TUS = Tough

By Grad II Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter, OTS

When I first heard the term “therapeutic use of self” it reminded me of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. In this passage, Paul talks about becoming all things to all people in order that they might better hear the gospel and have their lives thus transformed. And so, therapeutic use of self made sense to me. The idea of using yourself to best serve and help others was not only something I had been taught at church but studied and practiced during work at summer camp, especially on the ropes course, where our goals were to create situations with enough perceived risk to challenge groups (functional or dysfunctional) to reach beyond their individual capacities and jointly solve problems. And in so doing, develop transferable skills promoting success in the workplace.

That was then. In Fieldwork I here at VCU, I’ve learned that therapeutic use of self is, in practice, more difficult than it sounds and requires constant attention. I’ve learned that to be a good occupational therapist and truly facilitate health requires that you get to know your patient, their personality, their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately their goals. You need to have a good sense of what they will and won’t do so that they actually complete their home exercise plan. Most importantly you need to know how to walk alongside someone in their recovery. That requires creating an open space between you and your client to allow for questions and vulnerability. It requires communicating encouragement in a way clients can hear and believe. It requires promoting self-awareness of limitations (and hopefully self-acceptance) in a way that is more sobering than ego-shattering. It also requires being able to motivate patients when they need a little boost. Therapeutic use of self is therefore an extension of client centered practice.

I’ve also learned that it takes time to build rapport with any patient or client, and time is in short supply in many settings. Family members have taught me that even the ‘simplest’ of OT treatments (for instance, teaching back precautions after surgery) happens to people who are experiencing a much more substantial life event and or role transition than any 15 minute therapy session can address. And so whether we have one 15 minute session per patient or a year’s worth of sessions to get to know them, to be an effective OT demands that before we walk in the door we put ourselves in a headspace that is free of productivity driven anxiety, the insecurities of decision making as a new therapist, and any other distractions, so that we can put in the mental effort required to do that therapeutic use of self thing: moment-by-moment, word by word performing as an element of the therapeutic environment, with an understanding that our only hope of understanding the subtleties of each patient’s situation is through relationships with them and their family members.

None of this is easy. I’ve found it helps to know the limits of both our scope of practice and our personal knowledge. It helps to know what we can control and what we can’t and that ultimately we are here to serve the patient as members of their team. Therefore, we are not alone.

My Weekend at the Caring for the Caregiver Hack

By Grad I Jessica Lee

Last weekend, I was given the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hack sponsored by The Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving. The word “hackathon” is a blend of the words hack and marathon, so essentially we were given roughly 24 hours to come up with an innovative solution focused around Caregiver Health. There were seven teams altogether, from schools all around Virginia (JMU, Lynchburg, W&M, UVA, GMU, VT, and of course, VCU).

Our team included two students from the Experience Design program within the VCU Brandcenter, a 3rd-year student from the School of Pharmacy, a Kinetic Imaging student from the VCUarts program, and a Grad 1 from the OT program (me!). We were also lead by our wonderful coach, the OT Department’s very own, Dr. Tony Gentry.

(From left to right: Jyness Williams, Zachary Vono, Jessica Lee, Brianna Ondris, Missy Thieman, Dr. Tony Gentry)

We all met for the first time on Friday night, and were able to do some preliminary brainstorming over drinks and appetizers. Ultimately, we decided to call it an early night in anticipation of the day ahead.

On Saturday morning, we walked over to the Troutman Sanders law firm building overlooking the James River, where the Hackathon would be held for the weekend. Getting off the elevator, we were greeted by the Hack organizers and from there we jumped right in.

The morning began with a moving presentation by Mrs. Rita Choula, who shared with us her tough, but rewarding journey as a family caregiver. Then, Dr. Richard Lindsey gave us all a quick crash course in Caregiver 101. Each team was also assigned a family caregiver from the community, and the VCU team was lucky enough to be matched up with Tom Laughon.

Tom very openly shared the highs and lows of his caregiving experience with our team, which in turn generated a multitude of ideas for what our innovation might focus on. We narrowed it down to a few different areas, but ultimately decided to address the topic of social isolation and loneliness within the caregiver population.

We went through a number of ideas of what exactly our innovation would look like and what it would do, while also keeping in mind that Tom had encouraged us to somehow fit human empathy into cold technology. Eventually, we landed on what we would come to call Booga.

