Future Leader: Mario Millsap, MSOT/S '20

Hometown: East St. Louis, IL
Undergraduate degree: BS in exercise science from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Leadership: Staff Director, Missouri Border Brawl/Xtreme Couture GI Foundation; Board Member and Instructor, The Excelsior Program; Fundraising Committee Chairperson (2019–2020), Washington University Student Occupational Therapy Association; Student Representative, Missouri Black Occupational Therapy Caucus; Lead Organizer, Black Washington University Occupational Therapy Collective

What are your meaningful occupations?
I am a social introvert by nature and have always found comfort in facilitating joy and fellowship with people I love. I have also been involved in martial arts and sports my entire life, so I relish expressing myself through physical movement and expression. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been my favorite medium for this for quite some time. I appreciate the competition, dynamic problem-solving and emphasis on self-improvement. Most importantly, Jiu-Jitsu has taught me the importance of resilience and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

What is your definition of occupational therapy?
I define occupational therapy as a means to enable participation and support overall well-being through a holistic, client-focused lens.

Why did you choose the MSOT degree?
As an older student, I chose the MSOT degree because of the shorter timeframe and it being the less expensive option. I did not have any research experience before coming to WashU, so I did not see the doctoral component particularly appealing due to no frame of reference. My only experiences at the time with the field came from working with clients, so that is where I concentrated my focus. After completing my own research project, I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for research.

What are your career goals?
A Ghanan phrase guides my path personally and professionally—Sankofa—which translates to “go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful.” I believe my life journey reflects the efforts of those who came before me and supported me. My ultimate goal is to honor and pay that energy forward to create a better future for Black people. Whether it comes through education, continued nonprofit work, or advocacy on occupational justice issues, I want to continue to utilize my experiences and perspectives to help make occupational therapy an equitable, inclusive, justice-based profession for everyone.

What WashU experience so far stands out to you?
My time at WashU has been transformative in many ways; it is challenging to choose one that stands out. I would have to say that my time in Dr. Quinn Tyminski’s Community Independence Occupational Therapy Clinic stood out the most. Not only did I love working with the population—individuals experiencing homelessness—but Dr. Tyminski fostered an ideal environment for my learning style and challenged my initially limited understanding of occupational therapy for the better. My time under her reinforced the immense value occupational therapy can provide to our communities when given the opportunity and inspired my advocacy journey to fight for what I believe our profession should be.


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