Author Archives: Rachel LeBeau

photo of Linna Tam-Seto presenting

In service of those who have served

When Canadian Veterans leave the military, they are leaving a health care system designed for them and their unique health needs. As they enter the civilian community, they enter the public health care system where they face long wait times and health care providers who often have little understanding of how military service can affect health and well-being. 

Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, Linna Tam-Seto is working to better understand what public health care providers need to know and do to provide culturally competent care to Canadian Veterans.

She recently presented at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research forum, which brought together more than 800 researchers, policymakers, veterans and active serving members from around the world.

Her research has found that increased awareness of military culture among health care providers has a positive impact on the quality of health care Canadian Veterans receive. 

Tam-Seto notes that many people, including health care providers with limited experience working with veterans, have an antiquated image of what a veteran looks like and what their needs may be. “A small-town physician is not going to know about Veterans Affairs. They’re not going to know about service acquired injuries. They’re likely going to assume that every Canadian Veteran has PTSD.” 

Occupational therapists can play an important role in assisting Canadian Veterans through the transition to public health care and life after service. “Occupational therapy does a really good job at understanding identity and changes and how we can support individuals and systems,” she says. “We understand the impact on functioning because of change, like an injury or illness acquired during service.” 

Tam-Seto hopes her research will lead to better resources and training for health care providers, and improved care for Canadian Veterans. She says, “The reason why I’m motivated to do this work is that I’m doing this in service of those who have served us. Veterans put their lives on the line in service for our country and this is my way to support them and give thanks for the work that they have done.” 

Congratulations, Class of 2023!

Congratulations to the Class of 2023 on completing your Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degrees! We celebrate your perseverance and dedication, which have led you to this momentous achievement, and we know you will have a great impact on the world as you enter the next chapter as occupational therapists.

Six of our graduating students from our UTM and St. George campuses reflect on two years in the program and what they have planned for the future.

Riya Shah, co-valedictorian, UTSG

image of Riya Shah

Seeing clients go from a vulnerable, guarded state to laughing and engaging in meaningful activities again that is the true beauty of occupational therapy and it’s what I love about this profession.  

In school, I was astounded by the need to collaborate with my interprofessional peers and to learn that occupational therapy can be used in all areas of life. Most importantly, I reflected on the need for more people of colour in the health care community, and I am happy to contribute in a meaningful way through occupational therapy. 

I have been inspired by so many occupational therapists, all in different areas of work, and have had opportunities to advocate for the profession and vulnerable communities with the help of my faculty and peers. It has been so inspiring to learn and grow with my peers over the past two years. 

I plan on continuing to advocate for my clients and marginalized communities, and engage in a variety of occupational therapy roles, both clinical and non-clinical, to demonstrate the true essence and need for occupational therapy in my community.  

Antonia Bellefleur, co-valedictorian, UTM

image of Antonia Bellefleur

I was inspired to pursue occupational therapy because I appreciate the value placed on holistic care and addressing the person factors when providing therapy. Our occupational therapy lens is what makes us unique. 

I’ve learned so much these past couple of years. I didn’t know I had ‘spare parts’ — hurray for palmaris longus! I remember nervously preparing for our first initial interview with a mock patient. It’s wonderful to reflect on how far we’ve come since then. 

Now that I’ve graduated, I am currently working as an occupational therapist in acute hand therapy at a hospital and am excited to continue my learning in this field. 

Zoë Avril Smith, UTSG

image of Zoe Avril Smith

I was inspired to pursue a career in occupational therapy after working alongside several fantastic occupational therapists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I loved how their work was so tangible, holistic, and client-centered. 

During my time in the program, I was surprised to learn how many settings an occupational therapist can work in and how the number of opportunities continues to grow. 

I completed one of my clinical placements at Amar Seva Sangam, a non-profit rehabilitation centre founded and run by people with disabilities in rural South India. My experience here was so memorable and enriching. 

Since completing the program, I have taken some time to travel and visit family in Scotland. I’ve recently started looking for a job in mental health. Most of my career has been within the mental health and social service sectors, and I am passionate about supporting individuals with mental health issues. 

Kaitlyn Wagner, UTM

image of Kaitlyn Wagner

I was several years into a different career when I learned about occupational therapy and I immediately knew that it was the career for me. I wanted to work with people and use my skills to empower them to do the things they need to and want to do in their daily lives. Since then, I’ve been surprised to learn about how broad the scope of occupational therapy is and how many different settings occupational therapists can work in.  