To give you a little background…

Booga is a proactive virtual companion that serves to support the caregiver along their journey. Booga itself acts as a form of 24/7 positive support, but it also has the capabilities to refer a caregiver to relevant resources or connect caregivers with other members of their support network (i.e. friends, family). Additionally, Booga works to reinforce and remind the caregiver of their positive memories by prompting the caregiver to upload pictures/videos on good days, and re-sharing them on bad days. Lastly, Booga can also serve as personal assistant by reminding the caregiver about their own appointments and daily tasks.

We worked on Booga late into Saturday night/Sunday morning, but still managed to get a few hours a sleep. The next morning, we put the final touches on our presentation for later that afternoon. We were anxious and jittery waiting to present, but in the end I have to say we rocked it. After all of the teams had finished presenting, the judges took half an hour to deliberate. It was surely worth the wait, because we came in 2nd out of the 7 teams participating!

VCU Team with our Big Check!

As the 2nd place team, we are also being given some additional supports to further develop Booga and hopefully address the additional emotional needs of family caregivers. All in all, this Hackathon was a great event, that gave everyone involved an opportunity to give back to a super deserving, but too often unrecognized group of people.

(Oh, why the name Booga? It’s a nonsense song Tom and his mom used to sing when he was a child and that she still remembers in her 90s. He showed us a funny, moving video of her singing it with joy in her eyes.)

Remembering our Dear Colleague Dianne Koontz Lowman

By Jayne Shepherd

It is with great sadness and also with a smile on my face that I remember Dianne Koontz Lowman. Dianne was an amazing, warm, kind person who loved to learn. She left this earth way too early this week.

Dianne and an equine friend

I met Dianne at the AOTA Promoting Partnership Project in the 1990s as the Virginia Education representative. I was thrilled when she applied for the VCU Project Coordinator for our newly acquired Interdisciplinary School Based OT/PT grant from the Virginia Department of Education. As a special educator, she made it her business to learn as much as she could about the OT profession and brought a wonderful perspective for our students and faculty. Dianne co-taught the School Based Therapy, Infants and Early Childhood, and Development courses and led many qualitative research groups with me and others related to children with chronic health care needs, feeding, play, transition and early childhood. Her organizational skills (color coded folders and paperclips, pens, notebooks, and agendas) and ability to teach were awesome and so appreciated by students and faculty. And her Boyd Bears were special!

In Dianne style, she threw herself into all things in the OT Department and then became a tenured faculty member with us. She wrote many articles, books, chapters, and presented to many interdisciplinary audiences. Always a hard worker, she contributed to various committees within the OT Department and the School of Allied Health Professions and again, her organizational skills were valued. As a great team player, she loved to mentor others with humor and purpose and to learn from others. Dianne was compassionate about “our kids”, family centered care, and positive behavioral supports. Who can forget her stories about children and families and the emotions they evoked in her and all of us? Students in the activities course may remember Dianne and her beloved George driving their Morgan to VCU for the faculty sharing about their meaningful activities in life.

Dianne’s Tenure Promotion Party here in OT

Family was so important to Dianne and I remember when her son Heath and Jeanne were married and her excitement. The addition of grandchildren, Kaylee and then Caleb made her heart flutter with even more happiness. Family was her priority and I will always appreciate her support when my father died or when I had parenting issues that needed a listening ear. Dianne could point out the positives when things weren’t going well. When she left VCU to go to JMU TTAC, we were very sad to see her leave yet happy she was moving closer to her new home (built from the trees on her parent’s farm) and to her soulmate George who was sick.

After George went to heaven, Dianne threw herself into learning once again and got a counseling degree from Liberty University. I still saw her off and on at different conferences and was amazed to see her new adventures develop. She learned to play the harp, became an advocate for girls and women who were placed in human trafficking, worked in equine therapy, and volunteered for missions in Nepal and Ukraine, while continuing to be a role model to many. She was the best Nana to Kaylee and Caleb!

Dianne has left her mark on many and a great hole is left. I am comforted that she is joining George in heaven and watching from a new perspective. May we all remember and embrace Dianne’s compassion for others, quest to learn, and her focus on family first. VCU’s Department of OT sends our warmest thoughts to Dianne’s family and hope they will keep her memories close to their heart and be comforted by all the people she touched during her lifetime. She does live on by her inspiration to others. Rest in peace Dianne. I will miss you and appreciate you more than you will ever know.

