First Week as a Working Gal Reflection  

Hello, Renrenspeakers! Happy Saturday! Can you believe how fast the month has been flying by? We are officially in the spring season! So much has changed in my academic career since last week. Last week, I was finishing up my last finals EVER and preparing to transition to my clinical rotations. I am happy to announce that I have completed the first week of my clinical rotations. This galie is 1/12 weeks down from being a pediatric occupational therapist, woohoo! (Might I note, without the actual license nor the pay, haha!) 

The last ten weeks of school before starting my internship were ones that honestly burnt me out. I know I say I am always burnt out, but every semester is different. This semester required so much writing that I was pumping out at least 2-3 writing assignments every week while developing my capstone project AND preparing for my internship. Just get through it was literally my anthem this semester, and though it did not feel like it during that moment, I did get through it somehow! I honestly am kinda impressed with my ability to pump out back-to-back essays at this rate. It has been soooo nice coming home and not having to write essays or study or do homework for hours on end. I finally am feeling a healthy work-life balance, at least for now. Anyway, let me get back to the more exciting part of this post! 

So, I started my internship this week at a pediatric outpatient clinic. I felt a lot of emotions before starting – mostly excitement, but nervous anticipation of what was to come. I think I felt more comfortable going in because I visited my clinical instructor (CI) about two weeks before starting my internship, and it was one of the best things I could have done to calm my nerves. If you know a little about me, I am kinda a perfectionist, and I like to plan for things ahead of time. Yes, I note that the perfectionist thing is something that I have to work on, so I have been way more flexible with it and have learned to release some control – though I admit, I still have a long way to go. But no one’s perfect, right? When I visited my site, I got to observe a session and then chat with my CI and site coordinator who were both very kind and supportive of my hesitancies. There, I felt more empowered to start my internship with a positive, hopeful mindset.

During my first week, I have already learned a ton about the pediatric population. This has been an opportunity to put my learning in the classroom to the test and see how this translates to a natural setting with actual clients. So far, I do feel like my pediatrics course has prepared me well to take on this setting successfully. Working in an outpatient pediatric clinic so far has been such a fun and rewarding experience. I have always had an interest in working with the pediatric population and not gonna lie, I think the kids like me LOL, so I think that this site is a great fit for me thus far. I have met so many new little friends who embody so much excitement and joy. Kids are so funny, and they say the wildest things. Rapport building is instrumental to working with any client. For peds, I have had to pair myself as a super fun, energetic older friend to get the kiddos’ buy-in to therapy. Sometimes, it does put me out of my comfort zone to tap into my creative, child-like demeanor, but hey, I will do anything for therapy to be productive. The days go quickly for me, meaning that I am either getting a lot of work done, I am truly enjoying my time, or probably both! 

My Passion Planner gave me the following quote of the week which was absolutely fitting to how I should approach this 12-week rotation: Every artist was first an amateur by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Then, my week’s challenge was the following: Whenever you find yourself thinking that your goal is impossible, remember that all experts were once beginners. Take each mistake as a chance to learn and soon enough you, too, will succeed. Shoot, it is like my planner KNEW exactly how pivotal this week would be for me! I think that the combination of knowing that God’s got me and this quote of the week kept me stress-free, grounded, and confident for the week. I was in awe of how natural and fluid my CI’s therapy sessions were and was thinking about how much I had to learn and master in my 12 weeks of fieldwork. However, I constantly recentered myself when doubt started to creep in and reminded myself that she has so many years of experience and I am a baby clinician who will one day be an expert just like my CI. Thus, this week has been a very positive one filled with tons of learning and growth just from reframing my mindset to be one that uses mistakes to my advantage so that I can strive to be better in the future.

This upcoming week will allow me to start to lead more treatment sessions and really put my clinical skills to the test. Wish me luck! Though it is nerve-racking, I am hopeful to learn the skills necessary to be a great student pediatric occupational therapist. Cheers to fieldwork!

Peace and love,


Black is Beautiful Mini Blog Series Health Care Edition Part 4: Meet NANCY, OTR/L!

Hello, Renrenspeakers! Happy Saturday and last week of Black History Month! Can you believe that the month is already coming to an end? The month went by so fast! I hope that you all have been supporting Black folks throughout this month through actions such as reading these blog posts! Today I have such an inspiration to me on the blog. I had to save the best health profession for last (no shade to my beautiful Black allied health professions haha). Nancy, OTR/L will be concluding the Black is Beautiful mini blog series with her amazing story. Before we get into it, I am gonna hype up Nancy real quick because she is a person to have in your network!

Unlike everyone else that I have interviewed thus far, Nancy is unique in the fact that I did not meet her at UC San Diego, lol! When I was delving into my occupational therapy (OT) journey, I was desperately searching for Youtube videos on how to be the best competitive applicant and what the field of OT was all about. I came across her Youtube channel, LovelyyOT. After watching her first video, I was hooked. She shared gems and unique insight regarding her experiences as a travel OT, an OT in a SNF, and an OT in entrepreneurship. Nancy is so intelligent and has so much wisdom to give. She further inspired me to pursue OT, as she gave me the confidence as a Black future OT to share my story and to be an advocate for our profession. Moreover, she is so selfless. She took time out of her busy schedule to read my personal essay and give me feedback, which was so kind of her to do and served as a confidence booster throughout my application process. She truly is goals and is making waves in OT. Below is her story. Let’s get into it!

IreneWhat is your name/pronouns?