During the past two years, I was extremely fortunate to have a variety of placements including acute stroke, community paediatrics, forensic mental health and a geriatric outpatient clinic, where I had the privilege of meeting many different clients. There is no better feeling than working with a client to help them overcome barriers and reach their goals.  

I am currently working for FunctionAbility in the community with clients who have traumatic and acquired neurological injuries and severe orthopaedic injuries. I find this work to be extremely meaningful and I look forward to continuously improving my clinical skills in this role.  

Niki Odorico, UTSG

image of Niki Oderico

I was drawn to occupational therapy because it’s multifaceted; addressing the physical, mental, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of people’s lives. I appreciate the diversity within the field and the opportunities to work with people from various backgrounds and age groups. 

While occupational therapy is often associated with hospitals and rehabilitation settings, I have learned that occupational therapists are equally well-suited to work with individuals, businesses, and communities to create safe environments that enable people to participate in their meaningful activities. 

Some of the most memorable moments in the program have been my fieldwork placements. I worked in the emergency department in a level one trauma hospital, in medicine and oncology inpatient units, in a men’s prison, and in a children’s hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Each of these placements pushed me to apply what I had learned in our lectures in distinct and innovative ways. 

Currently, I am a first year PhD student in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute under the supervision of Nick Reed. Throughout my PhD studies, I am hoping to develop return-to-play concussion guidelines for children aged 3 to 12. Following my PhD, I would like to work as a clinician scientist and a professor in the field of occupational therapy. 

Kaila Jodoin, UTM

image of Kaila Jodoin

I have had the privilege of learning about occupational therapy from a young age as my mom has been an occupational therapist at my hometown hospital for over 30 years. I was inspired by her work growing up and the meaningful impact she has on her clients, so when it came to choosing my own career, becoming an occupational therapist was an easy choice to make.  

During the program, I have been able to work with amazing peers, many of whom I now call my closest friends. I will never forget the many hours spent working with my study group members throughout the program. These experiences have helped me to grow into the clinician I am today. 

The program, alongside Northern Ontario School of Medicine University, supported me in completing three fieldwork placements in my hometown in Northern Ontario. These opportunities allowed me to build connections in my home community and have led to my current job at my local hospital.  

My final fieldwork placement was a student-initiated Leadership, Emerging, Advocacy and Program Development (LEAP) placement at my local Community Paramedicine Program. Here I was able to create a new permanent occupational therapy role with hopes to expand this to other community paramedicine programs across the province.  

Jordan Higa and Amy Weisner help set youth up for success

image of Jordan and Amy


When Grace* found herself without a safe, stable place to stay, she turned to Covenant House Toronto, Canada’s largest shelter serving youth experiencing homelessness or sex trafficking.  

Youth at Covenant House, whether they are there to access short term shelter or the community drop-in programs, have access to a team of professionals to support them. Like other shelters and agencies, youth are assigned a caseworker and have access to mental health counselling, education and employment programs. Unlike at other youth shelters, Grace was given the opportunity to work with an occupational therapist. 

Jordan Higa and Amy Weisner (MScOT Class of ’22) are in-house occupational therapists at Covenant House, which established their roles after a previous student from our MScOT program completed a LEAP (Leadership, Emerging, Advocacy, Program Planning and Evaluation) placement at the shelter. Since then, the program has expanded into two roles: Higa works as the residential occupational therapist and Weisner is the community occupational therapist. 

Young people who come to Covenant House, like Grace, need caring support in order to transition from shelter to independent living. Youth who have experienced abuse and neglect often lack the necessary life skills to thrive on their own. When Higa and Weisner work with youth, their focus is on function — looking at their clients as whole people to help them figure out their goals and what it means for them to be functioning well. 

“The main need that we notice when youth are experiencing homelessness and crisis is that they are in survival mode, just trying to get to the next safe place,” says Weisner. “Once youth come here and their basic needs like food and shelter are met, we start asking ‘What does the rest of the day look like for you? How do you want to fill your time?’” 

“A lot of the youth that we work with have never really had the opportunity to sit down and ask themselves what they want to do, because they’ve been in crisis for so long,” Weisner adds. 


Residential occupational therapist  

When Grace came to Covenant House, she was given a bright, clean bedroom in the short-term crisis shelter — a place she could stay temporarily while she looked for long-term housing. Here, her physical needs were being met — a warm shower, daily meals, and a caseworker to help her navigate social assistance applications. But Higa, as her occupational therapist, also asked her: “What else can I help you with? What are the goals you want to work on?” 

