Women in OT

Happy International Women’s Day! Did you know that approximately 92% of OT practitioners are female? (AOTA, n.d.) Our workforce is dominated by women, and I have to say that I think we make our profession proud. There are so many incredible OTs doing important work in clinical roles, academia, research, leadership, advocacy, and more. Together, we are truly making this world a better place through meaningful occupations. In honor of the amazing women who work in the field of OT, I asked some women who inspire me to answer some questions for all of you. Tag a “Woman in OT” who inspires you!

Sarah M. OTD, OTR, BCPR, MPA

Q: Hi Sarah! Tell us a bit about you.

A: I’m the founding director of the Post-Professional OTD program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and am passionate about preparing hard-working OT practitioners to address practice and societal needs such as justice, equity, diversity and interprofessional collaborations.  I’ve worked clinically in acute and rehab settings, and love working with medically complex populations.  One key focus of my practice is advocacy – I’m the Government Representative for MAOT and just finished six years on the AOTPAC Board of Directors! 

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: I am so proud of my ability to increased knowledge, skills and confidence of students and practitioners related to advocacy and social justice. We’re the first Post-Professional OTD program that has developed a course to address justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in practice – we’re innovative and addressing needs of the profession.  I’m also so proud of my leadership roles thus far – AOTPAC Board of Directors, MAOT Executive Board, and my current role at IHP!

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: I had a life changing moment listening to Michelle Obama’s audiobook, Becoming. As a working parent who is connected to her community, healthcare, and advocacy, I find her wisdom, confidence, and balance of life quite admirable. 

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: Put yourself out there.  Share your goals with your friends and people who you admire. It’s ok to not know what you want to do long-term, just make you are enjoying everything you are doing now. 


Caroline B. MOT, OTR/L

Q: Hi Caroline! Tell us a bit about you.

A: My name is Caroline and I am a new grad OT in Florida (currently waiting to hear back about a pediatric position *fingers crossed*)! My professional interests include all things pediatrics – I think pediatrics is such a diverse field, and I love working with families and providing resources! Another professional role of mine is as a blogger. Through my blog I love to provide information and insight to becoming an OT, because it was hard to do it on my own! Other passions include increasing accessibility (especially in the outdoors), education, and loving and serving others through my faith as a Christian.

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: My clinical career hasn’t started quite yet, but something that I am proud of is my ability to pursue the ideas and passions that I have. I have had to push back against a lot of self-doubt, thinking that I’m not good enough or qualified enough to do something. But once I stopped holding myself back, I started achieving great things! Like creating my own ASL in Healthcare workshop in school, starting my blog, becoming SOTA president, and pushing myself to take continuing education even though I haven’t started practicing yet.

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: I always answer this the same way; I absolutely admire my mom. She epitomizes the idea of breaking the cycle of abuse and using her experiences to serve others. She grew up in an abusive household and her own step-mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (little was known about this disease at the time so you can imagine just how scary that was). Once she got away from home and started to figure her life out, she started working with the Child Assault Prevention Project, to help teach and empower kids to be “safe, strong and free.” She was also very involved in the Down syndrome community and through her experiences, taught me to have a love for serving and empowering others. I don’t know where I’d be without my mom!

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: Pursue your dreams! It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it.


Amirra J. OTD, OTR/L

Q: Hi Amirra! Tell us a bit about you.

A: Hi! My name is Amirra, I’m a southern gal – born and raised in North Carolina. I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona with my husband and our two doggies, Coco and Blue. I graduated from OT school in May 2019 and started practicing in Early Intervention. I absolutely love working with the birth to three population – so much that I teamed up to form The Real OTs of Early Intervention, dedicated to mentoring other practitioners interested in this practice setting. I serve as a board member on the Arizona OT Association and co-chair of the newly established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. This role is very important to me as I have a passion for addressing racial health disparities that affect participation in meaningful occupations, and the issues and barriers affecting minority communities. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, traveling, hiking with my dogs, and spending time with family. 

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: I am the owner of Marvelous Mirracles Pediatric Therapy, LLC – and it just makes me so proud to be able to say that! I’ve always known I wanted to go into entrepreneurship but I didn’t think it would happen so soon after I graduated. Although Marvelous Mirracles initially started as independent contracting in pediatric home health, I’ve now expanded into content creation, coaching, blogging, speaking engagements, podcasting, and even guest lecturing for universities. It’s been such an exciting time and each opportunity just further fuels my passion for being an OT. But I’m most proud of how I’ve been able to use Marvelous Mirracles to make an impact on the lives of families, children, students, and other therapists. 

