Occupational Therapy Month is celebrated in April every year to recognize the contributions that help people improve their ability to participate in daily activities and achieve greater independence. From bathing to eating or helping with clothing yourself, the occupational therapy (OT) master’s program students at TSU are becoming healthcare professionals to provide for all ages to overcome physical, cognitive, or emotional barriers.
“Whatever is ailing you, we look at how that is affecting your occupation,” said Emily Bailor, a second year OT master’s student, said. “If we can get someone back to doing their occupation it’s a direct increase to quality of life, which is our goal.” Bailor stated that OT is a huge part of the healthcare field. “Physical therapy will get you up and walking, but occupational therapy will get your clothes on.”
There are currently 60 TSU students in the program.
While Bailor wants to work with patients of all ages and needs, Justin Brown, a second year OT master’s student, anticipates working with burns or traumatic brain injuries. Brown, of Alabama, said he chose TSU’s affordable program because it, “feels like home.”
“To pursue a higher degree at an HBCU just shows it is prominent,” Brown, who attended TSU as an undergraduate, said. “I am trying to show kids that you can be Black and be an occupational therapist. Whoever you are, you can get a higher degree in your profession.”
The field is 82% prominently white, according to the American OT Association.
Not only does Brown look forward to diversifying the field, so does Dr. Lisa Porter, an assistant professor in the occupational therapy department. This month Porter is heading to the American OT Association conference with a student to present a conversation related to underrepresented minority groups in their field. “Occupational therapy is a very white profession,” Porter said. “It is important to promote diversity to fit the population we are serving.”
Along with attending the national conference, in honor of OT month, the program has had guest speakers.
OT students and staff also participated in TSU Mud Day this week to give children ages 3-5 different sensory experiences. It is a celebration hosted by the Child Development and Family Studies program.
Porter said OT also focuses on “working to help kids access their education,” from self-regulation to motor skills and mental health. “Our focus on occupation, not just your job but meaningful activities,” she said.
TSU has an affordable OT program and a Tiger Community Rehabilitation Clinic that is a free and student-run. The clinic offers outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy services to the public. “Having a state school that isn’t as expensive as some of these private programs is important too because it should be more accessible to students,” Porter said.