Joyce Dadekian, OTD/S 2013
Hometown: Niskayuna, NY
What advantages does the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis offer you that other programs don’t offer?
There is a significant difference between the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University and other occupational therapy programs that I visited. Simply put, Washington University has kind, engaged students, professors who have sub-specialties within specialties, unparalleled collaboration with the School of Medicine, and opportunities to grow and put yourself in the best position possible as an occupational therapist and as a researcher. Other programs had certain elements of this, but Washington University had the total package that I was looking for.
I felt that as a renowned medical research institution, the School also had the resources to back its professors’ and students’ passions. Extensive grant funding enables us to complete meaningful projects that have the potential to impact how occupational therapy is practiced. Students have the opportunity to work on projects that have clinical significance. I wanted that opportunity and support as an OTD student.
The Program also has a very vibrant student occupational therapy organization. I appreciate the avenues that provides for involvement in the greater WUSM and St. Louis community.
Why did you choose Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis?
I feel that the Program was a uniquely strong fit for me. Their philosophy closely matches my own. It was an environment in which I immediately felt comfortable. I knew that I wanted to pursue an OTD in order to open more doors.
What can you say about the quality of education you are receiving?
At the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, we are on the cutting edge of practice. The philosophy, practice, and research behind occupational therapy are evolving. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of that change. Our professors are commonly cited or featured in occupational therapy research journals, and we have the privilege of studying under the former AOTA and NBCOT president, Dr. Carolyn Baum, who has been a force for positive change in the field during her time. Our education and educators prepares us for where OT is now, and also for the directions that it is heading.
What is the learning atmosphere like?
I recommend visiting and speaking to students about their experiences. Each class has approximately 80-90 students from a wide geographic area. Class time is split between lectures with the whole class, and labs of approximately 40 students. In labs, you practice the hands-on skills to be an occupational therapist (e.g. assessment, splinting). Group-based learning is an emphasis of the program, so group projects are common. All students also complete a capstone experience in research or community program development before they graduate.
What do you like best about attending Washington University in St. Louis?
I did not begin the Program expecting to love research. The passion of my clinical mentor for conducting and using research to impact practice has been contagious! The process of birthing and carrying out a research project has been stimulating, challenging, and a joy to be a part of. After every research lab meeting, I have to resist the impulse to update my Facebook status with how much I love my laboratory, lab mates and mentor. We laugh a lot in between getting things done!
I also love St. Louis. I so glad that I’ve had the chance to live here.
As a group, how would you describe your classmates?
My classmates are academically motivated, fun, and supportive. It was a welcome surprise that it isn’t a cut-throat environment. We’re more serious about acquiring knowledge for our patients’ sake rather than to one-up the person sitting beside us.
What do you like best about your classmates?
I have met some of my best friends here. Living in Olin Hall, the School of Medicine dormitory, has been a great way for me to meet close friends inside and outside the OT program. Occupational therapists have a propensity to be kind, creative and fun. Those qualities have carried over to our social lives. It may be organizing a dinner-theater event, hosting a 1920’s party, or tossing a Frisbee in the mud, but it’s rarely dull.
I have also enjoyed being a part of a larger class. It’s nice to still be getting to know people throughout the second and third year.
How would you describe the faculty?
The faculty is friendly and supportive. They are a wealth of resources, which they are eager to share.
What about the school do you most want prospective students to know?
You will do your best work at a place where you are happiest. For me, and for many of my friends, this has been the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Visit schools after you are accepted and talk to current students. Make the right decision for you.
What do you think of living in St. Louis?
St. Louis is the ideal haven for a broke graduate student. There are many free venues, such as the zoo, the history museum, and rides up the arch on certain days, etc. St. Louis also holds a plethora of free events, such as the balloon festival, summer musicals and concerts, movies in the plaza, etc. Many other activities are relatively low-cost, and downtown St. Louis has a respectable nightlife. I’m also a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, so living in St. Louis has been a particular thrill. From an east coast perspective, I find the people friendly, passionate about volunteerism, and chipper.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I plan to see what opportunities are available that match my interests. I have many, from serving those who are under-served, working with children and older adults, teaching, research, and so forth. I hope that an opportunity will present itself in one of those areas. One of the aspects about OT that I love is that it’s feasible to work in many settings and pursue multiple interests over the course of a career if desired. I hope to constantly learn and evolve over my career, so I plan to work in several of those areas.
Anything else you would like to add?
Best wishes with the process!