Nancy: Nancy Yamoah, she/her

IreneGive us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE! 

Nancy: I am a God-loving Ghanaian and occupational therapist, specializing in adult geriatric rehabilitation. I am popularly known as LovelyyOT on social media. I’m your favorite OT Auntee with all the tea lol. 

I’m a visionary, founder of the Therapist of color/TOC network, created for people of color therapists and students, and co-founder of BLACK IN REHAB. I am also the author of 3 E-books for therapists. My business provides consultation for students and clinicians as well as yearly workshops for new grads. 

My goal is to continue to inspire other healthcare professionals to do more with their degrees and live on purpose, be their true authentic self as well as create a better healthcare system for older adults.

Irene: Choose three words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?

Nancy: Bold, resilience, beautiful

For you to be authentically Black you have to be bold. This world tries so hard to imprison Black people – the way we talk, walk, dress, etc. The way we show up is constantly criticized, so for me it’s important that am bold in my blackness.

Resilience because it takes strength to be Black. You have to be internally strong.

Beautiful because Black is beautiful, from our skin to our features. The way we are is beautiful.

IreneWhat is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?

Nancy: My skin color and my heritage/culture. I am Ghanaian and I love the richness of my culture and my background. The way we speak, our accents, our food, our cultural outfits, who we are is everything. 

IreneHow has your experience been as a Black person in your respective field thus far? 

Nancy: Like I always tell others, life experience can happen to you or you can enjoy it and be a full participant in life experiences. I always choose the latter; my blackness in healthcare has been a wonderful experience because I take an active role in making that happen in every way you can think. I speak up and advocate when needed, I ask for the money I deserve and I will correct you on everything even if you say my name wrong. We get to choose everyday to be victims or conquerors. 

IreneHow do you plan on showing up for the people as a Black person in your respective field? 

Nancy: I have started many platforms and events on social media for both Black and POC and I will continue to support them in this way. Black in rehab is one that I am a co-founder of and very proud of. If you are interested in becoming a rep in your city, contact me. 

IreneAny advice, gems, or words of encouragement for future Black people who want to pursue your field? 

Nancy: Refer to answer 5, and do not let your color determine what you can or cannot accomplish. This world is your oyster; show up and speak up for yourself. You deserve to walk into a room and pull up a seat. Remember that your power is not in what others gave you permission to do; it is in what you give yourself the permission to do. Don’t wait to be invited! Initiate, create, move. 

IreneWhat is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?

Nancy: African Queen by 2face and Black is Gold by Wale

IreneHow can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or that we can support?

Nancy: Black in rehab – we have an in person event every Juneteenth weekend in a different state. Join us on IG. We will start hosting more events throughout the year as well. See you in ATL this year.

I also have 1:1 consultations for new OTs. You can book that via Instagram as well as other services and ebooks I have on Lovelyy_ot on IG. 

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Nancy: LOVELYYOT on all social media platforms including Youtube.

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Nancy: Be yourself, be unapologetically BLACK! Refrain from the need to prove yourself. You don’t need to prove nothing to anyone. You are enough for whatever dreams you may have.

Yall, isn’t Nancy such an iconic woman? So well-versed in so many settings, so many platforms, and most importantly, she connects to so many people. Support our favorite OT Auntee! Her consultations are so helpful! I will be a new grad next year (whoohoo) so best believe I will be reaching back out to my OT Auntee for her guidance. I have yet to meet Nancy in person buuutttt these Black networking events across the nation is something I am going to have to hop on so that we can finally meet! Black in Rehab – what an uplifting space! If yall get the chance to go to ATL this summer, definitely check the event out!

My goodness, does the Black is Beautiful mini blog series really have to end? I am so sad! This has been such a fun series to put on for you all and I have been blessed to have reconnected on a deeper level with all of my interviewees. Each person is so special to me and honestly, we could really all just start our own interdisciplinary clinic and treat people in our communities. I have thoroughly enjoyed featuring all of these amazing individuals on my blog and I hope that you all come away from this series further understanding the vastness of Blackness and how glorious our melanin is. We are the people who are at the frontlines treating you all and helping to restore yall back to health and well-being, remember that! Thank you all again too for supporting me by reading this blog, sharing it with others, and following me on Renrenspeaks on Instagram! Please subscribe as well to get the latest scoop on the content I have coming your way! Stay Black Blackity Black, yall!

Peace and love,


End of the Year Reflection – Moving Into 2023 with Intention + Two-Year Anniversary of Renrenspeaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Friday, and most importantly, happy end of the year! We are two days away from the new year, and as most of you are doing, I am reflecting on this very busy year called 2022. I am currently feeling so much peace and happiness, as I have been blessed to have made it through another year safely and in good health. I made my first Instagram Reel that I posted to reflect on this year, and it was so much fun! I am def going to have to incorporate Reels more into 2023 😉 Also, fun fact! It has been TWO YEARS since I started my blog too. Happy two years, Renrenspeakers! I learned so much about myself through this blog, and I am so thankful that you all have been reading my content and supporting me along the way. What are yall’s goals and resolutions for the new year? What has been your favorite blog post on Renrenspeaks since 2020? I would love to hear them (comment down below or email your answers to me)!