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: In general, I admire any woman who paves the way for women that come after her. Women who inspire generations to come, and who have made a tremendous impact in the world. One of the many women I admire is Madam C. J. Walker. She was the first black, female, american millionaire and completely changed the black hair care industry with her line of products that focused on hair growth, health, and strength. As a black female entrepreneur, I can’t help but to admire her perseverance and tenacity. It wasn’t an easy journey but she saw a need and filled it, making an impact in the lives of so many women along the way. It’s a lesson I carry with me and remind myself of especially when the journey gets tough. I’d highly encourage checking out the netflix documentary “Self Made” to learn more about her story – it’s incredible! 

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: Remember you have a voice, and it needs to be heard. So speak loudly, boldly, and confidently 🙂


Shannen C. MS, OTR/L, LSVT BIG

Q: Hi Shannen! Tell us a bit about you.

A: I’m Shannen. I graduated OT school from the University of South Alabama in December 2016. Since graduation, I have worked full-time in an acute inpatient rehab unit hospital setting and most recently have been working in a short-term care SNF with an attached assisted living. I have a soft heart for the oldies, but in regard to professional interests I am most intrigued and excited when working with patients with neurological conditions. I have been LSVT BIG certified for over 2 years and am hopeful for the world to open up again to attend more hands-on training specific to neuro. I have also dabbled in teaching as an adjunct professor. I am my happiest when I get to be multidimensional and not stuck in one particular role. In regard to passions, I love writing and have huge aspirations for many projects that revolve around storytelling.

My favorite occupational role, however, is the role of being a wife. I am married to my college sweetheart who is currently a second-year medical resident. He aspires to be a hematologist/oncologist; we both are avid lovers of the Gulf Coast and are in agreement that although we may need to relocate for his medical training – when we are “done done”, our forever home has to be in the South and located in close proximity to the water!

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: Proudest memory from my OT career: Having the honor of being the Guest Pinning Ceremony Keynote Speaker for the occupational therapy Class of 2019 at my alma mater! I definitely felt like an imposter leading up to this honorable event especially since at the time, I had only been practicing for 3 years and was only 26-years-old!

A: Most meaningful memory from my OT career: So far the most meaningful activity for me has been creating a scrapbook with a patient who had terminal cancer. This by far has been the most intimate, person-centered, occupation-based, and meaningful intervention I have ever facilitated with a patient. I will never ever take for granted the honor there was in helping him create and leave a legacy book of poems, trinkets, and pictures for his dear family and friends. He made me promise throughout his rehab stay to keep this scrapbook which we worked on for about a third of our daily sessions a secret because he wanted it to be a surprise. What started as a meaningful gift he wanted to present to his family on the day he returned to home change into his wish for me to present at his funeral. He knew his time was coming and so on the day he discharged from the rehab unit to hospice care, he told one family member about our book and asked that family member to contact me after he passed. You better believe I followed that beautiful person’s memory and presented that scrapbook as he wished at his funeral. I still tear up in this memory, but more than that – I smile, because his legacy lives on.

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: I admire my grandmother (mom’s mom) very much. She raised four children who are all now raising adult children. She grew up on a farm and learned what the term “hard work” meant at an extremely young age. She was a homemaker all throughout her life and then decided in her 60s that she wanted to get a job not because she had to, but because she felt the desire to use her time in a way where she served others. She works at a Sam’s club where she has worked in several different departments including the meat packaging department, the flower section, and currently is one of those adorable door greeters. My grandma inspires me to keep writing even when I do not feel like it because it is our shared hobby.

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: I have to quote Maya Angelou in that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you have the opportunity to become a mentor- do it, but never forget that you should also never stop being a mentee.

Sometimes the best therapy intervention you can give somebody is admitting that you do not have the answer but will do everything in your power to gather it.


Gabriella P. V. MS, OTR/L

Q: Hi Gabby! Tell us a bit about you.