More information about Dianne: Obituary

Communities of Practice – A Knowledge Translation Model

By Professor Patty Laverdure

In her Presidential Address at the 2017 Annual AOTA Conference and Expo, AOTA President Amy Lamb called upon the membership to build collaborative communities of learning to examine our science, strengthen our knowledge and skills, and advance our practice. “Occupation Circles” have the power, she suggested, to transform both our experience as practitioners and our profession. Drawing on Dr. Lamb’s passion for advocacy along with the body of literature on knowledge translation, two collaborative Communities of Practice (CoP) are underway.

A Community of Practice (COP) is a collaborative and social learning community formed by groups of people who share a common interest or passion. COPs aim to build, expand, and share collective knowledge and resources to develop members’ skills and advance practice (Snyder, Wenger, & de Sousa Briggs, 2004; Wenger, 2000). Practitioners, academicians and researchers have joined forces to address the complexity of service delivery and expand knowledge, skills and leadership in accessing, analyzing and translating evidence in school practice (EBP) and in examining the contributions of occupational therapists in meeting the mental health needs of children in school settings (SMH).

The EBP CoP is a new collaborative effort of Patty Laverdure, Assistant Professor at VCU, Michelle Thompson, Occupational Therapist, Richmond Public Schools, and Cheryl Pinkleton, OT/PT Specialist, Chesterfield County Public Schools. Following a training in June, the CoP leaders are facilitating a learning community of school practitioners from their and other regional school divisions to build competency and leadership in a robust and interdisciplinary implementation of evidence-based practice and knowledge translation. Together, as a practice community, we are examining ways to strengthen our understanding of EBP concepts and methods. We hope to access, translate and develop resources to strengthen practice, while engaging in dialog that will facilitate a research agenda to inform client centered, occupationally focused and contextually based occupational therapy practice in school settings.

The SMH CoP, is spearheaded by Patty Laverdure, Assistant Professor at VCU, Pam Stephenson, Assistant Professor, Mary Baldwin University, and Kristin Eddy, OT/PT Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools. With the support of Dr. Sue Bazyk, Professor, Cleveland State University, the SMH CoP leaders are working with school practitioners from eight school divisions across the Commonwealth to address the mental health needs of students using public health and Multi-tiered System of Supports approaches. Using Dr. Bazyk’s text, the group is building capacity of occupational therapy practitioners to serve as practice leaders in school mental health for the state.

For more information on CoPs or for assistance in developing a CoP in your own practice setting contact Patty at PLaverdure@vcu.edu.

Welcome to the Class of 2020!

By Associate Professor and Admissions Chair Jodi Teitelman

VCU OTD Class of 2020

VCU OTD Class of 2020

The VCU OT class of 2020 is wrapping up its summer session this week, heading into a short break before Fall semester starts. After a week of orientation (and of course the opportunity to play OTINGO),the 42 new students began their academic preparation for becoming OTs! The class is brimming with youthful energy, with a mean age of 24 years for the class (range of 21-40 years). There is a rich cultural and gender mix, and both Virginia residents (81%) and out-of state residents (19%), hailing from California, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina and New Jersey are represented. Fifteen of our new students were psych majors as undergraduates, and 8 majored in exercise science. Other areas of undergraduate study include kinesiology, allied and public health sciences, sociology, anthropology, English, human development, animal science, communications, international studies, philosophy, religion and recreation. This truly reflects the diverse blend of requisite skills and talents in both the arts and sciences that make occupational therapy so unique.

As always, the process for being accepted into the EL-OTD program was highly competitive. Hundreds of potential students applied for a seat in the Class of 2020; of these 292 were complete and verified. Fewer than one in three in this strong applicant pool were accepted into the program. There’s no question students in the new class have much to be proud of for making it here, and we look forward to them making us proud in representing the OT Department and profession.

Meet our Newest Professor – Supriya Sen!

By Assistant Professor Supriya Sen

Supriya Sen

Warm felicitations to my greater VCU community and to my OT family. I am very excited to join the VCU OT department and to call Richmond, VA my home. Here is a brief explanation of my personal journey and OT experiences prior to VCU.