This year has been one filled with so many fun memories, sad moments, heartache, times of pure stress and anxiety, and lots of love. For starters, I am now officially halfway done with grad school, friends! She did THAT! Your fav OT doctorate student is 50% done with grad school and I could not be any more proud of myself because I am telling yall, grad school is not for the weak. I’ll be honest. This past semester has not been an easy one for me. It was a lot for me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt at so many points during this semester that I was not creative enough, not competent enough, or not confident enough to understand the material I was learning in my lab courses. I found myself still comparing my progress and my processing to other people, whether it was in their capstone research process or in their clinical reasoning skills. However, this semester has also taught me a lot about myself. I am confident, I can do hard things, and I have pretty solid people skills. It has been really neat to see myself slowly blossom into a practitioner in training and I am thankful for the support system that I have had on my side thus far to get to where I am currently.

A highlight of the semester was that I received my white coat since I am pursuing a doctoral degree. I think I fooled the masses – I did not graduate friends, so I want to clarify that, though it did feel like graduation. The white coat symbolizes the next step in my graduate career of contributing to occupational therapy academia and scholarship. I was honored to be the student speaker, and I think I gave a pretty humorous speech that was personable and relevant to my cohort. I also got to see my tribe come and support me too.

I was also able to do some traveling this year! I know, I did not go abroad as you may have anticipated. Instead, I went to Dallas, Texas in September for the very first time ever. When I tell you it was the break that I needed, I am not lying. My love for traveling has been halted with grad school for obvious reasons. I visited my best friend, explored the area, and caught up with old friends and family members. It was a trip that was well-deserved and allowed me to unwind from all the stressors in my life at that time. Shoutout to Harena for being the best tour guide ever and for making me feel welcome in Dallas! 😉

Another monumental moment for me this year is that I moved to a different home literally right after my week getaway to Dallas. I was impressed by how fast I was able to pack up and move all my things within two days (a very stressful two days, might I add). But shoutout to my wonderful friends who helped me move and to my awesome roommates who have made me feel so welcome in this new home. I am so grateful for people like them who have been alongside me cheering me on and supporting me through a stressful time such as moving. Moving to a different home felt like closing a chapter of my life, which I did. My old apartment was symbolic of me stepping into my mid-20s and living independently in a different state for the first time ever. I laughed, cried, yelled, prayed, and sang in that apartment. It connected me to many different types of people and helped me to prioritize my physical and mental health. It was the first time I was really on my #growngirlmoves apart from living abroad for a bit.

I know I asked yall about your new year’s resolutions, so I will share some of mine! My biggest goal is to be more intentional. I feel that God has put this word into my heart, intention. I want to be more intentional about who I surround myself with, the relationships that I build, the places that I explore, the career I pursue, the money that I spend and who/where I give it to, the food that I intake, the networks that I develop, the way I treat my body inside and out, and the way that I navigate spaces. It is easy to do things just to do them without purpose such as getting assignments done just for the sake of completing them rather than learning through them. I will say, there are so many times in school that I will continue doing things just to get them done because of a lack of time and that is the reality of life sometimes. However, I want to really try my best to take every moment as a learning opportunity, whether it be a positive or a negative experience. I am gonna start off the year with my 26th birthday, which is always a time for new beginnings and a new outlook on the year for me. I am excited to see how I bring intentionality to all parts of my everyday life and how it shapes me into a better person. I also want to be more consistent with blogging, friends! I miss talking to yall on this platform. School often gets in the way of me feeling like I have time for myself, but so many changes are happening that I would love to keep yall posted on. I cannot commit to a certain number of posts, but I am gonna try to keep yall in the loop as much as I can, especially now that I will be starting my internships next year.

All in all, I feel very accomplished this year, though it has been one that has been very challenging mentally for me. I am feeling wholesome, renewed, and restored, as I have spent the last few weeks in San Diego reconnecting with old friends, spending time with family, and revisiting some of my favorite spots around town. I wish everyone the best new year. I hope that you all can claim 2023 as a year of intention as well.

Peace and love and a very happy new year,


Incompetence – Let’s Deconstruct That.

Hello, friends! WOW, I haven’t chatted with you all in a while, I apologize for that! We are taking a mental health break for the rest of the week, so I have today off, whoohoo! Today I went on a run in my new neighborhood, took a nice shower, washed my dishes, completed my morning skincare routine, and listened to a great podcast. Self-care is the best care, and my mental cup is currently full. I miss you all, Renrenspeakers! Life has been chaotic as usual in the life of this grad student. I want to briefly share with you how I have been doing for real.

My mind at a glance this past semester:

July: Second year – lightweight, a breeze. No more neuro, thank God, so it is much easier, and we have so much TIME. #occupationalbalance.

August: Oh shoot, it is starting to pick up but I’m still chillin.

September: Dang, things are starting to hit the fan, as all these assignments and sudden expectations for shifting our way of thinking have been sprung upon us.  

October: Yeah… it’s kinda rough out here.

All this to say, I realized several things so far this semester. First, I don’t think the word “easy” should be used to describe grad school at any stage because that is a façade – at least for me, lol. Sure, there are different levels of busyness that I think my first year and second year demanded, but the more I go through school, the more I realize that nothing should be easy for me. If so, I am doing grad school all wrong because I personally invested my time here to be challenged and to become a better critical thinker, even if it is hard and it sucks. Second, and honestly, I think this is my biggest revelation – I think that suddenly being challenged to think like an OT is a very uncomfortable way of feeling. I believe that this year feels harder than last because, for 25 years, my mind has been trained to study hard, take tests, and repeat. However, being asked “How would you go about this?” and having to critically think while considering the psychosocial components of an individual, their client factors, their environment, AND individualizing it to the person AND always being alert AND practicing a therapeutic use of self AND taking into account barriers to care whether that is through insurance AND so many other nuances is quite difficult. This is a novel way of thinking; my neuronal connections haven’t developed appropriate pathways to readily retrieve these connections. I totally understand that I must trust the process and I do believe that I will make it out victorious at the end of it all. However, I think facing the fact that I really am more Type A than I thought makes thinking like an OT or a healthcare provider, in general, a struggleeeeee.