“The goals I help my clients with are very much youth-led and based on whatever they feel is most helpful for them at that time. Our assessment and intake is really a lot of occupational interviewing and asking about different areas or life skills, and figuring out which ones are most important for them to use.” 

For Grace, a part-time college student, this meant managing a schedule and working on emotional regulation. Higa worked with Grace to build a daily schedule that incorporated her classes, mealtimes and routine sleep. She also offered Grace tools for managing emotions and setting healthy boundaries – both skills that Grace hadn’t been able to develop after years in a stressful living situation. 


Occupational therapy in the community 

Support from Covenant House doesn’t end when youth move out of the shelter. Weisner, as an occupational therapist, is available to support youth through this transition. “It’s so wonderful when our youth, who have been through a lot, move out into the community and into safe, reliable housing,” she says 

But in the transition from shelter to housing, clients have to figure out many things, she adds. At the shelter, their meals are all provided. So when clients secure a new home, Weisner asks if they know how to cook and grocery shop – tasks they may never have had the opportunity to practice. 

“When clients are in the shelter, there are a lot of activities that are planned throughout the day,” Weisner says. “So when they suddenly have a whole day to fill for themselves, I help them figure out what they want to spend their time doing and help them figure out how to do it.” 

For one of Weisner’s clients, Jesse,* everything seemed to be falling into place. Jesse had found a roommate to share a small apartment with and was about to start a new retail job downtown. But Jesse’s sensory issues meant that the subway, with its loud noises and overcrowded trains, was not an option for traveling to and from work.  

During one of their sessions, Weisner worked with Jesse on route navigation. Together, they took a trip on public transit, starting from Jesse’s apartment and going to the new workplace, following a route that could be taken without a subway. Weisner even secured a pair of noise-cancelling headphones so Jesse could block out surrounding noise and have a more peaceful, less overwhelming commute. 


Setting them up for success 

Covenant House was one of the first youth shelters to include occupational therapy as a service. “We are lucky to have a team here of wrap-around supports including case management, transition services, harm reduction, counselling, psychiatry and primary care services” says Higa.  

“What’s unique about our role is that we focus on the fun and function. We get to sit down with our clients to learn about what they want to do, and help them build these foundational skills to set them up for success.”   

*names have been changed for confidentiality 

Note: Weisner left her role at Covenant House in August, 2023 and is currently working as an occupational therapist at a complex care housing team in another province. 

Image courtesy of Covenant House Toronto.





Mentorship Course Connects Students with Occupational Therapists


Shone Joos, assistant professor, teaching stream, is part of a team which instructs the Mentorship and Interprofessional Education Course in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program, connecting our students with experienced occupational therapists who share their insight into the profession and support learner professional and interprofessional development.

“I was a mentor myself years ago and I’m still in touch with some of my mentees. I found the experience very transformative for me. You create a significant bond with your students – you get to hear their stories and watch them grow. I was so proud to see their development over their two years in the program,” says Joos.

About the Mentorship and Interprofessional Education Course

All students in the MScOT program are enrolled in this two-year course where they meet with an assigned mentor every two weeks during their academic terms. Mentors are experienced occupational therapists who work in varying practice areas – private practice, hospital, community organizations, research, etc. – and volunteer their time to support small groups of students.

One unique aspect of the mentorship course is the amount of time our students engage with their mentors. “There are other mentorship courses in different health care programs, but I really haven’t seen another one where mentees and mentors meet every two weeks across the whole program,” says Joos. Mentors spend two years watching our students grow – from their first days in the program to their final fieldwork placement.

Our mentor groups function like communities of practice where members feel a sense of belonging and safety. By creating a space for students to engage with experienced practitioners, students are better able to develop their professional identity.

Response to the course

The response to the course has been overwhelmingly positive from mentees and mentors alike. Our students appreciate the time spent with their mentors reflecting on their experiences, what they have learned and how they have evolved professionally throughout the program.

Working with a mentor allows our students to start building a network and a community. It helps our students to feel more connected to the profession and socializes them, so they are better prepared to begin working in the field.” says Joos.

If you are a practicing occupational therapist and are interested in mentoring our students, you can email Shone Joos at to learn more about the Mentorship and Interprofessional Education course.

A day in the life of a student occupational therapist

Sara Emira, Second-year MScOT student, U of T Mississauga

image of Sara Emira



What time do you wake up, and what’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Most days I wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. to pray and then sleep in until 7 or 8 a.m., depending on what time classes start that day. Wednesdays are protected research time this term, so I let myself sleep in until 9:30 a.m. My friends and I have a tradition of getting to campus 30 minutes before class and spending some time together before tackling all our commitments, which has been great for our mental health.