A: My name is Gabby, and I am a pediatric occupational therapist working in a bilingual English/Spanish preschool. I was born and raised in Queens, NYC, and first-generation Peruvian America. My mother immigrated to the U.S. independently and worked hard to provide for her family in Peru. As a single parent, my mom always instilled her value of resilience in my brother and me. Motivated by her lived experiences, I graduated from Boston University with my B.S. and M.S. in occupational therapy. Currently, I am pursuing my PP-OTD at the MGH IHP to enhance OT curricula with justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) concepts and create mentorship opportunities for OT students who identify as Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).  

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: I am very proud of the influence I’ve had on others through my online mentorship program, “OTea Office Hours.” It was created with the mission to support BIPOC pre-OT students, current OT students, and recent graduates in their professional careers. By proofreading application essays, hosting mock OT school interviews, and providing general insight into my own life as a Latina OT, I’ve been able to form many connections with people with similar life experiences as me. Representation truly matters, especially in a career that is not racially diverse. It’s been rewarding to be the person I needed when I was a student on my own OT journey for other students. 

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: I have always admired Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s life and work. As a Latina, I perceived her as the epitome of breaking glass ceilings within her field. Despite multiple challenges in her life, including illness, low financial resources, and discrimination based on her gender and ethnicity, she rose to the nation’s highest court. Having to contend with challenges didn’t stop her; in fact, it helped shape her character into one that persevered in the face of adversity. Although I admire Sotomayor’s strength and resiliency, I also appreciate that she actively works to dismantle those barriers so that others like her can have greater access and opportunities.  

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: Be proud of your life story and use it as an asset throughout your OT journey. Remember your “why”—your reason for choosing this career and let it inspire your professional and personal choices.


Sarah P. MA, OTR/L

Q: Hi Sarah! Tell us a bit about you.

A: Hey, my name is Sarah and I am a licensed and certified occupational therapist. With over 12 years of experience in early intervention, I am the founder and clinical director of a private practice in Los Angeles, California. My company specializes in therapy interventions in the home environment (although currently providing teletherapy) and typically works with children from birth to 3 years of age. I am also the host and creator of OT 4 Lyfe, a podcast and website dedicated to sharing my passion for the field of occupational therapy with other practitioners and anyone interested in the field of occupational therapy. I am also a co-host of two other podcasts, The OT Roundtable podcast and The Real OTs of Early Intervention podcast. It is my hope that I can inspire other OT practitioners, bring awareness to interesting topics within our field, and connect professionals for the advancement of occupational therapy as a whole.

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: I am an avid traveler and also super passionate about advocacy for our profession across the globe. One of things that I am most proud of is the opportunities that I have had to meet occupational therapy practitioners and students across the world, including places like Iceland, Portugal, and Estonia.  I have also had the opportunity to volunteer in areas that have limited or no access to OT services. To date, I have volunteered in Peru, Ecuador, Cambodia, and Honduras. Each experience means so much to me as I learn so much both personally and professionally and I love that I am able to combine two of my favorite things, occupational therapy and travel. 

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: While there are many, the first woman who comes to mind is Roxie Fernandez, who was my first level 1 fieldwork educator and then became my first boss once I had graduated from occupational therapy school. Roxie took a chance on me as a young, green therapist who had no idea what she was doing. She has taught me so much about being an OT and has supported me in becoming the best practitioner I can be. I owe so much of who I am today to her mentorship and guidance over the years and am so thankful that our paths crossed within my OT journey. She is a rockstar OT, an amazing mother to a son with cerebral palsy, and one of the most kind hearted humans I have ever met. 

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: Too often, women and especially in women in OT, experience significant imposter syndrome, undervalue ourselves, and constantly think we aren’t good enough. Trust me, I’ve felt all of this before.  But if I could share one thing, it would be this. You are capable, you are beautiful, you are strong, and you’ve got this. Ok, maybe that’s more like 4 things, but still… Whether you are a student, new grad, or experienced practitioner, you can do whatever you put your heart to.


Allie W. OT/s

Q: Hi Allie! Tell us a bit about you.

A: Hi, my name is Allie. I am currently a 3rd year OTD student finishing my Doctoral Capstone Project. In OT school, I decided to create a blog and podcast called, Patches of OT, to talk about the journey of the OT student. My passions include raising our service dog in training, running, creating, and spending time with my husband. I hope to work in pediatrics or forensic occupational therapy one day.