One of my professors sent out a check-in email last week to see how we were feeling as OT students during the semester. One of the questions that they asked was three words to describe how we are currently feeling, and I included overwhelmed and stressed in the mix (which is typically standard), but the word that I was brutally honest with which made me a bit sad to admit was incompetent. I am not sure if all the life transitions I have been going through also informed my choice of this word, but it was very fitting. That was one of the few times I’ve recently viewed myself as so because I generally feel like I have mostly worked through my imposter syndrome. At that moment, the word incompetent signified that I felt like I was not completing assignments to my full potential and that I was actively skipping opportunities to fully immerse myself in the grad school experience through networking, professors, events, etc. I went home that day and honestly did not really do anything else because I felt the need to reflect on why the word incompetent ground my gears. It is unlearning the perfectionist, people-pleasing complex that I have been conditioned by for so many years now that I believe made me feel extra vulnerable that day. I find that I am hard on myself for not knowing how to solve these case studies immediately and for second-guessing every thought that I have to offer, which is ridiculous because of course I should struggle through it. Weirdly enough, I also felt like the word incompetent was validating because I was able to pinpoint exactly how I felt particularly this semester of grad school. It made me realize that it is okay to feel incompetent sometimes. What matters is just how I proceed to work on that insecurity. That is what I believe will make me a better student, clinician, and person in the future.

I will also share one thing that I feel reinvigorated my momentary weaning passion for the field. Last week, I attended an event regarding pelvic floor therapy, and though this is not a particular niche of OT that I am super interested in, I thought it would be valuable to get a break from the traditional ways of classroom learning and to connect with current practitioners not in academia. I am so glad that I went because it resparked the possibilities of starting my own practice, but it also taught me that I could advocate for myself, market my worth, and make a difference in people’s lives without being bound to the not-so-glamorous side of healthcare such as strict insurance regulations and reimbursement policies. It was just motivating to see another self-starter previously feeling burnt out and taking action to change her life around to do what truly makes her happy. I am sure that at one point she also felt incompetent and hopeless working under someone controlling her opportunities to provide care. Again, what was inspiring was the action she decided to take to change her trajectory. And that, I believe, is what made me accept and normalize feeling incompetent for myself. There is always a way to rise above incompetency, and I have complete power to do so.

Yes, I acknowledge that my thoughts are kind of all over the place because it is reflective of how my semester has been – all over the place mentally and academically! But overall, I can say that I am feeling more refreshed now that I blurted all my thoughts here today, and that I am optimistic that I will be able to overcome my feelings of incompetency as I progress through grad school. Thank you for reading and checking in with me, and for the love and prayers you all send my way continuously. I so appreciate them, and I hope that this word touched you a bit!

Peace and love,



Hello, friends! Happy Friday! How are you all doing? As for me, I had a summer off from school (one month vacay, whoohoo!) and now I am back to the grind! Y’all, can you believe it? I have begun my second year of school! I am a second year OTD student. It is wild to fathom this, but at the same time, I feel like I have been in school for forever. I write to you as I am on a flight back to San Diego to see one of my favs, Maverick City Music tomorrow (though my flight is delayed, smh). So I’m basically live blogging through the sky. 😂 

I just wanted to jump on here and quickly reflect on my week! Honestly y’all, it has been a whirlwind of emotions. Though I am used to grad school being all-consuming, I felt so overwhelmed in how much information was being thrown at me and how many academic/social responsibilities I had coming my way. I had given a presentation to the first years glorifying resources I utilized throughout my first year to keep myself afloat (shoutout to the Passion Planner and the Finch app), but I could not find the motivation and the drive to follow my own advice. 

Wednesday night, I truly tried to hold myself to my “productivity standards” and “be productive,” but that was short-lived, as I was gifted with a pounding headache instead. I tried to work through it, but only found myself more frustrated that I couldn’t focus (DUH I had a headache and it was nearing bed time!). In efforts to be on top of it after being burnt out by the end of last semester, I was pushing myself to adhere to productivity standards that truly was not that serious to uphold at this moment of the semester. After acknowledging that part of this lack of concentration I had was also because I was still coming off of summer mode, I had to reset, check in with myself and remind myself to #givemyselfgrace because the perfectionist, Type A in me was already creeping in and I was not here for it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to retain everything that I had been exposed to these three days because this semester is the semester that is HUGE for me since I am taking all of my practice immersion courses and beginning my doctoral classes. This semester is the foundation of my future practice where I finally begin to fall into one of my occupational identities as an OT. That is a lot to think about!

My motto this year is to #giveyourselfgrace. All I can do to thrive is to know that I’m doing my best at any given moment. This year is much different than last year because I am slowly starting to see the puzzle pieces of OT come together. Yesterday was the first day in which I actually felt more relaxed, more comfortable, and more ready to take on the academic year. We had our first peds lab and was introduced to the topic of documenting an evaluation for a kiddo. The thought of documentation is intimidating to me, but the fact that I had the opportunity to really start to integrate the knowledge that I acquired throughout my first year made me feel powerful! My brain was definitely stretched, but it felt very reaffirming to know that I had some clinical reasoning (though very limited) to implement and apply to a case study. Where did my newfound sense of calm come from? By having a heart to heart with myself and reminding myself that I’ve done hard things before and it will be just okay! I #gavemyselfgrace by acknowledging that I’m meant to be here, I am doing the best that I can, and that I have a beautiful journey ahead of me that I’m meant to be on despite how overwhelmed I may seem or feel. 