What classes are you currently taking? What have been your favourite courses in the program?

The first year of the program focused on building our clinical and scientific foundations. Second year is more focused on interventions and application. We also have a full-year research capstone course.

My favourite courses so far have been Neurological Foundations and Mental Health Foundations. In the Mental Health Foundations course, we had to plan and conduct a group therapy session for one of our assignments and it was a pivotal moment in my career journey.

As for this year, I’m really excited as I’m going to be conducting qualitative research on racism in the profession with one of my close friends. It’s a topic we’re both passionate about and we’re lucky to have amazing supervisors, so I can’t wait to see how this project unfolds.

Where was your most recent clinical placement and what is one thing you learned there?

My most recent fieldwork placement was at the Child Development Centre at Michael Garron Hospital where I worked within two programs – the neonatal follow-up clinic and the autism early intervention program. My biggest lesson was that sessions won’t always go as planned and that you have to learn to improvise on the spot. It was definitely stressful, but it helped me become much quicker on my feet. Handling babies was another learning curve, but the cuddles made the struggles worth it!

How do you manage your time and stay organized?

I use Notion to plan out my weekly commitments and try to keep my routine consistent from week to week. Doing this and tracking how much I accomplished each week helped me figure out how much work I can realistically get done in a day without burning myself out. I also try to summarize and review my class notes day by day so they don’t pile up.

What do you do to manage stress and maintain a work-life balance?

Each week, I have a designated “no work” day – typically Fridays after class – which I spend doing things I enjoy with friends and family. I also sign up for a sports league each semester to make sure I have a fixed athletic commitment each week.

What advice do you have for students who are just entering the program?

Have goals but also keep an open mind. I came into the program with a goal to eventually pursue a PhD and thought I wanted to be a pediatric or neuro occupational therapist. I’m so glad I didn’t limit myself to opportunities within pediatrics and academia because I’ve come to learn that I love the area of mental health. My other tip is to use your student status to your advantage. There are so many free resources that are available to you while you’re in school and it’s much easier to find mentors and support as a student, so try to explore some of those avenues when you have time.

Priya Bhardwaj, Second-year MScOT student, U of T Mississauga

image of Priya Bhardwaj



What time do you wake up, and what’s the first thing you do in the morning?  

As my commute to the Mississauga campus is an hour and a half, I typically wake up at 6 a.m. every morning to make my 9 a.m. classes. The first thing I do in the morning is stretch and listen to a YouTube video on anything I find interesting and then I eat and get ready for my day.

What classes are you currently taking? What have been your favourite courses in the program? 

My favourite courses in the program have been Neurological Foundations and Musculo-Skeletal Foundations. Both courses were quite engaging and readily applicable to real life situations. Having a foundational understanding of body mechanics and internal systems was quite valuable during placement as well.

Where was your most recent clinical placement and what is one thing you learned there? 

My most recent clinical placement was at Credit Valley Hospital in the inpatient stroke and neurological rehabilitation unit. It was rewarding to collaborate with patients and I learned how much creativity comes into play when figuring out ways to help patients re-engage in their daily occupations.

How do you manage your time and stay organized? 

The program is fast-paced and densely packed with material. I find myself heavily relying on a planner to organize assignment due dates, test dates and daily tasks that I must complete. I try to manage my time by breaking down assignments and into manageable pieces.

What do you do to manage stress and maintain a work-life balance?  

I set clear boundaries between school responsibilities and personal life. I try not to do any schoolwork past 8 p.m. and give myself time to relax before the next school day.

What advice do you have for students who are just entering the program? 

My advice for students who are just entering the program is to have fun, be curious, and do not be afraid to ask questions. I implore new students to explore what occupational therapy has to offer and work towards finding what population to provide healthcare to resonates with them.

Jenny Ying, Second-year MScOT student, U of T St. George

image of Jenny Ying



What time do you wake up, and what’s the first thing you do in the morning?  

When we don’t have early classes, I usually wake up at 8:30 a.m. and eat a quick snack before I head over to the gym. I find it really helpful to get some movement in right when I start my day as it helps boost my energy levels and helps me stay focused. When we do have 9 a.m. class, I get up at 7:45 a.m. and do my skincare routine as the first step in the morning (wear sunscreen everyone!). However, I wouldn’t be truthful if I omit the part where I go on my phone for 10 minutes right after opening my eyes.

What classes are you currently taking? What have been your favourite courses in the program? 