I was born in India, where I went to school until I went to high school in Cardiff, Wales, U.K. I got my ‘A’ levels there and then emigrated to Australia. After a brief stint as a student enrolled in the psychology Department at University of Queensland (U of Q), Brisbane, Australia where I completed a double major in psychology, I enrolled in the occupational therapy program. I graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor in Occupational Therapy from U of Q and worked at some teaching hospitals in Brisbane. I soon realized that I was interested in the philosophy of ‘health prevention’ or what is now known as ‘wellness’ in the OT world. I subsequently graduated with a Master’s degree in Human Factors and Ergonomics from Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia in 1991. I spent the next 5 years in Australia working in different capacities and roles as an occupational therapist in industry. I worked as a case manager for Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services (CRS) where I managed work injury cases, provided OT intervention and advocated for my client’s vocational careers. My most favorite work role at the time was when I worked as a senior advisor in Occupational Health and Safety Department of Industrial and Labor Relations. I was responsible for overseeing industry complying with occupational health and safety regulations in Queensland, Australia. I clearly recognized the role of OT in this work setting and was glad to be able to contribute my expertise in human factors and ergonomics (HFES).

The gypsy in me, decided that I wanted some more adventure (as if that was not enough) and that is what brought me to U.S. I left Australia in 1995 and worked in Georgia for 18 months at hospital where they were setting up an industrial rehabilitation program. I then moved to Dallas, TX and worked at a private facility that offered work rehabilitation services to injured workers. I was there for a year after which I joined University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1998. I was hired by Dr. Gary Keilhofner to work and subsequently manage the work rehab program at UIC, hospital system. While at UIC I became very involved in teaching in the OT school. I held an adjunct position as clinical assistant professor for almost 17 years. I taught classes to OT students in Clinical skills, Ergonomics, problem based learning and hosted labs for students at the hospital. I also taught Industrial Rehabilitation to the physical therapy students at UIC for 10 years.

In 2014, I moved to Philadelphia and worked at The University of the Sciences where I taught cultural competency, Interprofessional education, clinical skills and occupational therapy practice in the community. My post-professional occupational therapy doctoral project was embedded in the constructs of cultural competency and work rehabilitation for people with and without disabilities.

Did I say that I was going to be brief? I clearly was not brief in the description of my OT life/career.

At a personal level, I am a world traveler. I have lived on 4 continents and have travelled extensively in every continent except Antarctica. I consider some of my ‘occupational roles’ as daughter (even though both my parents are deceased), traveler, aunty, friend, animal lover and advocate for animal welfare (I have many stories about some of my adventures via ASPCA and PETA), pet parent to my adorable cat named Kuro (which means black in Japanese) and most importantly I consider myself as a ‘citizen of the world’. Every country I travel to brings me joy and unique experiences that I cherish. My travels have grounded me and have given me insight to how other people live. I have come to the realization that humans in any culture/country have many things in common – compassion, joy, valuing family, politeness, decency, food as a medium of connecting and sharing one’s culture, human decency; the list goes on. There is more commonality than disparity amongst us in the world.

I am so looking forward to working in and being part of the VCU community and the greater Richmond community.

Evidence-Based Practice & Leadership Workshop

By Assistant Professor Patty Laverdure

EBP & Leadership Meeting

On June 6th, forty fieldwork coordinators and educators from the greater Richmond area gathered on the Monroe Park campus of VCU to review and assess their evidence based practices (EBP) and examine the leadership skills required to advance EBP in their practice settings. During the workshop entitled, Building and Leading Inter-Professional Evidence Based Practice Teams, participants examined tools to build accountability in practice, to strengthen their skills to access, analyze and apply scientific evidence and translate knowledge in a variety of practice settings. As pediatric and adult practice communities, participants dug into intervention research to establish effective strategies to critically evaluate and develop best clinical practice; to identify collaborative approaches that build access to relevant evidence, clarify informational needs, facilitate knowledge development, and close knowledge to practice gaps; and to discuss tools of accountability and measurement to advocate for practice change in their practice settings.

During the workshop, participants debunked many of the myths of EBP, finding ways to benefit from the evidence to build an accountable, reliable and cost effective service delivery system in the context of a busy clinical schedule. Seven of the participants will be leading their inter-disciplinary teams in the development of a community of practice over the next year. Team leaders will establish practice communities to strengthen evidence based practices and build tools to examine, share and apply scientific knowledge within their complex systems. Through their guided collaborative learning, the practice leaders will be instrumental in ushering in change in their practice community; identifying knowledge gaps to inform academic and clinical research agendas; and articulating and disseminating the value and outcomes of OT services in their practice settings.

