Diverse-OT Executive Board (L-R): Toni Solaru, Caitlin Rhoten, Sarah Maloney,
Brittany Lowen, Noreen Jeglum.
Occupational therapy students are doing amazing work across the country to help increase professional diversity, facilitate dialogues, and promote inclusion for people of all cultures and backgrounds. One group, “Diverse-OT” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has held several events that highlight its members’ dedication to developing a diverse workforce and advocating for our profession.
During one event, the Diverse-OT group partnered with the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to work with high school students as part of a local post-secondary education program. The AVID/TOPS program is an effort to prepare students for “four-year college eligibility and success.” As part of this program, Diverse-OT members educated 75 high school students of diverse backgrounds about occupational therapy as part of a healthcare professions panel. High school participants were able to ask questions, engage in hands-on activities and learn more about what occupational therapists do.
In addition to participating in the AVID program, Diverse-OT members organized an educational event titled “Military and Veteran Culture for Healthcare Professionals and Students.” Participants learned about differences between various branches of the military, deployment experiences, female veteran perspectives, and combat-associated injuries, among other topics. The event featured Dr. Evelyn Lewis, from Warrior Centric Health, Dan Connery, from the Dane County Veterans Service Office, and 7 student veterans from UW-Madison who all shared their expertise across various themes related to veteran culture. As one group member wrote, “We feel that events like this not only help promote culturally-competent care among veteran patient populations, but also help to bridge the civilian-military divide. connected with 75 high school students of varying marginalized identities who participate in the AVID program.
The Diverse-OT group at UW-Madison is an excellent example of the power that OT/A students (or educators, and clinicians!) have to make a difference not only in the lives of OT practitioners, but in their communities as well. As COTAD grows and more universities establish COTAD Chapters, we are hopeful that more OT/A students will engage with their communities as diversity advocates, educators, and leaders.