspired my belief that occupational therapists can advocate for everyone’s right to participate in everyday occupations regardless of age, ability, gender, social class, or other differences (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2020; Nilsson & Townsend, 2010, p. 58). This concept has allowed me to reflect on my experience volunteering in a church in Hong Kong that pioneered spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities (ID). I experienced the joy among people with intellectual disabilities in their Sunday services. I wondered, however, whether spirituality is vital to their well-being. This population is one of the most controversial populations to serve in churches since many people believe that individuals with ID cannot fully understand the concept of faith. Thus, I became curious to know more about spirituality in this population — what is their experience in this occupation? How important is faith among people with ID? As revealed in my full article, I started this externship project to explore spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities. I conducted interviews in a church that pioneered spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities in Hong Kong. I interviewed a participant with severe ID, the participant’s caregiver, a volunteer, and two pastors. I also interviewed Professor Sarah Shea, who is involved in research relating to practical theology and theologies of disabilities and who ministered to marginalized populations at Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary.

Participants were participating a Sunday Service

Participants were participating a Sunday Service in an evangelical church that pioneered the facilitation of spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities in Hong Kong

One memorable experience during this project was my interview with Anna (pseudonym), who has a severe ID. During the interview, she prayed for me, sang me a gospel song, and joyfully asked me to accompany her to church. Anna revealed how much she loves church life. I was very touched by her warm welcome and explicit love. Her caregiver shared with me that spiritual activities were unique in that they have helped Anna understand more about life and death, and overcome loneliness.

Anna initially was not comfortable talking to me during the interview. At first, she frequently walked away and ignored my questions. I then tried to talk in simple sentences and treated her as a friend. She gradually became more relaxed, sat down, and chatted with me. It reminded me of a pastor’s sharing that it is always important to be “present” — “Take your time, no rush. Be there with them, despite their circumstances, and treat them genuinely as true friends.”

In this project, I further reflected on how the arbitrary binary of “typical” or “atypical” classifications has inevitably become a barrier to genuine communication. Despite differences, we can always treat each other as true friends, learn from each other, and accept support and help from each other. I used to have a misconception that people with different intelligence might have different needs. Thus, it might be suitable to segregate people into various groups according to their needs. However, I realized this misconception was a barrier that had obstructed my genuine interaction and friendship with people diagnosed with intellectual disability. There should not be hierarchies in interaction, but we should celebrate our diversity. In an interview, a pastor shared that occupational justice probably does not merely focus on enabling people to participate in a particular occupation but also emphasizes the meaningful interaction among different people within that context. I envision that the concept of occupational justice will be more widespread someday, and I hope this article will motivate the public to advocate for occupational justice among people with intellectual disabilities.

Participants, no matter with disabilities or not, were leading worship

Participants, no matter with disabilities or not, were leading worship

References

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (4th ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1). S1-S48.

Nilsson, I., & Townsend, E. (2010). Occupational justice — Bridging theory and practice. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 17, 57–63. https://doi.org/10.3109/11038120903287182

Tam, R. K. K. (2021, July 15). The experience of spiritual participation among people with intellectual disabilities in an evangelical church in Hong Kong

Marvyn

OT was not my first choice … but I have no regrets ⟩
August 29, 2021, by Marvyn

Admissions International What are OS/OT?

Occupational therapy wasn’t my first choice. There. I said it. But hear me out:

Medicine was the only field of choice if you want to help people. At least, that’s what I was told growing up in the Philippines. I have plenty of family members who are successful physicians and well-known professionals in the field of health sciences, but occupational therapy was never part of that extensive list. I always knew that helping people was the impact I wanted to make in this world, and the only option at the time was to pursue medicine. But time and destiny have other plans.

