Most students see April as the beginning of warm weather and the arrival of spring, but some students such as graduate students Michael Lopez and Kerry Gilroy see it as a time to spread awareness for Occupational Therapy (OT) month.
Gilroy believes it is important for people to understand what OTs do in the community.
“Most people when they ask your major and you say OT, they don’t know what that is. So we are trying to create awareness on this campus since we have such a great program,” she said.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website, “Occupational Therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).”
Gilroy says there is sometimes confusion as to what occupation means in terms of OT.
“Some people get confused and think occupational as in just doing work but we work with people who need help with self care, education, rehabilitation, physical disabilities and any other problems they may have in completing everyday activities,” she said.
Lopez believes OT’s help people do what they believe is meaningful in their lives.
“It’s different than most treatments because we incorporate what is important or valued by you into your treatment sessions,” Lopez said.
Lopez says the OT program at Quinnipiac is involved not only in the Quinnipiac community but also in the greater Hamden and New Haven area. One example of this is the V.I.S.I.O.N. (Volunteers in Service Impacting our Neighborhood) program at the North Haven campus.
V.I.S.I.O.N. is a pro bono clinic that runs Tuesday nights and is for uninsured members of the community who need access to OT.
“They wouldn’t have access to that since they don’t have insurance, so we teamed up with Yale and their version of V.I.S.I.O.N. and worked together to treat clients in the community,” he said.
Gilroy says it is important that people understand what an OT does because no matter who you are there is a good chance you will come into contact with an OT at some point in your life.
“In your lifetime you will be in contact with an OT whether it is for you or a loved one,” she said. “OT encompasses so many different populations and across anyone’s life they will come into contact with an OT and need to know what their job is in helping them.”
Gilroy also explained that it is important for OT to not be lumped in with other professions because OT is its own profession.
“You know what a nurse does and what a doctor is going to do but it is important for us because we are a unique profession and we don’t want to be grouped with a PT or another health profession,” Gilroy said.
Lopez said it is important people are aware of OT because it gives people the chance to consider it as their occupation.
“We want to promote the profession to the freshmen or the kids that are trying to figure out what they want to do and they may not know what OT is,” he said. “OT blends the arts and sciences and if someone is creative and loves to help people it can be an option for what you want to do in the future.”
Sophomore Christa Jacob decided to be an OT major when she shadowed her friends mother in high school who works at a pediatric OT clinic.
“I chose to be an OT major because I knew I always wanted to work with kids, especially kids that needed the most help,” she said. “I usually can’t make decisions for my life, but OT fit all my interests and expectations in a career so it just seemed right for me.
Jacob said she believes people don’t understand what OT is until they or someone they know need the therapy, but more events by the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) would be a great way for students to understand what OT is.
“I think SOTA can try to facilitate more fun events on campus catered to the college audience to promote awareness of Occupational Therapy,” she said. “Quinnipiac also already has the CompOTition, and which is a 5k fundraising for the Brace for Life organization.”
Lopez also said the job outlook for OTs is good as a future career and is also very rewarding.
“The possibilities are endless, there is so much potential and you can do so many things with it,” Lopez said.