Hey readers! Welcome to week 2 of OT Month and our second OT feature! Today I introduce you to John Paul (JP). He has really cool experience in research in the areas of neuroscience and social psychology that he did before he decided to attend OT school. He also talks about his own experiences as a patient and how that played a role in deciding to become an OT and what he is interested in in the field. I am so excited for all of you to learn more about JP!
I am a first year OTD student at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. However, before deciding to pursue occupational therapy, I studied Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan and worked in a social psychology lab studying altruism, empathy, and narcissism. After graduation, I moved to Arizona and worked as a research technician in a behavioral neuroscience lab. There, I acted as Project Head on our dopamine-3 (D3) grant, studying targeted treatments for cocaine addiction. Recently, three years of studies I led researching the effects of LS-3-134, a D3 receptor partial agonist, on cocaine-motivated behaviors were published. You can check it out here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2018.10.002
Why did you decide to become an OT?
Although I loved my research, I wanted to work with a clinical population. I began talking to friends and family members in healthcare professions about their experiences and decided to shadow a few occupational therapists in outpatient neuro rehab, inpatient acute care, and inpatient acute rehab. I found the profession to be extremely meaningful. Unlike some other health professions I was considering, OTs actually spend a great deal of time with their clients. Ultimately, I fell in love with the holistic nature of the profession and how we focus on function and what the client finds meaningful. As someone living with epilepsy who has a lot of experience being a patient, this philosophy is really important to me. Finally, there is a lot research to be done in OT, and I’m excited to be a part of that!
What are you most passionate about in the world of OT?
As a person with a neurological disorder, I really want to work with patients that have experienced some sort of neurological event, whether that be TBI, stroke, MS, etc. Ideally, this would be in an inpatient acute rehab setting, as I was most drawn to this during my observations. But, I’m only in my first year and still trying to find my exact path!
What is occupational balance to you, and how do you maintain it?
This is a tough one! I’m the type of person who says yes to every opportunity and sacrifices sleep to ensure I can get it all done – so I haven’t always been the best at maintaining occupational balance. Right now, I’m in school, work two part-time jobs, serve as a class representative, am Co-Chair of the Community Outreach Committee at the IHP, belong to two student groups, and am running for Vice President of Student Government. However, I do take one hour each week to sing with the IHP Musicians, an interdisciplinary group at the MGH IHP that puts on semesterly shows at Spaulding and other rehab facilities. Music has always been a very important part of my life and I’m trying my best to keep up with that in grad school! Additionally, I am adamant about having dinner with my partner, Drake, every night, and spending at least one night work-free with him per week.
Fun Facts About JP
I am a research assistant in a lab at the IHP. The professor who I work for does amazing research with robot-assisted therapy in people who have experienced stroke. Her latest study has included cognitive strategies and motor learning approaches in therapy. I’m really excited to continue my research in her lab and possibly turn it into my Advanced Doctoral Experience. Ultimately, I plan to pursue my PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences so that one day I too can conduct my own research and teach at a great institute like the IHP!
Thanks for reading!