Currently, I am taking Enabling Occupations with Children, Enabling Occupations with Adults, and Enabling Occupations with Older Adults along with the other students in my OT2 cohort. We are also enrolled in a year-long research course where we conduct our own research projects with a partner. I am also taking a Healthcare Consulting course at the Rotman School of Management where I work in a small team with classmates from different graduate programs.

So far, my favourite courses in the program are Musculoskeletal Foundations for Occupational Therapy Practice and our Mental Health Foundations course. These classes expanded my understanding of anatomy and mental health in ways I hadn’t previously considered. As I enter Year 2, I believe the knowledge I gained from these courses has laid a strong groundwork for my future career as an occupational therapist.

Where was your most recent clinical placement and what is one thing you learned there? 

My most recent fieldwork placement was at Toronto Rehab – University Centre, where I worked in an in-patient multisystem and musculoskeletal rehabilitation unit. It was an immensely valuable learning experience with a lot of hands-on opportunities, which allowed me to gain more insight into the role and scope of occupational therapy.

The most important thing I learned there was that there is no better way to learn the profession than by diving headfirst into the field. My preceptor and the other amazing therapists were supportive and gave me a lot of guidance, but I was also given a lot of independence and responsibility. By being immersed in the professional environment, I was able to absorb a wealth of knowledge about occupational therapy that I would not have gotten if I was just observing from the sidelines.

How do you manage your time and stay organized? 

I religiously use Google Calendar and to-do lists to keep track of everything that needs to be done – I would not be this far in my academic career without it! I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes a bit of sleep is sacrificed in order to get everything done on time – I’m sure other students can relate.

What do you do to manage stress and maintain a work-life balance?  

In this program, I have met some of the most wonderful, kind, compassionate, and fun people that I have ever encountered, and I consider myself very fortunate to call many of them my friends! Since most of us are from out-of-town and living in a new city, we naturally end up spending a ton of time together. I find that my friendships and social connections really help me maintain a healthy work-life balance and handle the pressures of the program.

What advice do you have for students who are just entering the program? 

For many of us, we have had to work extremely hard in our previous programs to get here, so sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae—like how you performed on an exam or the little details you missed on an assignment. My advice would be to not worry so much about grades and just focus on extracting practical insights from your learning and applying them in your future practice. Also, don’t forget to make time for fun experiences with your friends! These two years are going to fly by, and you’ll likely remember the blast you had with friends on the weekends more vividly than the hours spent inside working on papers.

Sarah Watson
, Second-year MScOT student, U of T St. George

image of Sarah Watson





What time do you wake up, and what’s the first thing you do in the morning?  

Typically, I wake up around 6 a.m. to get ready before commuting downtown. The first thing I do in the morning is make coffee (and drink a lot of it)!

What classes are you currently taking? What have been your favourite courses in the program? 

Currently, I am taking Enabling Occupation in Adults Part 1, Enabling Occupation in Older Adults Part 1, and Enabling Occupation in Children Part 1. My favourite course so far has probably been Neuroanatomy! I completed my bachelor’s degree in medical biophysics so I find the anatomy-based courses to be a steep learning curve but I’ve gained a surplus of knowledge.

Where was your most recent clinical placement and what is one thing you learned there? 

My most recent clinical placement was at Credit Valley Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Neonatal Follow-up Clinic. I had a fantastic preceptor who contributed to me absolutely LOVING this placement and reaffirmed my love for pediatrics. One thing I learned from this placement is the integral role that occupational therapy plays in bridging science and medicine with empathy and compassion. Working with new parents and engaging in emotional conversations enhanced my understanding of the therapeutic role that occupational therapists play.

How do you manage your time and stay organized? 

This is still a work in progress for me. I use my Google calendar religiously and slot in self-care activities as well as important classes and meetings (e.g. lunch with friends or gym time). I work two part-time jobs so I try to plan my week well in advance, if possible, and take it one day at a time.

What do you do to manage stress and maintain a work-life balance?  

As a commuter, I use my time on the train as regular “down-time” where I read a book or listen to a podcast without thinking about work or school. I have family and friends to spend time with when I’m stressed, and I often rely on fitness to manage stress. I also try my best to get adequate sleep — it is a work in progress!

What advice do you have for students who are just entering the program? 

