Karen Martinez' growing understanding and knowledge of occupational therapy has also grown her passion for the field. Her favorite part of the program--the people--surely includes her brother, Oscar, a fellow UB OT student and also profiled.
At the time that I decided to apply to the occupational therapy program at UB, I was working for an urgent care facility and my original plan was to apply to [physician assistant] school. I was getting ready to apply and began to ask the physician assistants and doctors for letters of recommendation.
That’s when one of the PAs asked me why I wanted to be a PA, and my answer was that I just wanted to help people. She replied by saying, “Karen, that’s great but you can help people in a million different careers. Why do you want to be a PA?” I couldn’t answer her. So, for the next couple of days I reflected on my decision and career path and realized that I wasn’t happy. That’s when I remembered the occupational therapists I had the opportunity to work with one summer doing aqua therapy at a school for children with cerebral palsy. It was a job experience that I would often think about and that got me excited to go to work every day.
I did my research, and I checked to see which schools were still accepting applications. A week later, I received my acceptance letter from UB.
To be honest when I started my journey at UB I had a broad understanding of what occupational therapy was and when people would ask me to explain OT. Now I don’t even hesitate when I get asked what I go to school for. I go straight into my elevator speech.
Every class and every semester has broadened my understanding of occupational therapy and its uniqueness as a field. As I get closer to graduating and learn more about different aspects of occupational therapy, I know I made the right decision for myself.
The people: my classmates, my professors and the clients that we’ve had the pleasure to meet and interact with. This program is challenging from start to finish, and a solid foundation of support and friendships that develop help you get through.
This program is also unique in that our professors find people within the community to come help us learn and to teach us about their experiences with different disabilities, and they always talk about the impact their occupational therapist had on their lives and recovery.
Make sure that you shadow not only occupational therapists but explore other careers too. If you end up back where you started, that’s great, and the knowledge of those other careers will only make you a better OT student.
Currently, I’m a fourth year, and so my next step is going on my first Level II fieldwork. After graduation I hope to continue my education and get my doctorate.
I hope to one day follow in the footsteps of the great professors that I’ve had through the years and teach.
Having my younger brother at UB a year behind me in the OT program has been great for the both of us. He’s usually my test dummy when I prepare for a practical, and he has no choice but to agree because at some point he knows I’ll have to do the same for him. He’s watched me figure out how to do manual muscle testing, goniometry, and various other assessments on him, so he gets to see things before he learns them, and I get to explain what I’m doing which only further reinforces my learning.