CGI-U Student Spotlight: Joe Brey, OTD/S 2013

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Joseph Brey is a clinical doctoral student at the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. He works as a research assistant in the Productive Aging and Neurorehabilitation lab with individuals experiencing work-related difficulties following stroke. He is currently Xi chapter president of Pi Theta Epsilon, the honor society of occupational therapy. During his graduate experience, he has also served as secretary within the same organization, as well as fundraising co-chair of the Washington University Student Occupational Therapy Association. Born in Kentucky, Joe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and minor in Spanish in 2010. Following the completion of doctoral coursework in May, Joseph will complete his second clinical internship in Neurorehabilitation in Wauchula, FL, and will culminate his graduate experience with a capstone apprenticeship in Washington, DC, designing and implementing a health aging course with a nonprofit organization.

How did you hear about CGI-U?

One of my professors brought the upcoming CGI-U event to my attention. The purpose of the event fit well with the apprenticeship plans I was in the process of creating. I didn’t want to pass up such an amazing opportunity.

What interested you about it?

As occupational therapists we do a great job of creating opportunities for people at the individual level. CGI-U recognizes the need to address global issues from a community perspective. I was interested in learning more about how to address some of society’s most pressing public health issues through the lens of occupation and performance patterns. These population level conversations are going to occur more and more often in our country, and occupational therapists need to be present at the table.

Why did you choose to apply, and who helped you?

I knew that CGI-U was an opportunity that may never come my way again. To understand the realities, opportunities, and challenges of addressing humanitarian issues in a tangible way is invaluable. Two of my professors and mentors, Dr. Tim Wolf and Dr. Carolyn Baum, encouraged me to apply and helped me through the process.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

I hope to leave the experience with a greater understanding of how to maximize the impact and outcome of my proposal. We all have great ideas, and I think the conference will be beneficial in helping to shape these ideas to face the realities of the issues we hope to address.

What would you tell other students who are thinking about applying for similar opportunities?

Go for it. The more opportunities we have as adult learners to challenge and expand our ideas, the greater our capacity for addressing the occupational needs of our clients.

Tell us a little about your proposal.

The proposal is a shift from traditional rehabilitation approaches to habilitation and addressing age-acquired disability before it occurs. I plan to develop and implement a productive aging class for a non-profit senior services agency in Washington, D.C. The goal of the sessions will be to work with individuals entering late adulthood to identify and plan for the functional opportunities and challenges of aging. A person-environment-occupation perspective, along with specific areas of concern identified by participants, will guide class content.

Why did you select your particular Commitment to Action?
We live in a society that is rapidly aging and with a healthcare system that will not have the infrastructure to help so many individuals live well with age acquired health conditions. Creating even small-scale programs that allow aging adults to build the capacity to self-manage age-related changes is important for sustaining function for these individuals and decreasing unnecessary healthcare utilization.

After participating in CGIU, what do you hope to do  to take your project to the next level?
My two areas of greatest growth are identifying meaningful outcome measures and finding community allies. Both will be important for carrying the project beyond the initial pilot phase. 

Your observations/impressions of CGIU?
I left CGI-U with a renewed faith for creating meaningful change in our communities. It's easy to get bogged down in the details and challenges of project development, but hearing so many success stories demonstrated the power of passion and perseverance.  I feel very privileged to have been invited to exchange ideas with peers with big visions for improving the health and well-being of our world in tangible way. The environment was very supportive, and everyone wanted to see every commitment succeed.

What advantages does the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University offer you that other programs don’t offer? 

The Program offers an unlimited number of resources that can’t be matched. The diversity and richness of expert sources allows students to explore every potential area of our profession. In addition to clinical training, the research, teaching, and program/model development opportunities WU offers positions students well to be future leaders of the field.

Why did you choose The Program?

I chose WU because I wanted a program that would challenge and help me to develop the capacity be an active learner after I graduated when resources are not so accessible. The faculty, staff, and students were also so welcoming and helpful, especially during the first few semesters.

What can you say about the quality of education you are receiving? 

The Program teaches students how to learn and find the answers you are looking for. This approach is so beneficial because OT evaluation and intervention guidelines change over time, but if you have a solid understanding of the theoretical underpinnings and models of our profession, you can be a competent professional in almost any situation.

What is the learning atmosphere like?

Students participate in a wide variety of learning environments at WU, from lectures to small group hands-on sessions to one-on-one meetings with academic mentors. This arrangement caters to a wide range of learning styles, but also prepares us to work professionally in a wide range of situations.

What do you like best about attending the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis?

I always feel like there is an active exchange of ideas; students never have a passive role in the learning process.

As a group, how would you describe your classmates?

One of my favorite parts of attending Washington University is being surrounded by top-notch peers. Everyone has diverse interests, and I have learned so much from listening to their experiences.  Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. My classmates have always been supportive and willing to go out of their way to help me inside and outside the classroom.

How would you describe the faculty?

The Program has one of the largest occupational therapy faculties in the country. The faculty has expertise in a wide-range of practice areas. It’s not uncommon to use a textbook or read an article in class written by one of the WUOT professors. I think we students are very fortunate to have such direct sources to the information we are learning.  The faculty has both high expectations and big hearts. I think this combination creates the best learning environment.

What about the school do you most want prospective students to know?

I know that the graduate experience I have had here is one of a kind. The school will prepare you to be a competent practitioner, researcher, or educator in virtually any setting of your choice. 

What do you think of living in St. Louis? 

St. Louis has all kinds of low-cost (or free!) things to do, many of which are close to the medical campus. On a graduate student budget, this has been really helpful. Forest Park is also close by and has outdoor activities year-round.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After graduation I will be completing my second Level II clinical in Little Rock, AR. After that I will be heading to Washington, D.C. to complete my apprenticeship. I hope to stay in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area and begin my career clinically, and eventually work in the policy and program development, possibly in conjunction with the American Occupational Therapy Association.

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