Two years go by very fast! Relax and know that you will be successful even if you struggle on one or two assignments. Try your best to network and make connections on your placements, especially if you have a placement you really enjoy. Last but not least, enjoy the friendships you make in school…a lot of us have shared interests and it is great to learn from one another.

image of Sabrina and Sofia

Alumni Spotlight: Sabrina Teles and Sofia Mirzazada

When an individual or couple begins their fertility journey, there are several health-care professionals they can expect to encounter on their path to parenthood. At Tripod Fertility, Sabrina Teles (Class of ‘22) and Sofia Mirzazada (Class of ‘22) are bringing their knowledge and skills as occupational therapists to a team of physicians and nurses working to support the overall well-being of clients who are undergoing fertility services, prenatal and/or postpartum care. 

As students in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MScOT) program, Sabrina and Sofia completed a LEAP (Leadership, Emerging, Advocacy, Program Planning and Evaluation) placement at the fertility clinic, meaning the clinic did not already have an occupational therapy program. They knew there was a growing occupational therapy presence within maternal and women’s health and they saw an opportunity to establish a program within the fertility and pre-conception care space. They self-initiated a placement at Tripod Fertility clinic where they developed an occupational therapy program designed to address all areas of their clients’ health: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental. During their placement, they demonstrated the value of occupational therapy services, which helped them to secure full-time roles at the clinic and further develop the program. 

The role of occupational therapy in fertility and pre-conception 

Sabrina and Sofia say the team they work with has been very welcoming and open to embracing their services. At the clinic, they work with physicians and nurses to get an understanding of a client’s fertility journey and treatment plan. When an individual or couple is experiencing fertility challenges, it can have a significant impact on their physical and mental well-being. This can present as anger, frustration, guilt, avoidance, grief, and decreased self-esteem. The added stress that comes from starting fertility treatments can affect other areas of their daily life, roles, and routines. Sabrina says, “This is where our background and role as occupational therapists come in. We provide a holistic lens to help our clients reflect, cope, and move forward in their fertility journey. In our roles, we offer clients a wide range of services like stress and anxiety management, counselling, pain management, fatigue management, sleep hygiene, routine development and adjustment and much more.” 

For example, one of their clients, Samantha*, was referred to Sofia by one of the clinic’s physicians. Samantha had been struggling to conceive naturally due to a health condition and experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety as she prepared for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). During their consultation, Sofia asked Samantha about her daily routine and learned that the stress and anxiety was affecting her ability to function at work, communicate with her partner, and was disrupting her sleep. Sofia worked with Samantha to create an individual treatment plan. Their therapy sessions gave Samantha a space to share how she was feeling and learn self-management strategies to cope with her stress and anxiety. Over the course of two months, Samantha showed improvement in her overall well-being and felt better prepared to start IVF and embark on her fertility care plan. 

The growing need for occupational therapy in fertility care 

Over the past several years, more and more public figures have shared their personal stories of their fertility journeys and the challenges they have experienced. Sabrina and Sofia say they have both known people in their personal networks who have experienced challenges on the path to parenthood. “This inspired us to self-initiate our placement at Tripod Fertility. We saw there was a gap in fertility care that we knew occupational therapy could help support,” says Sabrina. 

“We were also inspired by the stories, challenges, and feedback shared by the clients we worked with through one-to-one and group interactions. They endorsed the value and positive difference occupational therapy was making to their care during their fertility journey,” says Sofia. 

From the classroom to the clinic 

“The MScOT program prepared us for this role in insurmountable ways,” says Sofia. “Specifically, the Occupational Therapy Practice III course encouraged us to develop the skills to advocate for our services and engage in program development planning. As part of this course, we created a project proposal for our LEAP placement at the fertility clinic – which led to our fieldwork placement and subsequent employment at Tripod Fertility. Overall, this program encouraged us to be change agents and advocate for our profession to further enhance client care across a variety of practice settings.”  

*name changed for confidentiality 

Meet the MScOT class of 2025!

Four students share what inspired them to pursue occupational therapy and what they are most looking forward to over the next two years.

Tara DeVouge


What made you interested in pursuing occupational therapy?  

I have always been interested in health care, and after working in a physiotherapy clinic over the past year, I realized that I wanted to continue working in the rehabilitative side of health care. It was so rewarding to watch patients improve their mobility and learn about how they have been able to engage in meaningful activities. I like occupational therapy because you can work with individuals of all ages and abilities and aren’t limited to a clinical setting. You can work with individuals in their homes, workspaces, and outdoor environments to help improve their everyday occupations.  

What did you do before coming to U of T?  

I completed my bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at Dalhousie University and then worked as a physiotherapy assistant at a clinic in Halifax, N.S. over the past year.  

What are you most looking forward to in your studies? What are you nervous about?  