So, I am making a promise to myself for this year. This year is going to be a year of tremendous growth for me and constantly learning how to #givemyselfgrace even when I feel that I don’t deserve it. Not only will I be continuing didactic courses, I’ll be starting fieldwork, spearheading my capstone project, and getting off my parents’ health insurance (lol I’m sad about that). I wrote this hashtag down in my weekly to-do list to keep myself accountable and challenged to remember this simple thing. So friends, I hope that you all are touched by this reflection and can too #giveyourselfgrace in your hardest moments as we all go through life transitions. 

Peace and love, 


Dr. Kwangaba, 33% loaded! Reflections on a Year of OT School

Hello, friends! Happy June! I hope that all is well and that everyone’s summer is off to a great start. It has been a bit over a month since I last checked in with you all. I was in the midst of my finals as I wrapped up my first year of OT school two weeks ago. I cannot believe that I am officially 1/3 of the way done with my graduate school career. After 10 months of straight stretching of my brain, constant exams, papers, group projects, some tears, and a whole lot of Maverick City Music and prayer to get me through the hard days, I got through it all.

My brain feels like a sponge. It is wild to think about how much I have learned (and some retention of facts I still gotta improve on, shoutout to my professor for coining that phrase lol) in this year. Being in OT school simultaneously made me more familiar with what OT is and all that it has to offer as well as made me wonder what the heck is OT! Critical thinking is an aspect that I initially hoped would improve upon as I began school and took challenging courses such mental health, neuroscience, and kinesiology. Before, I was only familiar with the names of diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and muscular dystrophy. Now, I come out understanding the prognoses, assessments, and possible interventions that I can begin to utilize to improve the quality of life of those with these various diagnoses.

Here are 10 highlights of practical skills that I can now add to my toolkit!

  1. I can transfer literally anyone despite my small frame.
  2. I can take manual blood pressure (I struggled so hard before).
  3. I can administer motivational interviewing, Socratic questioning, and strategic interviewing to gather pertinent info to build an occupational profile on a client.
  4. I can complete an entire case study related to OT in mental health settings in 2 hours (and I write way too much so that is impressive for me!)  
  5. I can use various types of Hoyer lifts and transfer patients such as kiddos with muscular dystrophy who have limited range of motion and weakness in their extremities.
  6. I can assess range of motion of joints and administer a manual muscle test for various muscles for folks experiencing musculoskeletal symptoms or pathologies of the upper extremities.
  7. I can teach a person who experienced a stroke on how to implement upper extremity hemi-dressing to promote independence in ADLs.
  8. I can create and implement (and hopefully sell one day) a group protocol.
  9. I can properly measure and fit a walker.
  10. I can juggle three group projects at one time.

Besides all the cool OT things I’ve been learning this year, the most critical aspect that I’ve taken away from my experience of being an OT student is that I really can do anything that I set my mind to. School is HARD and it is really difficult to remember the purpose of it all when I am boggled down with assignments, projects, and exams that seem to never end. However, a support system in and out of school, surrounding myself with positive folks who uplift me, and faith and confidence in my abilities are truly the most integral aspects that have made this journey all worth it. I walked away with lots of golden nuggets (shoutout to another one of my professors for coining this term) that I am excited to continue to build on and implement into my emerging career as an OT.

Now, I am going to take my much needed hiatus from being a grad student and tap into being all identities of Irene this summer. Thanks for cheering me on, Renrenspeakers, on this journey and being so invested in it as well!

Peace and love,


Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 6: Dr. Candace Speaks!

Hello, friends! Welcome back to the blog! I hope you enjoyed learning about Dr. Linda and seeing the world of OT through her lens. I have been having so much fun putting together these interviews and showcasing amazing individuals, both students and practitioners, who love OT. I certainly have learned so much about occupational therapy this month through the unique perspectives of the lovely individuals who have shared their experiences. I am so thrilled to feature the last person I have for you all this evening. Dr. Candace is a current occupational therapist that I highly admire. We were privileged to meet through the wonderful organization of COTAD National before I began applying to OT school. She has been cheering me on through my journey of getting accepted to and matriculating into OT school. Dr. Candace has poured lots of wisdom and encouragement into my life and has challenged me to be my best self throughout the two years that we have known each other now. So friends, I present to you Dr. Candace as our final feature of the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series to conclude this series.

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Dr. Candace: Candace Chatman, OTD, OTR/L (she/her). I am an occupational therapist based in Southern California. My area of practice began in pediatrics and I have transitioned into academia as an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy at the University of Southern California. I am a Seattle native that feels more like an Angeleno since moving here in 2003. My passions are God, my family, and friends, finding fulfilling work with children and families- whether that be in practice or the community- and working towards a more equitable, accessible, and diverse Occupational Therapy academy. 

