Occupational Therapy Doctoral Student Inspired to Innovate

By Ben Boulden

For two years, she worked alongside occupational therapists and became intrigued by all the ways they can help people. Ramirez is now a student in the University of Arkansas’ new occupational therapy doctoral program.

“Many fields address physical and psychological ability and assume this will prepare people to engage in the everyday things they need and want to do — or what we call occupations,” she said. “OT considers how people participate in occupations differently.”

That’s why OT practitioners need to be innovators. She said their unique perspective can benefit individuals and those working in healthcare, business, school systems, and more.

Working collaboratively with people to engage in what they need or want to do has always appealed to Ramirez, originally from Mountain View, California.

“When I first observed an occupational therapist, I realized that OT is individualized and organic,” she said. “To the untrained eye, OT might not look like therapy, which is unique and sort of beautiful.”

Ramirez’s cohort recently attended a medical surgery, a rare opportunity in occupational therapy programs.

“Following a surgical procedure from start to finish allowed us to understand better the physical and psychological experience of surgery and recovery,” she said. “This is particularly beneficial in understanding the purpose of physical restrictions after surgery, how to manage those restrictions in treatment, and how this will influence the individual throughout recovery and life.”

They recently collaborated with U of A landscape architect students to examine campus accessibility, using a mobility device to navigate buildings and terrain.

Ramirez feels fortunate to be part of an OT program offering unique experiences like these.

She also pointed to the program’s state-of-the-art facilities. The U of A program is a joint offering with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The UAMS facility provides 7,000 square feet of hands-on learning space, and students also train at a multi-level home on the U of A campus.

Both spaces allow occupational therapy students to advance their skills in authentic environments.