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: So far, I am really proud of not quitting OT school. I went through a time of bad depression, anxiety, and my ADLs (sleep, work, role as student) were highly impacted. I was asked to leave the program due not passing one class by 1.5%. I appealed and had to start the process over again. Some professors asked me not to talk about the process, but I thought otherwise. I am proud of my honesty, transparency, resiliency to get back in the game. Through the process, I learned that many students were in my same situation and too ashamed or scared to talk about it.

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: Oh, so many! Two women that I admire are Michelle Obama and Amanda Gorman. I admire Michelle Obama because of her strength to overcome so many battles. Her story of her as a child trying to fit in and then finally just becoming herself is impactful. I love her vulnerability and ability to talk to anyone she comes in contact with. Amanda Gorman, her words are so beautiful. I could listen to Amanda’s poems all day. Amanda is a great role model for all of us. She demonstrates that the words we use can move a crowd and start to heal.

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: You can do hard things! I feel as women, we often question ourselves and diminish our accomplishments. In times like these, we need to remind ourselves that we have done hard things and will continue to do hard things. Hard things may look like, advocating for ourselves (more pay, equal opportunity, more education to enhance companies, protecting our bodies), our patients (calling social work, multiple conversations with interprofessionals), our coworkers (equal benefits, equal treatment), and families (education, resources, and connection).


Tara M. MS, OTR/L

Q: Hi Tara! Tell us a bit about you.

A: I have been an occupational therapist for approximately 20 years! In that time, I’ve worked in a variety of settings, but have spent the last 10 years working in school-based practice for the Westwood Public Schools. I am a mother to three wonderful children ages 16, 12 and 8 and wife to my best friend of almost twenty years, Joey. Within the context of occupational therapy my passion is teaching OTs strategies to incorporate systematic progress monitoring within their practice. You’ll be able to learn more about that soon as it is the focus of my Innovation Project while pursuing my PP-OTD at MGH Institute for Health Professions. In life, our family is very involved with the performing arts. Having spent years performing and both experiencing and observing the impact theatre can have on children’s confidence and development, I wanted an opportunity to share my love of theatre with the community and co-founded Westwood Players, a community-based performing arts organization where I continue to serve as artistic director.

Q: What is something you are proud of in your OT career?

A: There are a few big moments that stand out to me throughout my career such as using NDT to facilitate a former police officer and football coach to stand and shake the hands of each and every one of his athletes while recovering from an aneurysm, the moment my student with dyslexia won his student council election with a speech he wrote using speech-to-text, or the celebration of independence that occurred with a student with ASD finally learned to tie his shoes. However, it’s the smaller moments that keep me excited about going to work every day. It’s the sparkle in the student’s eye when they see me walk in the room, it’s the moments a student calls my name by using their AAC device, it’s the trust and welcome I received from families as we explore personal experiences such as teaching a 12 year old how to manage their menstrual cycle or a 14 year old boy to shave. I’m most proud of the rapport I am able to build with the students and their families. When compared to acute care, school-based practice is a marathon and not a sprint. So when a special moment does arise, you hold on to it, plant that memory, so you can revisit it during the more hectic days.

Q: Who is a woman you admire?

A: Who I am as a person, a mother and occupational therapist has certainly been shaped by my own mother who lived with Multiple Sclerosis for a number of years before she passed away in 2010. My mother was passionate, loving, resilient and independent. From an early age, through modeling, she taught me acceptance. Through her battle with MS she lived life as a fighter. She was never the “follow the crowd” type of woman. Her impact on me was and is long lasting. In the decisions I make, the relationships I continue to build and most significantly, in the way I raise my own family. Those genes are strong. My daughter Ella never really got to know her, yet I can see her every single day through Ella’s eyes.

Q: Can you share any words of wisdom to other women in OT?

A: As occupational therapists, it is our responsibility to provide meaningful therapeutic opportunities to our students, patients, clients, etc. However, make sure you continue to find meaning in your work and life. I have been lucky enough to find myself part of a true interdisciplinary team, with whom I continue to learn from on a regular basis. And with that, I look forward to work each morning. I look forward to the next challenge.


References

American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA] (n.d.). Workforce Trends in Occupational Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/EducationCareers/Prospective/Workforce-trends-in-OT.PDF

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