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,

Irene

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,

Irene

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,

Irene  

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,

Irene

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 lindamateruotd@gmail.com 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,

Irene

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?

Matthew:

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!

Matthew:

Email: matthew.kawakami@sjsu.edu

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,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 2: Melin Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! We are diving deep into the next feature I have to share with you all for the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month! The homie and colleague, Melin, will be speaking to us today about her personal experiences sharing how OT initially spoke to her as well as her exciting plans for the future of OT! Melin is a beautiful, sweet soul inside and out who has such a desire to advocate for OT through various avenues. I am thrilled for you all to read her interview down below!

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

Melin:  Hi everyone! My name is Melin Guerrero (she/her) and I am from El Paso, Texas. I am the first in my family to attend college and pursue a career in occupational therapy. For me, growing up on the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has had a huge impact on who I am today! I feel like I have a super power, a double identity. Not in a Hannah Montana type of way, but more so being fluent in two languages and being a part of two cultures. On a Saturday afternoon, I could pick between watching telenovelas with my mom or a 90s show on Nickelodeon with my twin sister. Aside from my upbringing, I am a huge football fan, go Greenbay! I have visited 5 out of 30 NFL stadiums and hope to visit the remaining ones once I graduate. My favorite Disney movie is Encanto, which was recently released. I love how it has a big emphasis on family and identity. Plus, let’s not forget about the songs!

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

Melin: During high school, I struggled to find a profession I wanted to pursue. All I was sure of was I wanted to be in the healthcare field but the sight of blood made me woozy, so nursing, phlebotomist, and technician were all out. I began to think, Is it even possible to be in healthcare and not deal with blood or open wounds? until I was introduced to an OT student and the rest was history. However, my interest did not turn into my passion for OT until I worked with the City of El Paso to develop the first program in the city where all abilities and talents were recognized and valued. I introduced participants to the fundamentals of sports, and through this, I was able to gain a deeper appreciation of the value of occupations and their ability to assist individuals not only in overcoming challenges but also making them feel included. I witnessed my students gain confidence, experience moments of success, and make lasting friendships through the simplicity of playing a sport.

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?

Melin:

Creative – OTs use a variety of arts and crafts for all sorts of populations. It allows clients an outlet to express themselves. By doing a simple snowflake craft during the holiday season, children are working on bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, crossing midline, and many other skills. 

EBP – Evidence-based practice allows occupational therapists to select the most effective treatment techniques. It helps answer the golden question asked by many clients, “Why do I have to do this exercise?”

Evolving –  Occupational therapy is an evolving profession that over time has grown and become essential. It is going to reach new heights such as trauma-based care, pelvic floor, and adaptive sports. 

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Melin: There are so many beautiful things about OT, it is hard to only pick one! Ultimately if I had to choose, it would be that it is holistic. It takes into consideration the whole person by being aware that both body and mind need to be taken into account.

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

Melin: Ever since entering graduate school my plans for how I want to revolutionize the field of OT have been constantly changing and evolving everyday. One day I really want to focus on adaptive sports but then the next I want to explore the roles OTs can play or have in colleges and universities. Education is one of the 8 types of occupations that we do not hear about enough with the young adult population.  They face many unique challenges when transitioning from high school to undergraduate or undergraduate to graduate school. There are also a lot of things in between that can get lost such as identity, roles and responsibilities.

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

Melin:

Instagram: @agua.de.melon

Email: melinguerrero@gmail.com

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! 

Melin:

A letter to my first-generation college students,

Being the first is not always easy. Being the first means you are going into an uncharted territory without any map to guide you. There will be individuals that will be a hindrance toward your growth, belittle you and discourage you along the way. But, always remember that you are capable, you are strong and you are paving the way for future generations. Keep pushing forward, si se puede!

Yall, Melin is FREAKIN awesome. I’ve always been in such awe of her. I absolutely love the letter at the end and know that she is already a huge inspiration (and will continue to be) to so many first-generation college students who are currently going through the difficulties of navigating university and trying to define their occupational roles. Also, how cool is it that she is a twin?? There are TWO of these great individuals just existing on this earth? Lastly, having a double identity is so powerful and I know will make a tremendous impact on how she will forge relationships with future clients and communities.