I am eager to learn more about the different streams of occupational therapy and I am excited to gain clinical experience in different health care settings. I am also excited to meet new people in my program. I am most nervous about the workload and being able to balance work-life outside of school.  

What do you like to do outside of school?  

I love to read, cook, try new cafes and restaurants, travel and do most outdoor activities in the summertime. I recently started bouldering and I just moved to Toronto, so I have been enjoying exploring the city.  

Mahnoor Fatima

Mahnoor Fatima

What made you interested in pursuing occupational therapy?  

I want to pursue occupational therapy because I love how multifaceted and diverse the field is and how you can combine multiple passions in one field. One thing that really influenced my decision is how occupational therapists meet clients where they are in their recovery, create individualized recovery plans, and help clients get back to doing the activities that are meaningful to them.  

What did you do before coming to U of T?  

I completed my undergraduate degree at U of T majoring in global health and minoring in biology and psychology. After graduating, I worked at UTM as an undergraduate program assistant for the psychology department. Alongside that, I have been volunteering in many health centres and organizations with seniors and children, which has been fun.  

What are you most looking forward to in your studies? What are you nervous about?  

I’m really excited about my placements and figuring out which area of occupational therapy I am most interested in and passionate about! I’m nervous about finding the study, work and life balance again after being out of school and working full-time for a year. But I’m hopeful that it will all be okay!  

What do you like to do outside of school?  

Outside of school, I enjoy exploring my creative side with activities like knitting, painting and sewing. I also love being outdoors and finding new trails to adventure through. 

Rachel Lisogurski

Rachel Lisogurski

What made you interested in pursuing occupational therapy? 

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in a career where I can help people improve their physical health as well as their mental, social and environmental needs. Through my work and volunteer experiences, I got to learn more about occupational therapy and see how therapists make a positive, long-lasting impact in people’s lives, which inspired me to pursue this career path. 

What did you do before coming to U of T? 

Before coming to U of T, I studied sensory motor systems with a minor in psychology at McMaster University. I got to learn about the neural and motor systems that help in controlling human behaviour and movement, which led me to the field of occupational therapy! During my undergraduate studies, I taught cooking classes to children with autism, ran science education workshops and worked as a teaching assistant. Since graduating in 2022, I have continued working on two occupational therapy related research projects with one of my professors from McMaster. 

What are you most looking forward to in your studies? What are you nervous about? 

I am most looking forward to meeting and collaborating with my classmates and future colleagues – I value learning from diverse perspectives. I am also really looking forward to the program’s research project and improving my critical thinking skills to become a leader in health care. Going into this program I am nervous about managing a heavier workload, and my responsibilities during placements, but I know there is lots of support available to me if needed! 

What do you like to do outside of school? 

Outside of school, I am passionate about cooking and I love spending time learning new recipes to share with others. I also love to read, listen to music and watch Blue Jays games. I like to stay active by going on walks, taking dance classes and swimming! 

Hayley Ma

Hayley Ma

What made you interested in pursuing occupational therapy? 

Deciding what I wanted to pursue was not a linear path. I spent quite a lot of time during my undergrad exploring my options and I eventually consulted a career counselor who suggested I look into occupational therapy. I was reminded of when my grandpa, who had Parkinson’s disease, saw an occupational therapist. It was one of the first times I had seen a health care professional try to communicate with and understand my grandpa’s wishes. Since he was non-verbal, he was often excluded from decisions regarding his care. Recognizing the profound impact occupational therapists can have on both the client and their loved ones, I am excited to do the same for others.  

What did you do before coming to U of T? 

I graduated from the bachelor of health sciences program at McMaster University with a specialization in child health. I also volunteered at McMaster Children’s Hospital where I worked with a team of Child Life Specialists to plan and deliver toys, crafts and other activities to the patients during their stay. I saw the impact this had on their wellbeing and became interested in working as an occupational therapist in an acute pediatric setting.  

What are you most looking forward to in your studies? What are you nervous about? 

I am most looking forward to learning with and from my peers since we are all coming from diverse educational backgrounds. I am also looking forward to applying my knowledge and practicing my clinical skills during fieldwork. Since fieldwork is a unique opportunity to learn from practicing occupational therapists, I am excited to explore different fields and further develop my skill set. I am nervous about prioritizing my well-being while juggling the course load and other extracurriculars. However, I am thankful to be surrounded by loved ones who I know will be there to support me.

What do you like to do outside of school?  

