Future Leader: Stephanie Judycki, OTD/S ‘22

Hometown: Miami, FL
Undergraduate degree: Bachelor of Health Science (BHS), Pre-Occupational Therapy from the University of Florida
Leadership: Washington University Student Occupational Therapy Association (WUSOTA) Secretary; Washington University Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (WU-COTAD) Hispanic/Latinx Group Founder; WUOT Peer Mentorship Program Coordinator; WUOT Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Student Representative; American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Children and Youth Special Interest Section Intern; Pauline Cid Schultz Scholar

What are your meaningful occupations?
Through occupation, we experience life guided by our distinct values and interests. Some of the occupations that bring meaning and joy to my life include spending time with friends and family, drinking coffee, hiking, longboarding, boxing and theatre. These occupations provide an outlet through which I can explore my environment and develop a sense of being and belonging. Family has always been one of my greatest priorities and my most powerful driving force. An occupation that is central to my family’s culture is coming together during the holidays to make alcapurrias, our favorite Puerto Rican dish. Participation in these activities is a crucial component of my identity and helps me achieve a sense of well-being and occupational balance.

What is your definition of occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people live meaningful lives. It is a unique profession in that it works with families, communities and individuals across the lifespan to equip people with the tools to participate in everyday activities with a sense of purpose and pride. Occupational therapists utilize unique client-centered and occupation-focused lenses to provide people with physical, cognitive and emotional support. They modify people’s environments, advocate for people’s unique needs and strive to create communities that are accessible and equitable. Occupational therapy enhances well-being by enabling doing, being, becoming and belonging.

Why did you choose the OTD degree?
Pursuing the OTD degree has provided me with the foundational skills to succeed in careers involving research, education, leadership and program development. Through opportunities for research at WashU, I have learned the importance of evidence-based practice and the ways in which I can further contribute to the growth of the field by enhancing current treatment delivery. Moreover, courses surrounding leadership and program development have provided me with a better understanding of the dynamic demands necessary to establish an organization, work alongside others in a clinical setting and serve as a leader in the field. Finally, additional opportunities for mentorship through the OTD program have provided me with the critical knowledge and experience to serve as a mentor and future educator in occupational therapy.

What are your career goals?
Upon graduation, I plan to serve children and their families as a pediatric occupational therapist. One of my biggest dreams is to establish a pediatric outpatient clinic for children and youth in underserved areas. Additionally, as a Florida native, I aspire to serve my community by combining my passion and purpose to collaborate with Disney to create and implement in-park accessible resources for children with sensory challenges and their families. As an individual with a passion for space and innovation, I hope to expand on initial efforts made in the 1970s by working alongside NASA to facilitate space travel and community reintegration for astronauts. Finally, my long-term goal is to continue lifelong learning through academia as an instructor and researcher to share my experiences and knowledge with future occupational therapists.

What WashU experience so far stands out to you?
WashU has cultivated my love for occupational therapy, connected me with future leaders and provided me with numerous experiences that have shaped who I am. I have made lasting friendships, seen snow for the first time, presented groundbreaking research, implemented a community-based program, taught an academic course, and developed a greater sense of resiliency during a time of occupational disruption and global uncertainty. Throughout my time as a student, I had the privilege of working alongside two incredible mentors, Dr. Carolyn Baum and Dr. Lisa Tabor Connor, both of whom have been paramount to my growth as a future practitioner. With their mentorship, I have been able to expand on my work surrounding resiliency, self-efficacy, and how these intrinsic factors impact meaningful participation for individuals with chronic conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. I have had the honor of meeting trailblazers in our field including Winnie Dunn, Helene Polatajko and Charles Christiansen in addition to collaborating with NASA scientists to better understand occupational disruption during space travel. Each experience I have had at WashU has taught me that I am capable of serving as an agent of change within the field of occupational therapy and beyond.

Anything else you would like us to know?
Occupational therapists are lifestyle scientists and experts in living. Through our innovative and transformative work, we help people across the lifespan find meaning in all aspects of life — even in the mundane. It is my dream and duty to share occupational therapy’s unique skillset and capabilities with the world so that the future generation of practitioners can walk the path we paved as well as forge their own path forward in the ever-evolving world of health care. WashU has provided me with the foundation to achieve my goals and reach beyond the stars.


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