Well Renrenspeakers, I hope that yall felt as inspired as I did today reading Melin’s perspective on OT. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 3 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 1: Aegia Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The first person I have kickstarting my mini-blog series Occupational Therapy Speaks this month is my good friend and fellow colleague, Aegia! She was literally the first person I met at our grad school orientation last July. As I nervously sat down wondering who I was going to click with that day, she sat at the same table as me and we hit it off! Little did I know we were birthday twins until later that day, so I knew we were destined to be in each other’s lives! Aegia is a very dedicated, passionate future leader of OT. I am so excited to showcase her today in the interview down below!

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

Aegia: Aegia Mari Baldevia (she/her). I am a 1st-year doctor of occupational therapy student at A.T. Still University. I love working with people despite being an introvert. I currently work as a Reading Therapist for children with learning disabilities. Outside of the professional world, I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy dancing, arts and crafts, and fashion. I am a big believer in the power of kindness. I truly believe that one small act of kindness each day can change the world. 

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

Aegia: Since I was young, I knew I wanted to work with individuals with disabilities. Before I knew OT existed, I already had in my mind that I wanted to work with people to help them become the best versions of themselves. I wanted to help people reach their full potential. To be completely honest, when I first heard about OT, I just brushed it off. I did not fully commit to the idea of becoming an OT until I was a sophomore in college. I would say that my dad was really the person who helped solidify the idea for me. I told him what I wanted and what I did not want. He listened and told me to try looking into OT again. I am not quite sure what happened, but after looking into OT a second time, I fell in love. The rest is history.

Irene: Choose 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?

Aegia:

Adaptability: I chose Adaptability because a big part of OT is helping people adapt to changes in their own bodies or their environment. Change, whether it is abrupt or gradual, can be very uncomfortable. Occupational therapists play a part in helping people lean into those changes and thrive. 

Advocacy: I chose Advocacy because OT requires genuine care for the community. The community does not only involve the patients that we see, but it involves every individual that needs help. While we may not be able to provide therapy for every person, the least we can do is get people in touch with resources that will be able to help them. 

Identity: I chose Identity because occupational therapists do wonders in ensuring that patients find themselves even when life feels foggy or dark. Because of how client-centered OT is, we shed some light on the individual and what is meaningful to the individual. The therapy session is all about you and what we can do to help you improve your life.

Irene: What is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Aegia: I love the fact that OT is holistic and client-centered. I find that working with someone to help them become more independent or more confident in their circumstance is a very beautiful thing. To put it simply, we work with people to help them increase their quality of life. I want to be part of every bit of that.

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

Aegia: I hope to see OT be more involved in helping immigrants and refugees transition into life in a new country. I believe that occupational therapists have the skills to help both individuals and families find their footing in a completely new environment. As an immigrant, I saw the struggles my family and I had to face. I know, if given the opportunity, occupational therapists can find a way to smoothen the transition. The first step to achieving this goal is to teach others about OT and advocate for my field.

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

Aegia: If anyone is interested in learning more about OT, they can reach me at aegiamari@yahoo.com.

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! 

Aegia: If anyone in Arizona knows someone who would benefit from free occupational or physical therapy, they should look into the OT/PT Center at A.T. Still University. They can call (480) 219-6180 or they can go to atsu.edu/ot-pt-center.

Wow, thank you so much Aegia for shedding light and letting us get a glimpse into your journey through discovering and pursuing occupational therapy! I also have a very soft spot for enhancing the integration of refugees and immigrants into new environments, for my parents went through very similar transitions. I am so excited to see the work that you will do in this emerging niche of OT. Also, thanks for plugging the OT/PT Center too! I can co-sign in saying that it is a great community-friendly clinic that I have had the privilege to work at.

I hope Aegia’s blog interview warmed your hearts as much as it did mine. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 2 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene