University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

OS/OT Student Blog


Aloha (Unmet) Goals! →

Feb 13, 2014, by Clarissa · Leave a comment

We talk a lot in OT about the importance of maintaining a balance between work, rest, and play.  All y’all know from my blogs that I’m very busy – I’m a student ambassador, the social chair of the Occupational Therapy and Science Council, and I’m on the Student Run Clinic board.  I love all my activities and wouldn’t take back my involvement with them for anything.  I do tend to neglect restorative occupations, though.  Sensing this imbalance, I wrote a paper for my Health Promotion and Wellness class where I set goals to incorporate more restorative occupations in my life.

I think it’s safe to say that I did NOT meet my goals over winter break! It’s so true what my professors say – habit change is difficult and takes time.  It sounds like common sense but I didn’t realize exactly how hard it is until I tried it myself =(.  This gives me perspective on how my future clients will experience habit change. 

I went to Hawaii over winter break, which was supposed to include a lot of laying around on the beach but, according to my friends, I am “incapable of chill time.”  It is so true.  I really did try to relax but there were just too many cool things to do!  I went scuba diving for a whole day, I did a lot of snorkeling, went cage diving with sharks, and did 3 hikes – Diamond Head, Kokohead, and the Haiku Stairs.  I actually had to wake up at 2:30AM to hike the Haiku Stairs! Yup, there definitely weren’t any restorative occupations going on there. 

So I didn’t exactly relax in Hawaii but it was still awesome =). Here’s a picture taken when descending the Haiku Stairs.  Speaking of non-restorative activities, I also went on an OT trip to Vegas (I have a problem—I really just can’t stop being active). Cliff hanger for a future blog post soon!


I Love the Student Run Clinic! →

Feb 6, 2014, by Clarissa · Leave a comment

The Student Run Clinic (SRC) is run by students in the Pharmacy, Physician Assistant, Medical, and OT programs at USC.  I think the interdisciplinary aspect is so cool and the fact that students run the entire organization amazes me.  The clinic operates on Saturdays in the Eisner Family Medicine Center in downtown Los Angeles, which is a primary care clinic.  Currently, OTs do not have a strong presence in primary care, which is so unfortunate because OTs have a lot of potential to impact patients’ lives upon their first encounter with health care.  We’re working on bringing OT into this new field though! Being part of this emerging practice area is really exciting! 

My position on the SRC board is Care Team Coordinator (CTC), which means that I act as the team leader.  Each team consists of representatives from the occupational therapy, pharmacy, physician’s assistant, and medical schools.  Each individual discipline goes in to see the patient before we all huddle together for a treatment plan.  Our preceptors are also there to assist with the learning process.  My job as the CTC is to guide the team through the protocol with the patient and facilitate discussion between the team members.  On certain clinic dates, I also have the opportunity to volunteer as the OT instead of the CTC.  Acting in both roles has been great because I’ve been able to work on different skill sets with each.

I’ve learned a lot since my initial involvement with the Student Run Clinic! When I’m the OT volunteer, I practice treatment planning with the interdisciplinary team, collaborating with the patient about their goals, proper documentation, and how to educate other professions as well as the patient about OT. When I’m the CTC, I learn how to put together various pieces of the puzzle.  Multi-tasking is a key aspect of being a CTC – I need to ensure the team has a good learning experience, the patient receives the care they need, and that the team moves efficiently.  I definitely am learning how to be assertive! It’s been a challenge and I’ve had my share of uncomfortable “I don’t know what to do” moments but who doesn’t while learning?

To sum it all up—Student Run Clinic rocks!

Here’s a picture of my team and our preceptor from the last time I was in the clinic:


Out with Cohorts, in with Electives! →

Jan 30, 2014, by Clarissa · Leave a comment

For the first 1.5 years of this program, I pretty much had my schedule set for me with required classes.  The way it works is that we are split up into 3 cohorts at the beginning of our program (A, B, or C) and each cohort rotates through what we call immersion courses which are in the different practice areas of our profession – Physical Disabilities, Mental Health, and Pediatrics.  We grow really close to our cohorts because we pretty much see them all day, every day.  We still see classmates outside of our cohorts as well, though, because we have courses outside of our immersion. 

