Mentorship Matters: Maintaining Connections during COVID19

Learn about why mentee Kimberly M. Rahimian, OTD, OTR and mentor Raymond Nubla, MS, OTR/L joined the Minority Mentorship Program and how they help each other succeed even during a global pandemic.

Kimberly M. Rahimian, OTD, OTR

I sought out mentorship because I knew I would be graduating from my three-year long journey from VCU and realized I wanted and needed additional support as a new grad. I never knew such an opportunity would exist with COTAD, but fortunately discovered it as I was finishing my doctoral capstone that focused on diversity and inclusion within my own OT educational program.

There were many aspects of my personal experiences as a student that didn’t fit in neatly with the majority of people in my cohort. For example, whereas most students were Caucasian and from areas close to Richmond, VA, I was a first-generation college student, a woman of color, and an out-of-state student (I’m originally from National City, CA and attended a school all the way on the other side of the country!). I didn’t really have the same support network as most of my cohort did, especially since I planned on moving back to the west coast after graduating. As much as I enjoyed sharing my everyday experiences as a grad student and OT with friends and loved ones, I was seeking a different type of discussion and guidance post-graduation because I knew that transitions can be scary and rough.

On top of all of this, no one anticipated graduating during a global pandemic, which certainly made my mentorship experience all the more interesting and meaningful. The most surprising and pleasant part about being in the MMP has been the routine contact. Although we met earlier this year in February for the first time and all of our contacts have been virtual (even before COVID-19), I didn’t anticipate that I would be looking forward to the conversations Ray and I have each month, especially during a time in our history where a lot of what’s happening in our society feels even more dark, cruel, and unjust. As a mentee, I didn’t know what to really expect from this MMP experience initially. But it’s been pretty dope so far!

If you are reading this and considering becoming a mentor or mentee, I’ve got two important things to say. First, JUST DO IT! I’m a firm believer in continuous growth and learning, so no matter where you are in your life or career, everyone can benefit from being a mentor or a mentee! Second, a mentorship experience, just like a lot of other things in life, is as good or bad as you make it. You’ve got to put in effort and time to shape the MMP experience and reflect on your own why. you are already in the program, I believe being open, honest, and humble is important to have a successful mentorship experience. From the start, reflect on what it is exactly you are looking for from a mentorship experience, either as a mentee or mentor, as both roles have much to potentially gain. Communication is key!

In conclusion, the MMP is an amazing opportunity and I believe everyone should consider taking advantage of it!

Raymond Nubla, MS, OTR/L

I was drawn to COTAD’s Minority Mentorship Program because the more I learned about OT, the more I recognized the disparity between the cultural backgrounds of our clinicians and the backgrounds of the populations we serve. My clinical background is in serving youth with mental health challenges within the community setting, where my clients are predominantly people of color and of low socio-economic status. I wanted to be part of the movement to see occupational therapy clinicians be more reflective of my clients’ cultures. COTAD’s MMP was a great way to connect with like-minded individuals to promote that type of diversity within the OT profession.

The best part of being part of the MMP is seeing Kim’s resilience as she navigates through the transition from student to clinician in the midst of a global pandemic. Despite having the ritual of graduation diminished, the job market unexpectedly plummet, racial injustice becoming more and more eminent, and having to travel across the country with a limited OT network, Kim has demonstrated a strong willingness to serve others through it all.

Some advice I’d like to share with current and future dyads involves effective communication, establishing trust, and working together. I think it’s important for safe space to be established for a mentorship experience to be successful. Be humble. Be curious. Be collaborative. Additionally, connection is key – we have the power to make positive change to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within our profession.

Ultimately, as racial injustice is continually highlighted and the need for diverse and highly-skilled workforce becomes more pressing, getting plugged in to COTAD and the MMP is a way to spark connection and ideas to improve the way we practice.

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