Research Day 2017

By Department Chair Al Copolillo

This year marks the end of our Master’s Level OT program. Our final cohort, the class of 2017, begins Fieldwork II in the next couple of weeks and will return to Theatre Row for the last time as an enrolled class in January 2018. It’s a bittersweet feeling to watch the master’s program transition to the entry level doctorate. To see so many students benefit from the MSOT program over many years is a deeply fulfilling experience for all who contributed to it, but the need for change to the OTD is here and brings a sense of excitement for what’s to come.

At this moment in time, I can’t think of a better way to appreciate the MSOT program than to recognize and honor this final class, the Class of 2017. Like many of the students who came before them, this group displayed a sense of maturity and confidence, a willingness to work hard, and a passionate desire to embrace the core of this profession, helping people to improve their occupations.

Every person in this class has demonstrated leadership in a unique way. The elected class officers, recognizing the value of building positive relationships as a central part of learning, quickly united their class through social events and community service. The class as a whole built strong relationships with the faculty and contributed to a sense of solidarity in the teaching/learning process. From my vantage point, I saw a group of students taking the idea of professionalism seriously, working to support each other, and recognizing the importance of practicing the foundational characteristics of occupational therapy, not just with designated clients or patients, but with each other.

Class of 2017

This year’s Research Forum, one of several culminations of the learning that occurs throughout the program, exemplifies the strength of this class. As with many culminating academic experiences, capstone presentation formats where students are required to stand up in front of their professors and classmates can feel intimidating. However, the Class of 2017 presented a year’s worth of faculty-guided research in an impressively professional way, describing their involvement in research design, participant recruitment and data collection, interpreting complex statistical analyses, and fielding difficult questions. Most impressively, they were well-prepared, appeared relaxed and confident, and at times even seemed to be having fun!

Class of 2017 Research Projects

• Assessment of the Ecological Validity of the TIP and the MIPM, Jamielynn Bodman, Karen DeMarco, Kathryn Hamlin-Pacheco, Margaret Kuhlman, Julie Kurtz, & Catherine McCarthy
Faculty Advisor: Carole Ivey

• Community Reintegration and Quality of Life after Brain Injury at The Mill House: The Clubhouse Model, Evan Amabile, Meredith Arnold, Andrea Caramore, Tatiana Schrader, Emily Taylor, & Lindsay Thomas
Faculty Advisor: Kelli Gary

• Development of Quality Indicators for School-Based Occupational Therapy Practitioners, Melissa McCann, Hannah McLoone, Laura Moore, & Leah Reed
Faculty Advisor: Patty Laverdure

• Effects of Deep Pressure on Arousal and Performance in Persons with Autism, Kaitlyn Baumann, Marika Emanuel, Anthony Guarriello, Paige Hebard, & Caitlin McDaniel
Faculty Advisor: Stacey Reynolds

• The Effect of an Occupational Therapy Computer Workstation Intervention on Ergonomic Knowledge, Self-efficacy, and Habit Formation, Chris Bott, Lars Hofland, Chad Murla, Sarah Plummer, & Megan Smith
Faculty Advisor: Al Copolillo

• Examining Functional Performance Based Cognitive Assessments Used by Occupational Therapists for Clients with ABI and SMI, Tara Burns, Zachary Grant, Dustin Mays, & Tay Om
Faculty Advisor: Dianne Simons

• Group-Based Healthy Living Instruction for Diabetes Mellitus Type II, Varsha Dante, James Dunaway, Ben Kiesler, Allison Lockwood, Hannah Newlon, & Meg Wright
Faculty Advisor: Tony Gentry

• The Impact of Home Modifications on the Performance of In-Home Activities in Community-Dwelling Older Adults, Cailin Clinton, Sara Cooper, Kelly Durkin, Holly Kaulius, & Becky Tupaj
Faculty Advisor: Jodi Teitelman

A huge and heartfelt thank you to Dr. Kelli Gary for serving as course facilitator and for planning and organizing the Research Forum with assistance from Adriene Hall-Johnson and Lawrencine Smith. Our gratitude and appreciation for all community partners and study participants too.

Congratulations and best wishes to all of the members of the Class of 2017 and to all MSOT students who chose VCU as their path to becoming outstanding occupational therapists.

A Student’s First AOTA Conference

By Grad II Sarah Plummer

This year a record number of VCU OT students attended the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in Philadelphia to celebrate the profession’s centennial birthday. Using money from donations, the Student Occupational Therapy Association was able to run a raffle which paid for 3 students’ conference fees, and numerous other students and faculty attended as well.