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Dr. Candace: When I was 17 years old, my family adopted my niece, who had Down syndrome. I cared for her and our relationship has helped direct major parts of my career with families and children. I started my professional career as a high school special education teacher and special equation coordinator in underserviced areas of Los Angeles. I always knew that I would not stay in that career as I wanted to have a larger scope of expertise in a more flexible job trajectory. I learned about occupational therapy after having decided I would transition to nursing. It was a medical field I could handle and I knew that there would always be a need for nurses. While taking pre-reqs for nursing school, in a Lifespan Psychology class, an occupational therapist spoke about her pediatric clinic and the work she did around the world with children and increasing their access to meaningful activities.  I had never heard of occupational therapy during my time taking care of my niece or during my time as a teacher. I loved that it aligned with my desire to provide care in a more holistic way- not just in the classroom. I wasn’t sure at the time that pediatrics would be the area of occupational therapy I wanted to focus- I was a bit burned out from teaching- but I was clear that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. 

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Dr. Candace:

Person-centered – We work with living, human, beings… people. Not labels, conditions, diagnosis, socio-economic status, clients, patients, or consumers. So our work must be centered on the people- their wants, needs, concerns, strengths, and removing barriers to those wants, needs, and concerns.

Advocacy – Using our voice and skills to make a change in complex systems- whether it be voting, writing letters to senators, calling insurance companies, or providing parents clarity about their rights in IEP meetings.

Flexible – We must be ready to grow and change our perspectives, our understandings, and our actions as the contexts around us change. We must be almost malleable as nothing is really fixed or predictable. 

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Dr. Candace: The depth and nuisance in the field. I think that’s why people don’t know what we do unless you’ve worked with one of us. There is so much we can do. I love the passion and the drive of OTs. I love the potential also. Collectively, we could do so much. I think this is why advocacy is so important so that we can get funding for all the areas in which we provide care. I also think this is why no matter what we do, we need to do it as occupational therapists first. This is such a valuable field but that puts us at risk for other careers poaching the OT scope. This is why we need to go out there with all the things that we can do and with our entrepreneur mindset and our knowledge and ability to apply the IT process and let people know that we are occupational therapists first and that specific area of work second.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Dr. Candace: My plans currently are to continue to create an academic landscape that is holistic, accessible, equitable, and diverse as the communities we serve. The promise/attempt to create a holistic, accessible, equitable, and diverse OT educational landscape cannot be in words only- get the students in, and then the students will sort it out.  We have to apply as much as we know about pedagogy, teaching, and occupational therapy to create an academia in which all students can be successful- whether they identify as black, indigenous, people of color, or have a disability- visible or invisible-, LGBTQIA+, male, etc. At the 2022 Spring Academic Leadership Conference, the demographics of the field of occupational therapy confirmed that occupational therapy is largely a white, female field. Changing academia will help move us towards the vision of a more diverse workforce. 

I would like to revolutionize supporting OTs to be fieldwork educators. Fieldwork educators are an extremely important part of the occupational therapy education. I’m grateful that my job allows me to address the needs of clinicians which will hopefully impact their work as educators to occupational therapy students.  

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy: Candace Chatman, OTD, OTR/L.

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Dr. Candace: I believe in you and I know you can do it. Keep your eye on your dream and your goals and your community.

Dr. Candace is truly revolutionizing OT as we speak. I love the integration of academia and OT and how you discussed the interplay between the two. It is so important, and I also aspire to do work in academia further down my career trajectory to help advocate for the underheard voices who I believe have the power to break down multifacetered barriers present in OT. Thank you for your words of affirmation as well – that is true mentorship! 😉 It was so exciting to spotlight the voice of both a licensed occupational therapist and faculty member at USC today!

Well Renrenspeakers, thank you so much for tuning into the blog every Saturday this month for OT month! I am honored to have shed light on this amazing profession that I am currently pursing through the perspectives of my guest interviewees this month. I really hope that you all took something away from the stories that were shared on this platform. I have so many ambitions and plans for OT, so reading about other students and practitoners’ visions and aspirations was very inspiring and fruitful. It illustrates that there are so many passionate folks who are currently active in making occupational therapy an accessible, equitable service for all people across the lifespan regardless of their demographics, backgrounds, and experiences. For more resources about what OT is and all of the exciting things happening in the field, I strongly encourage you to visit AOTA. I also encourage you all to connect with the folks featured this month or myself if you are curious and eager to learn more about OT.

I really enjoyed hosting Occupational Therapy Speaks this month, and I hope you all return soon to Renrenspeaks for new content! In the mean time, go and thank an occupational therapist or an occupational therapy student for their dedication, hard work, and drive!

Peace and light,


Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 5: Dr. Linda Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The end of Occupational Therapy Month is here, so to conclude this month, I have a special treat for y’all! Today is DOUBLE FEATURE SATURDAY! The final two interviews will be featuring two of my favorite occupational therapists making big moves in the field! First, my new friend and fellow African sister, Dr. Linda, will be joining us today. I met her through mutual connections from my current school. She is such an energetic, kind soul with so much passion for the field. I am also always rooting for fellow Africans killing it in and diversifying OT, so I am so honored to feature her today on the blog!

IreneWhat is your name? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Dr. Linda: Blessings everyone, I am Dr. Linda Sadiki Materu, a pediatric occupational therapist currently working at an outpatient clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. I am Tanzanian-American, born and raised in East Africa, and have lived in California for most of my adult life. I relocated from California to Arizona to complete my doctorate in occupational therapy degree at A.T. Still University. I believe in God the Father, Yahweh, His only begotten son, Yeshua, and the person Holy Spirit. Outside my professional life, I love to travel, listen to music, visit different restaurants, and have COFFEE.

