By Assistant Professor 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.