It wasn’t until I was applying for university where I first heard about occupational therapy. It was a week before the deadline for applications, and I still haven’t decided on a program to apply to. I was rapidly going back and forth on the list of programs and stumbled on “BS in Occupational Therapy”. I can’t believe I overlooked this! Quickly, I did a Google search on the program and rapidly grew interested in OT. And the rest was history! I sent my application and went on to my journey to become an OT.

My journey to becoming an OT was not cookie-cutter. Saying it was challenging was an understatement. There were many set goals and aspirations that ended up being broken. Schedules and timelines were being shaken and delayed. The motivation was at an all-time low. But despite all that, time and destiny have their way of steering you in the right direction. I eventually became an OT Intern (fieldwork). I started to work with individuals and their families of all ages — pediatrics and development, adult physical rehabilitation and geriatrics, mental health, and community-based rehabilitation. I learned that this was my life’s purpose after all: to help people and make an impact in their lives as an occupational therapist. My initial notions of becoming a doctor have faded, and I knew that I have a greater purpose in the field of occupational therapy. From there, I steered full gear to become a licensed occupational therapist in the Philippines.

After working as a licensed OT for almost two years, I realized that there was more to the world of OT that I still don’t know. I joined an information session of the Post-Professional Master’s program at USC and understood that this was my next big step. Fast forward a couple of months and here I am writing this blog post for you to read. It was a scary, giant leap forward, considering that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. I truly appreciate the great help of Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh and Dr. Danny Park with the Global Initiatives team in making this process the smoothest it can be despite the circumstances. I just started my journey here at USC, and I already have tons of stories to share. But I won’t make this blog post any longer, so keep a lookout for my next blog entries to tell you more about it.

If you have ever watched Marvel Studios’ Loki, the TV series, you can consider me as a “variant” of myself in the universe’s Sacred Timeline. There is a Marvyn in another universe who is a medical doctor, there’s another Marvyn who ended up being a pilot, and then there’s me: Marvyn the occupational therapist and a proud master’s student of the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Things might not have turned out the way it was initially planned, and that’s the beauty of this whole thing! I am so glad to be where I am today, most especially in USC, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Yna

I Don’t Say This Every Day But . . . ⟩
May 7, 2021, by Yna

Beginnings and Endings Classes Diversity International

We spent how many hours on Zoom every day for 9 months, yet it wasn’t until the last day of classes when I realized just how much I’m going to miss my MA1 classmates. What we thought was only going to be a temporary virtual learning setup has been stretched to a whole academic year. Even though this was surely nothing close to how we imagined going through graduate school, still, for some reason, it went our way because we are finishing in A WEEK! It just weirdly feels a little short. I’m still at a loss for words, just like how I was when I was trying to write my very first blog. What words could possibly capture how great of an adventure it has been?

A couple of months ago we were all just a bunch of strangers trying to find a place in this new world. It’s one thing to find acceptance; but feeling a sense of belongingness and a feeling of home is a whole different story — one that I’ve found in this wonderful group of people. I have hoped for companionship but what I’ve found is so much more: teamwork, diversity, and nothing but love and support for one another. I’m really so proud of us and all I can think of is — what a time to be in to witness these individuals succeed through challenges! We really embodied that “Fight On!” Trojan spirit, didn’t we? Truly, my experience thus far has been nothing short of amazing because of all the people on the other end of my computer screen. I’m sure you know, but it bears repeating.

Here are some of the unforgettable memories we had in the past year 😊

MA1 Virtual White Coat Ceremony

MA1 Virtual White Coat Ceremony

MA1s at the beach

MA1s at the beach

MA1s at the museum

MA1s at the museum

MA1s having KBBQ

MA1s having Korean BBQ . . . Jisu was not impressed with the food :( LOL 😆

MA1s in class at Chan

Just happy to have an in-person class!

MA1s proudly posing in front of the Chan Division!