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Dr. Linda: After relocating from Tanzania, I decided to change my career from business to health care given the opportunity out here in America. Growing up, I was always fascinated with the sciences. However, I felt like there were few health professions to pick from. At first, I was looking into becoming a physical therapist; however, a destiny helper (as I would like to call her) introduced me to OT. Just like the majority of people, I did not know what OT was and to me ‘occupational therapy’ sounded mundane. However, after doing my research and completing observation hours in different settings, I knew it was my best fit. I never thought I would find a career that was so rewarding yet so fun. I believe OT is what I was created to do.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Dr. Linda:

Diversity – OT as a profession is so diverse, as there are different specializations to choose from and limitless practice settings to work in from traditional to non-traditional. Also, OTs work with diverse populations of different ages, social-economic statuses, cultures, languages, and religions which empowers us to be more creative and to make meaningful connections.

Holistic – OT is among a few holistic careers – i.e. it addresses a person as a whole -the mind, spirit, and body, which is essential in promoting optimal health and ensuring independence when engaging in meaningful occupations.

Impactful – OTs are able to make a difference in their clients’ lives by adopting ways and creating a safe environment. Being able to witness our clients’ progress from being dependent to achieving independence or even simply learning a new skill and the joy it brings to them and their loved ones is very fulfilling.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Dr. Linda: Oh my, that’s a hard question because there is a lot I love about OT. However, if I were to pick, I would say how creativity and science collide. OTs are knowledgeable about body functions through anatomy, kinesiology, neuroscience, and psychology and are able to creatively use simple everyday items to compensate or remediate function.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Dr. Linda: While completing my studies, I developed a passion for sensory processing disorders (SPD) that led to my doctoral capstone project on using sensory-based approaches to manage the effects of adverse childhood experiences. While completing this project, I realized that there was little research to justify the positive effects we bring to our clients through the use of sensory-based approaches. Therefore, I desire to complete other research projects on this topic to add to the body of knowledge to ensure SPD is recognized as a disorder in the DSM. In the future, I would love to work with an international NGO to advocate for policies that are centered on children’s health and wellbeing in Africa, while promoting our profession.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Dr. Linda: Yes, please feel reach out to me via email or IG @_broken.crayon

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Dr. Linda: Words of encouragement to fellow members of the human race.

“Broken crayons still color” – Shelly Hitz. 

Simply put- in spite of everything that a person has done or been through they still have purpose and value, and God is able to use our brokenness to create something beautiful. For pediatric OTs who haven’t learned this trick yet- to facilitate an appropriate pencil grasp, use a broken crayon 😉

Dr. Linda, thank you for your words of encouragement. They were so comforting to hear and I know I needed that word in my life right now! Also, your IG handle makes so much sense to me now! She is truly a pediatric OT – her creativity is beyond me. I am very excited to see the work that you plan to achieve in the motherland. I remember when I visited Ghana specifically and volunteered at a community home for children and adults with various disabilities. It made me realize how pivotal OT services could have been at that site and how I could aid in advocacy for the members’ wellbeing and quality of life through an occupational lens. When you make those strides, take me with you!

Renrenspeakers, thanks so much for tuning into the blog! I have ONE MORE FEATURE for you all today! Please tune in later this afternoon to the blog for Part 6, the final feature of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,


Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 4: Matthew Speaks!

Hello, friends and Happy Saturday! I hope you have been enjoying my mini-blog series, Occupational Therapy Speaks, each week delving into the world of OT a bit more through the lens of current OT students! The next person I have for you today on the blog is my good friend Matthew. I met Matthew in one of my human development classes in undergrad — little did I know he was also an aspiring OT like myself. We were always put in the same group discussions and I always admired him because he inquisitively challenged the perspectives of our group discussions. We’ve been able to maintain a supportive relationship with one another through our check-ins where we spill all things OT and life. We were meant to reconnect after undergrad because now we all get to hear more about his beautiful perspective on OT!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Matthew: Matthew Kawakami (he/him/his). I am a 2nd Year OT student at SJSU. I am from the Bay Area in California. Some of my favorite occupations are watching YouTube, running, slacklining, and researching pop music statistics. 

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Matthew: I first found out about OT when I was doing a high school project. I had to present about an interesting career path and chose OT. I watched a few videos of pediatric OT and it looked super fun! Then in college one of my friends told they were interested in OT. Talking to her made me want to see what OT was like. After observing pediatric occupational therapists in person, OT seemed like a career that fit many of my interests. I wanted to work with people, I did not want to work sitting in an office, and I liked learning about both the human body and psychology. To be honest, I did not fully understand what occupational therapy entailed until I started OT school. Now that I am almost done with the academic portion of my program, I like that OT prioritizes the client’s agency, I like the breadth of the field (many different settings, populations, and diagnoses) and I like that I get to be creative.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?


Dignity – OTs help clients maintain their dignity as their level of functioning changes. OT is about meeting the client where they are and helping them do what is important to them.

Context – OT helps clients in a way that is relevant to their context/life. OT is not copy and paste. It is understanding what a client needs as a whole person based on their social, physical, and cultural environment.

Problematic-Fave – I love OT, but I know that OT is not perfect. I love that OT is client-centered, but I also know that OT has a lot room to grow when it comes to properly addressing anti-blackness and ableism within the field. I think it is important to acknowledge the problems in order to help something you love become even better.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Matthew: I like the idea of being client-centered and understanding that our purpose is to improve the client’s quality of life according to the client. I think the medical system can focus on telling the client what they need to do, but I like that OTs listen to the client and ask what do you need? (I think one of my professors told me this line in class).

