Future leader: Rachel Graves, OTD/S ʼ22

Name: Rachel Graves, OTD/S ʼ22
Hometown: Vancouver, WA
Undergraduate degree: BA in Kinesiology Sports Medicine and BA in Music from Rice University
Leadership: Vice President of Pi Theta Epsilon Xi Chapter

What are your meaningful occupations?
I enjoy playing violin, hiking, cooking, exploring new places, listening to music, reading, learning languages, and spending time with family and friends.

What is your definition of OT?
Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic approach to helping people improve participation and satisfaction in their important and meaningful activities. Occupational therapists are uniquely skilled in activity analysis, which guides our reasoning to help clients across the lifespan.

Why did you choose the OTD degree?
The opportunities to experience OT research with guided mentorship, learn about leadership and teaching, and develop a capstone experience that explores my personal interests made the OTD degree ideal for me. It allows me to learn about the intersection of clinical skills, research and teaching, which I hope to pursue further as I gain experience in the field.

What are your career goals?
I am passionate about hand therapy, neurological rehabilitation, and injury treatment and prevention. I plan to work toward becoming a certified hand therapist in the next few years to enhance my clinical skills in treating complex upper extremity conditions. In addition, I am passionate about teaching and research. I hope to contribute to the OT profession as a clinician, researcher and educator to further our understanding of theory and evidence-based practice.

What WashU experience stands out to you?
During my capstone experience this summer, I had the privilege of working virtually part-time with an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist who specializes in treating musicians. We collaboratively developed a new treatment tool and framework to guide clinicians who treat musicians and wrote a manuscript explaining its utility in practice. The opportunity to combine my love for injury treatment and prevention, musicians, research, and education was amazing. I am also incredibly grateful for everything I learned from WashU’s OT theory and leadership courses and my OTD research mentor, Dr. Lisa Connor, who helped me publish research on community reintegration after stroke in the Journal of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. All these experiences have helped me grow as an occupational therapist and have prepared me for future opportunities.

Anything else you would like us to know?
I feel blessed to be joining the profession that helped me six years ago. I started my undergrad at Rice University as a violin performance major, and due to repetitive use injury, I experienced hand and occupational therapy for the first time as a freshman. As I recovered from my injury, I became passionate about helping others just as I had been helped. I was inspired by the holistic approach to improving individuals’ participation in their meaningful occupations. Now I look forward to contributing to the profession and helping clients learn and adapt in the midst of challenges to ultimately find greater satisfaction in life. I am so thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends and mentors who have contributed to my journey every step of the way.


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Current, future and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit us in person or virtually. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Faculty member Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, opens our virtual visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion,  followed by a chat with a current student. In person visit sessions are by request only; please contact Dr. Kniepmann to schedule.

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