Proudly posing in front of the Chan Division

Of course, my USC Chan experience has been greatly enriched by working with the amazing team of student ambassadors and our supervisor, Kim Kho, who constantly encouraged me to do my best work and really contributed a lot to my growth. I learned A LOT from each and every one of you and I’m so thankful to have been a part of this team!! I also want to thank my dearest family and friends without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. And to all the readers, it has been a pleasure to be able to share this crazy adventure with you all through my blogs and videos.

Now, I shall go back to studying for my comprehensive exams. After graduation, I will be working with Dr. Daniel Park for the Summer OT Immersion program that is happening on July, so I hope to see some of you there! What’s next after that — I don’t quite know yet; but as always, we Fight On Forever!

All the love and well wishes,
Yna <3

Alumni Spotlight: Mineh Badmagharian ⟩
May 3, 2021, by Global Initiatives Team

Classes Externships International

Mineh Badmagharian, OTD, OTR/L
Alumni: Professional Master’s, OTD

By Brittany Inouye and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

In collaboration with James Lee
Alumni: Professional Master’s, OTD

Mineh describes this photo taken of her at Yerevan Children Railway as, 'one of the best moments I had while in Armenia'

Mineh describes this photo taken of her at Yerevan Children Railway as, “one of the best moments I had while in Armenia”

Global Initiatives members Brittany Inouye, Michelle Plevack, and James Lee had the pleasure of interviewing Mineh Badmagharian, a double Trojan who graduated from USC Chan’s Professional Master’s and Post-Professional Doctorate (OTD) programs. We are excited to showcase Mineh’s remarkable journey of exploration, perseverance, and love for OT!

Mineh’s Armenian heritage and her experience leaving her birth country of Iran at the age of 12 led her to complete her OTD residency in a community-based mental health setting at Intra Mental Health Center, in Yerevan, Armenia. This move was a difficult transition where she found herself living in a new country, being on her own for the first time, and struggling with language barriers as Russian is the second language spoken in Armenia. Her motivation to address the stigma of mental health in Armenia, her passion for the arts, and her desire to help people led her to slowly settle into her OTD site where she “fell in love” with this setting.

Unfortunately, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mineh’s OTD residency site closed down. In a country with limited internet connectivity, her residency work transitioned primarily to phone communication with clients every day. During her year in Armenia, Mineh realized she was learning in many ways she had not previously anticipated. She found herself constantly checking her assumptions, realizing that there is no single way of thinking or perceiving, and learning how OT interventions cannot be generalized to all backgrounds. She shares that for many people in Armenia, “work” is not as meaningful of an occupation as socializing in the community — a prevalent theme in interdependent cultures. She nurtured new opportunities to connect with her clients by taking Armenian dance classes, which equipped her to engage with her clients in the meaningful social occupations that they valued.

Mineh and her site supervisor Mrs. Anahid Iskandarova working on documentation at Intra Mental Health Center

Mineh and her site supervisor Mrs. Anahid Iskandarova working on documentation at Intra Mental Health Center

Mineh describes a sense of community within the site’s office, and she shares that strategies from her Lifestyle Redesign class (OT 583) helped her cope with the pandemic, the trauma of the war in Armenia, and COVID-19 travel restrictions which prohibited her from leaving the country. After finishing her OTD in August 2020, she was hired as the Head of Research and Strategy at Expper Technologies. This robotics company is based in Armenia and Mineh completed her work online while residing in California. Mineh worked with a team to create Robin, an artificial intelligence-based robot companion to children undergoing medical treatments. She helped develop Robin’s personality, the way Robin interacts with kids, and game content that decreases anxiety and fear associated with medical visits. The team spent 1000+ hours acting as Robin, transcribing quotes, and gathering data for Robin’s algorithm.

Although her current job title does not specify her as an occupational therapist, Mineh believes she brings aspects of OT into her role and has future hopes to work in community mental health settings in Armenia. Mineh warmly encourages anyone interested in doing OT international work to “Go do it! Be open to learning!”

Mineh and Robin!

Mineh and Robin!

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