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Matthew: My plan right now is to graduate and finish my fieldwork level II placements. After that, I am not sure what the future holds, but we shall see. I hope that I can be a part of the movement to help diversify OT, and increase access for groups traditionally disenfranchised due to race, class, disability, etc. I also hope I can be a part of the change to make OT spaces safer and more supportive for Black, Brown, and disabled students, practitioners, and clients.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!



IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Matthew: Thanks to Irene for asking me to share!

Matthew, thank YOU so much for sharing! OT as a problematic-fave – I FELT THAT ONE HEAVY. That is a great descriptor. Though I am also with you in terms of loving all things OT, I also acknowledge and stand by the amount of work that needs to be done in this field to be as inclusive as it aspires to be. That is why advocacy is huge and awareness/promotion early on is so important. I think as we challenge our own internalized biases and -isms, we will continue to be the transformative change that is necessary to make OT thrive even more. I am happy to hear that you are almost done with the academic portion of your curriculum! An OT in the making is among us!

Thank you once again, Renrenspeakers, for tuning into the blog today. I hope this interview gave you another perspective on what OT is all about. Stay tuned for the NEXT lovely OT that I will be highlighting next WEEKEND for Part 5 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,


Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 3: Kayela Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! You know what time it is! For the next feature on the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month, we have our lovely guest, Kayela, who will be sharing her story with us. Kayela is literally one of the kindest, most honest, and humble folks that I have been so privileged to have met in my grad school career thus far. I promise you, as soon as she walks your way, your mood is instantly brightened because she is such a light! I am so excited for you all to get to learn more about her and understand why I admire her so much!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Kayela: Kayela Santiago (she/her). I am from Maui, Hawai’i but currently reside in Arizona, as I am a 2nd-year MSOT student at A.T. Still University, Arizona. I am an Aunty of 3 precious little girls, and I enjoy spending time with loved ones. I’m a lover of animals, sightseeing, puzzles, arts and crafts, and outdoor activities. I enjoy hiking, fishing, diving, off-roading, exploring waterfalls, and swimming. I am also a lover of food.

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Kayela: During my freshman year of college, I unfortunately tore my ACL and meniscus playing soccer and underwent 2 knee surgeries and long months of rehab. The difficulty of putting on pants, rolling in bed and showering were just a few of the battles I faced. While I was receiving PT services, I was sure I’d follow that career path because all I wanted at the time was to return to playing soccer. I experienced frustrations towards these tasks, which I thought were so simple at the time, therefore leading me toward OT. I realized how important it was for me to feel independent in what I do on a day-to-day basis and not have to rely on my parents to assist me. It was definitely frustrating having to rely on my parents to care for me post-surgery and during my recovery. The tasks that I was doing prior to surgery were a breeze, and after that experience, I realized I wanted to help people by returning them back to their everyday lives as independent individuals, as well as incorporating their hobbies and bringing meaning into their routines and everyday activities.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?


Holistic – This particular word to me is important as it captures every aspect of an individual and not defining nor capturing the individual as their diagnosis. We as OTs look at an individual as a whole and consider the environment, emotional/social supports, spiritual/religious backgrounds as well as cultural backgrounds and incorporate all areas into their plan of care and treatment.

Inclusivity – This is such an important word to me as I believe we create a safe space for every individual. During treatment sessions, we leave all judgements at the door, and we provide a safe environment in which our patients feel heard, welcomed, and accepted no matter the differences amongst us.

Diversity– Every individual brings unique skills, knowledge and perspectives from their cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, it’s so important to provide an engaging environment where all individuals feel like they belong. It’s important to me that we provide equal care and opportunities to every individual.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Kayela: The most beautiful thing about OT to me is the ability to create change, and be the change in a patient’s life. My favorite quote relating to OT is “Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “what matters to you?” not, “what’s the matter with you?” by Ginny Stoffle, AOTA president. We as OT professionals not only create rapport with our clients but we create therapeutic activities that are most meaningful to our patients, therefore inspiring, motivating, acknowledging and empowering them toward success while recognizing barriers and assisting them toward independence. The progression and support that we provide is what makes me the happiest as we instill confidence back into our patients.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Kayela: As a future OT, I plan on moving back to Maui. Being that Maui is such a small island, I think being able to bring a fresh perspective and new lens on OT can help any setting that I work in. Before attending ATSU, I was a soccer coach for kids 2-11 years old and I remember parents asking if we provided sessions to children with disabilities. Sadly, the owner’s answer was no. Therefore, in the future, I want to be able to create an after school program/soccer club that includes children with disabilities and educate parents on approaches that can be utilized with their child at home as they are developing through each milestone to be successful in their occupations and school-related tasks.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!


Instragram: @kayelasantiago

Kayela! Wow. First of all, all power to you in undergoing knee surgery in college. I am sure that was a very taxing experience not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Paradoxically, this injury led you to this field, illustrating that we are able to come out stronger and better than before! Also, I absolutely love that quote by AOTA’s former president! I read it when I initially was doing more research about OT as a prospective student, and it just solidified everything that I wanted to contribute to healthcare. Thank you for sharing that. I think this quote accurately reflects the vision of OT and all that we have to offer. And lastly, I love your plan for OT in the future! It is SO important that all kiddos regardless of ability have the same opportunities to participate in sports like soccer to enhance their social participation in life!

Renrenspeakers, that is all we have today! I hope you were able to take something positive away from Kayela’s story today. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 4 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,