Class of 2020: Celebrating Our Rehabilitation Sciences Graduates
As a new group of rehabilitation sciences students prepares to graduate during one of the most uncertain times in history, they share what got them interested in their chosen fields and how it feels to graduate in the middle of a global pandemic.
Master of Science, Physical Therapy (MScPT)
I was first exposed to the field of physical therapy (PT) after tearing my ACL playing high school sports. Over time, I began to see physiotherapy as a proactive and accessible approach to build a foundation of care on exercise as medicine. I hope to use my zeal for building resilience in myself and others – physically and mentally – to help people achieve their health goals. My current areas of interest are critical and intensive care and orthopaedic PT, specifically with young athletes. Regardless of the population I’m working with, my primary goal is to make physiotherapy accessible, equitable and mitigate barriers for patients receiving care.
Despite much of the uncertainty with the pandemic, I’m trying to appreciate the silver linings of it all. For example, the pandemic has forced the PT and health care world in general to question and improve on many outdated or inefficient practices. As a new graduate, this has helped me appreciate the fluidity of physiotherapy as a profession and how we are able to pivot in our approaches while still providing quality care for patients. I have also seen many clinicians come together in this difficult time and support each other while supporting patients. I am looking forward to adding to that sense of strength and community within PT.
Master of Science, Occupational Therapy (MScOT)
I first learned about occupational therapy (OT) through my own family’s experience of caregiving for my beloved Great Aunt. An occupational therapist enabled my Aunt to age in place, which gave her the key to living her life to the fullest. Through this experience, I learned that engaging in meaningful daily activities adds quality to people’s lives. Due to my educational background in Public Health, I’m passionate about health promotion and disease prevention, which takes a proactive rather than reactive approach to health care. I strongly believe that OTs are well equipped to take a leadership role in health promotion through their role as educators, advocators, and change agents. I hope to be an OT clinician that makes an impact at the systems level.
Graduating during a global pandemic has brought about so many uncertainties. I often wondered how my fieldwork placements would work out, whether I would graduate on time, and whether I would get the necessary training to become a competent occupational therapist. Although it has been challenging, this pandemic has taught me that fear can’t stop you from achieving your goals. Being well informed, not worrying about what you can’t control, and focusing on how I could do my part helped me move forward. COVID-19 has highlighted to me how important daily occupations are; our daily routines and roles have been completely turned upside down due to the pandemic. I believe occupational therapists are needed now more than ever.
Master of Science, Physical Therapy (MScPT)
Prior to pursuing physical therapy, I worked in the film and television industry as a film technician and cinematographer. During this time, I experienced persistent low back pain that I learned to manage with physical therapy, yoga and mindfulness. Through this experience, I became fascinated with how the body functions and heals, and I felt inspired by the real sense of connection with the physiotherapists that treated me. As I transition to working in the field, I’m interested in developing a practice that partners with patients where we can work together to achieve wellbeing both physically and mentally. I also hope to use my experience with mindfulness to foster a safe and inclusive healthcare environment for both the patients and communities with which I work.
Graduating during this complex and challenging time of a global pandemic has meant a lot of things for me. During the spring after everything shut down, I had the opportunity to offer virtual mindfulness sessions for my classmates. Through these sessions we were able to connect remotely to discuss our wellbeing and explore how mindfulness could be applied clinically. There was also some uncertainty about whether or not we would be able to complete our clinical hours, but the U of T MScPT team and clinician community in Toronto came through for us. The outpouring of support was inspiring to witness. There was also a major change to clinical practice with a push towards more virtual care. This was at times difficult and challenging, but it was also a great opportunity for creative thinking and innovation. For some patients, the virtual model actually improved their experience! All of these experiences solidified my understanding that working in the field of physical therapy is a journey of life-long learning. As we encounter new challenges we adapt, reorient, and we may even come out the other side stronger and more connected. I’m looking forward to continuing this exploration of what it means to work as a physiotherapist and I’m thrilled to be joining this close-knit community of clinicians working to help people in our communities every day.
Bruna Seixas Lima
PhD, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute
I have always been passionate about cognitive processes and the brain, so I decided to steer my interests towards something that would be both interesting to me, and helpful to others. I chose to work with patients with dementia for a lot of reasons. It is a very complex and very interesting issue, and it is also very prevalent and serious. My family, like many others, has been affected by it. I had a grandmother who passed away after many years dealing with dementia, and my mom is battling dementia right now.
When I was working on my master's thesis in Brazil, my research initially focused on language deficits caused by stroke. When I moved to Canada, I started learning about the impairments caused by specific types of dementia. My research investigated individuals' language and memory, as I analyzed participants' ability to tell autobiographical memories. The most rewarding part of my research was the time I spent with my participants listening to their life stories. I was happy to hear them, and they were happy to tell them. As a researcher, what I look forward to the most is to finding answers that will make a difference in the lives of people living with dementia.
I count myself very lucky because my research was very close to done when the pandemic hit, and I was privileged to use my time in quarantine for some peaceful thesis writing. Dementia is also a global pandemic, so I hope my research can help reduce the impact of this ongoing wave.
Master of Science, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute
Growing up, my sister was diagnosed with a complex neurological condition. Witnessing an interdisciplinary team develop a diagnosis and treatment plan inspired me want to learn more about pediatric medicine and rehabilitation. I had a unique opportunity to integrate within a clinical team at Holland Bloorview and work with therapists, engineers and pediatricians to follow a family throughout their inpatient recovery – this was an amazing privilege that cemented my interest in pursuing this path.
My research explored the effects of implementing exercise video games, or ‘exergames’ for inpatient children with cerebral palsy recovering from lower limb orthopedic surgery on pain and wellbeing. Witnessing how my research directly impacted the lives of patients and their families was extremely rewarding.
Graduating during a pandemic has definitely been interesting! It was a little strange to defend online, as I was doing one of the biggest presentations of my life from my kitchen table. Fortunately, my work wasn’t impacted by the quarantine and my supervisor and committee members were very supportive throughout the process, pandemic or not.
I now work as a clinical research coordinator at SickKids, integrating a new model of care for babies and families with complex care needs from the neonatal intensive care unit to their home. Getting to apply the skills that I learned at Holland Bloorview has been vital in my transition to SickKids. I look forward to continuing to improve access to healthcare resources and improved care for children with disabilities and their families.
Master of Science, Occupational Therapy (MScOT)
I have witnessed first-hand the impacts of disability and injuries on my family members’ quality of life and engagement in daily activities. By pursuing occupational therapy, I hope to help people participate and engage in occupations that are meaningful to them, while understanding how various factors may impact their functioning. I look forward to meeting individuals from different walks of life and hearing their stories. Two individuals can have the same diagnosis, but each individual goes through their own unique journey and experiences. As an occupational therapist, I will be a chapter in an individual’s story, and I look forward to instilling hope and change in someone’s life as they achieve their goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has refocused my attention to the importance of maintaining occupations during life transitions. This pandemic has impacted all of us to some extent, whether it be how we interact with our social circles, our employment status, and even how we engage in our leisure occupations. Graduating during the pandemic sheds light on the opportunities to continue conversations on life transitions and evaluating what is meaningful to us. Despite these uncertain times, I have grown to be hopeful for our future as we continue to adapt to these changing times and refocus our time and energy into what we love and is important to us.
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