Today Magazine Spring 2021 - Page 11

therapist ' s role in treatment , I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of one day . It didn ' t take long for me to realize that I wanted to become someone who could help others to engage in meaningful and necessary occupations in everyday life .”
Leigh then began planning her path to become an occupational therapist . She initially started studying recreational therapy at a local college with plans to apply to a Master of Occupational Therapy ( MSOT ) program upon graduation .
During the spring semester of her sophomore year , Leigh heard about GMercyU ’ s then brand new Occupational Science / Occupational Therapy 3 + 2 OT career track and decided to make a change . At GMercyU she found an incredible support system and invaluable experiences .
“ Thinking back on this now , I had absolutely no idea just how amazing this community is and the wealth of opportunities that were ahead of me ,” said Leigh . “ From partnering with local churches and going on service trips to other countries , GMercyU students are out there as representatives of our university , doing for others , and showing love and mercy to the world around us .”
An Incredible Achievement : Running , and Winning , an AOTA Election
Looking to make an impact on a national scale , Leigh decided to run in the election for the American Occupational Therapy Association ’ s Assembly of Student Delegates Chairperson . Leigh had learned about the opportunity through her AOTA Membership , which is included in GMercyU ’ s OT program , and , with the support of her professors , decided to run for the twoyear position .
“ I was so excited to find out I was elected as the AOTA ASD Chairperson ; I am still in disbelief that this will be happening ,” said Leigh of her big win . “ I couldn ’ t wait to tell Dr . Mernar and my other professors about it .”
On July 1 , Leigh will begin her role as the AOTA ASD Chairperson , which is the highest AOTA office position offered to students . In this role , Leigh will preside over meetings , prepare materials such as agendas and reports , bring concerns of students in OT and OT Assistant ( OTA ) programs to appropriate bodies within the association , among other responsibilities .
“ One of the projects I hope to work on with AOTA and the other ASD officers includes promoting and increasing OT and OTA student and new practitioner engagement in AOTA ,” said Leigh . “ There are many barriers to student engagement in professional associations and I hope to address and remove these barriers .”
In addition to the tremendous honor of being elected for a national position on the AOTA board , Leigh dove into many leadership opportunities on campus in both her undergraduate and graduate programs at GMercyU . She served as the Occupational Science Representative and Occupational
Therapy Representative for her respective class years , as well as served as the president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association ( SOTA ) in 2020 . Leigh is also currently serving as the President of GMercyU ’ s chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon , the national occupational therapy honor society .
With her bachelor ’ s degree completed last spring and her master ’ s program wrapping up this summer , Leigh is nearing the finish line . Then , she can start making a difference in the lives of patients , just like her cousin ’ s occupational therapist did for him .
“ My next steps will include taking and passing the National Board Certification of Occupational Therapy ( NBCOT ) exam to become a licensed occupational therapy practitioner ,” said Leigh . “ I hope to work with adults or older adults one day , but I am very open minded to all of the roles and settings where an OT can work . At the moment , I hope to get experience in a neurorehabilitation setting with older adults who have experienced a traumatic brain injury .”

It didn ' t take long for me to realize that I wanted to become someone who could help others to engage in meaningful and necessary occupations in everyday life .