The conference included the poster sessions, short courses, scientific research panels, a huge Expo, the Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture, and numerous other speeches, addresses, and meetings. In honor of the Centennial, there was also a special Centennial bash with a band and dancing, a Knowledge Bowl, and an opening ceremony describing OT’s rich history. VCU students and faculty proudly represented the department’s tradition of excellence with a variety of posters, booths at the Tech Day “Appy Hour,” research presentations, a team competing in the Knowledge Bowl, faculty inductions for Stacey and Tony into the Roster of Fellows, and a lively dance circle at the Centennial Bash.

To capture the wide variety of experiences, I collected the following quotes from VCU students who attended the conference:

“The conference was such an amazing experience! It was very exhilarating and empowering to be in attendance alongside over 13,000 other OT professionals, students, associates, and supporters. The opening ceremony presented a wonderful video re-telling the history of occupational therapy followed by therapists from both the United States and abroad celebrating the value of occupational therapy through anecdotes from their experiences in practice. It was also amazing to actually attend an Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture – the role of technology is a relevant concept both within occupational therapy and healthcare and society as a whole. It was inspiring to listen Dr. Smith’s journey in the field and vision for the future. Lastly, I attended a variety of research panels and short sessions. My favorite session focused on neuroscience underpinnings and incorporating these concepts to guide and enhance intervention in all settings. Since I have both a background and fascination in neuroscience, it was an interesting session to attend and refreshing to know that therapists are considering the biology of the brain throughout our field.”

Next year’s conference is in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hope to see you all there!

My Path to FREE: A Priceless Experience!

By Grad II Varsha Dante

Grad IIs at FREE

Grad IIs at FREE

Born and raised in India, I was exposed to poverty, homelessness, and disability at a very young age. Catching a glimpse of someone in need in Mumbai was as common as driving by a McDonald’s in Central Virginia. In an effort to avoid feeling any sort of pity for these individuals and giving them every rupee I had in my pocket, my culture taught me to pretend I didn’t see them. But all of that changed when I visited an orphanage near my grandma’s house in Kemmannu, India.

A rough translation of the name of this orphanage from Telegu to English is ‘Motivation’. Spandana is a non-profit organization that houses boys and men with various disabilities who have been disregarded by their parents. In many cases, the parents intentionally gave their sons away when they found out about their disability. Sadly, this is a typical case in India as disability is regarded as bringing shame on a family. Luckily, orphanages like Spandana take such individuals in as if they were their own. Some of the members of Spandana have intellectual disabilities, but a significant amount of them also have physical disabilities. On my very first visit to Spandana, I was astonished at the level of creativity it took to create makeshift (albeit somewhat unsafe) mobility aids such as canes and walkers for some of the men. However, most of them used self-identified compensatory strategies to work around their physical conditions. I continue to marvel at the fact that these members are able to make the most of their situation in spite of having so little.

So, when I heard about a non-profit organization called F.R.E.E Foundation in Richmond, VA that provides donated medical equipment to individuals who are unable to afford them, I wanted to learn more. This is a resource that is unheard of in Kemmannu, India, so naturally, I felt inclined to get involved with this organization. By simply cleaning, organizing, tagging, and matching the equipment to their customers, I feel like I am on the path to becoming a caring occupational therapist. The amount of clinical insight and judgment it takes to provide a client with the most optimal piece of equipment for their use at home is commendable and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this process. Additionally, by simply volunteering a few hours of our time, we can alleviate some of the burden of the F.R.E.E. staff, understanding the mechanics of disability and selecting the most appropriate piece of equipment to accommodate the disability, and recognizing that F.R.E.E. provides an avenue for members to continue being productive members of society.

The lives of the men living in Spandana would be so different if this resource was available to them. It’s only a matter of time before these resources make their way to India, but until then, I plan to do my part of advocating for our profession and the resources available to our clients with the hopes that they may one day spread to all parts of the world. While I plan to continue volunteering at F.R.E.E. after I graduate from this exceptional program, I (and my fellow volunteers) would like to pass the torch to the future graduates of VCU’s OT program.

Whether it’s volunteering from 5-7pm every Tuesdays or simply for an hour a month, I promise you, it’s worth it your time. Catch me in the hallway or email me at dantevj@vcu.edu and I can help you get involved!