Our final semester is different because we no longer have cohorts and now have electives! I wish I could take all the electives that existed! I ended up selecting Hands, Dysphagia, Early Intervention, and Motor Control as my elective courses.  They’re all great courses and I love all the application.  In dysphagia, we learn about treating patients who have difficulty swallowing.  Last week, my partner and I looked at one another’s oral anatomy and tested each other’s gag reflexes (while my friend Kathy photobombed us).  It was cool!  Just not so cool when it was my turn:

Twice a week, I also go to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center for my motor control course – once to learn in a large classroom setting and practice techniques on my classmates and once for lab where I share my instructor with just one other person and apply what we learned on a patient.  We’re currently learning on the stroke unit and I’ve so far found this class really valuable.  The instructor is so good and I’m learning so much! In this picture, I’m mobilizing my friend/patient Judy’s scapula.  Later on, I cuddled up to my friend Angela (aka patient who had a stroke) so we could practice educating patients how to manage sleeping in their home with their spouse.  Lastly, the picture includes my friend Megan who put together a wheelchair BLINDFOLDED!  Yup, we are definitely getting the wheelchair management techniques down cold!


Uselessness is Gorgeous →

Jan 29, 2014, by Clarissa · 1 comment

Normally, there’s a little lull at the beginning of the semester before it goes into full swing but this semester hasn’t been like that at all.  I hit the ground running once the semester began.  I’m really busy and I love it.  In order to stay balanced, though, I’ve started thinking a lot about concepts I learned last semester in my Health Promotion and Wellness class.  Particularly, I thought about a lecture we had about happiness and how I can ensure I have personally meaningful moments in the midst of my hectic schedule. 

I thought our happiness lecture related really well to an art exhibit I saw when I visited Chicago over the summer.  It’s called “The Happy Show” by Stefan Sagmeister, an individual who struggled with depression after his mother’s death.  Because of his depression, he became interested in whether or not people can train their minds to be happy, similar to how people train their bodies.  This one particularly beautiful art piece of his was made out of post-it notes and spelled out “Uselessness is gorgeous.” It looked like this:

Sagmeister accompanied this art piece with a personal experience that relates to the concept of “flow” which we also learned about in our Health Promotion and Wellness class.  One experiences flow when completely absorbed in a satisfying activity and ceases to notice the passage of time.  By this art piece, he wrote, “Uselessness is gorgeous.  I came up with a reputable technique to artificially produce a moment of bliss: take a scooter, drive it on a beautiful road with little traffic so I can ride without a helmet and feel the wind in my hair while listening to about a dozen carefully selected songs, music that I don’t know well (so it won’t have any baggage) but am likely going to like.  And very important: there can be no purpose to the drive, just cruising without any goal. This recipe would send shivers down my spine every time.  To identify something without any goal and without any function has its own beauty: it’s the difference between a walk in the park and a commute.  It’s the different between art and design.”

This quote also reminded me of a pediatrics lecture my professor Dr. Erna Blanche gave where she said that without participating in activities that we do “just for the heck of it,” life wouldn’t be worth living.  I found that Sagmeister’s view really complemented OT’s value of participating in activities simply because they are meaningful. 

As for me, the closest moment I’ve experienced to Sagmeister’s description of bliss was my climb up Yosemite’s Half Dome, pictured below.  When I reached the top and looked over all of Yosemite Valley, I forgot about time and space.  I have decided to incorporate more nature into my life this semester in order to encourage a work-life balance. 


Tai Chi and (Chai) Tea →

Jan 23, 2014, by Clarissa · Leave a comment

This morning, I saw a group of older adults practicing Tai Chi in a park nearby my house and I felt so happy! Why, you ask?  I took a class last semester geared towards creating a community project.  My group members and I interviewed experts, talked to community members, and designed a program for (you guessed it) Tai Chi!

Older adults are often at risk for falls and social isolation.  In our research regarding Tai Chi, we found evidence in the literature supporting Tai Chi’s positive effects on fall prevention in older adults – it helps with factors contributing to falls like balance, coordination, and fear of falling.  To address fall risk and social isolation, we decided to write a proposal for creating a Tai Chi class followed by time to socialize with tea.  The social relationships built through tea time could also motivate the older adults to join our class. 

We decided our target population would be older adults in Monterey Park, a city just east of downtown LA.  The city has a 66.9% Asian population.  In our research, we also found that Asians were less likely to talk about their lifestyle to their health providers so they may have needs that aren’t being met.  The cultural familiarity of Tai Chi (and the tea!) may work to encourage their attendance to our program.

To explain the title of this blog post – my group really wanted to name our project Tai Chi and Chai Tea but had to very sadly let go of it.  Chai tea’s sugar content may not be the best for older adults.  The title lives on here.  Woohoo!

Here’s a picture of me and my awesome group on poster presentation day!

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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914,

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