I enjoy learning new things in my free time, especially arts and crafts. Some skills I have picked up are air-dry clay sculpting, painting, embroidery and sewing. I love using these skills to create things to give to friends and family. I also enjoy reading, cooking and exploring new food and study spots with friends! 

image of Shone Joos

Shone Joos receives award for Excellence in Professional Values

Congratulations to Prof. Shone Joos on receiving a 2023 Temerty Award for Excellence in Professional Values.

These professional values are exemplified in many ways, including (but not limited to): dealing fairly and ethically with colleagues and others; actively facilitating psychologically-, culturally- and physically-safe learning and work environments; demonstrating kindness, respect, civility, humility, integrity and self-reflection; and committing to anti-oppressive and anti-racist practices, consistent advocacy and inclusion for equity deserving groups and allyship.

Prof. Joos is an assistant professor, teaching stream, in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Nominators lauded Prof. Joos for always thinking of others and for her enthusiastic efforts to make the department, its work culture and the learning environment more fun, inclusive and high in integrity. A much sought-after faculty advisor, she actively participates in multiple departmental committees and serves as a member of the U of T Governing Council’s Academic Board and the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs’ Community of Practice for Research on Education. Prof. Joos has pursued training in the area of anti-oppressive practices, including engagement in the Building the Foundations for Anti-Oppressive Healthcare Program at the Centre for Faculty Development, and strives to incorporate the principles she has learned into her teaching. In the classroom, Prof. Joos is dedicated to presenting material in a way that fosters engagement and prepares students to navigate ethical decision-making in real-world situations. She places a special emphasis on recognizing the strengths of clients and their families, adopting a neurodiverse-affirming approach and providing care considering an anti-oppressive lens.

First established in 2021, these awards were launched to recognize these exceptional community members. All faculty and learners from across Temerty Medicine’s clinical, fundamental science and rehabilitation science sectors are eligible to be nominated by one or more peers, supervisors, colleagues, staff members or program leaders.

This story is an excerpt from an announcement from Temerty Medicine.


Photo of Christie Welch

Prof. Christie Welch appointed Graduate Coordinator

The department of occupational science & occupational therapy is pleased to announce that Prof. Christie Welch has accepted a full-time teaching stream position, which includes an appointment as the department’s Graduate Coordinator. 

In her role, Prof. Welch will be splitting her time between teaching courses, conducting research and supporting our current cohort of graduate students to ensure their success in the program. 

Prof. Welch started teaching in the department in 2018 as a sessional instructor and became a part-time faculty member in 2020.  

Prof. Welch has worked as an occupational therapist for more than 20 years and says that what she loves most about teaching future occupational therapists is rooted in what she loves about the profession. “Throughout my career, I have seen the ways that occupation can promote well-being. Meaningful occupation has been both my therapeutic medium and my goal. The knowledge and satisfaction I have derived from my clinical career is part of what I draw on when teaching future occupational therapists. It really energizes me.” 

Over the years, Prof. Welch has seen our department change and adapt to prepare students for their future careers. She was part of the last cohort of 60 students to graduate from the bachelor’s program in 2001. The program has since evolved into a two-year master’s program welcoming 130 students each year.  

Since returning to the department to teach, Prof. Welch has seen the program expand to the University of Toronto Mississauga campus, adding 40 students to the program. She taught throughout the pandemic and has supported students with the transition to online learning and back to in-person learning. She recognizes the challenges and changes students have experienced over the past several years but says this has also been an opportunity to do things differently in education – like looking for hybrid options to keep up with cultural shifts in how we approach work and education. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of supportive faculty members. Prof. Welch credits Prof. Patty Rigby, who was her professor, academic advisor and research project supervisor when she was in the bachelor’s program, for mentoring her and encouraging her to pursue her PhD. She says, “I remember what it meant to have someone who cared about me as a student, who cared about my future, and who believed I was capable of great things. I try to be that person for the students who come to me in my role as graduate coordinator.” 

Bridget learns value of community during fieldwork in India

Bridget Deschenes, a second-year occupational therapy student, thought she would complete her clinical placements in Toronto, but when she learned about the opportunity to do an international fieldwork placement, she found herself half way around the world at Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA), a rehabilitation hospital campus in rural Tamil Nadu, India, where she was embraced by a community of health care professionals. 

Bridget learned about the option to do an international placement but she didn’t decide to apply until the last minute. “When I found out about the funding opportunities and I learned more about the value of the experiences, it was easier to just say yes and go.” 

Students in the MScOT program have the option of doing a fieldwork placement in one of several countries around the world, but it was India that most appealed to Bridget. “I knew that if I was going to pursue an international placement, I wanted to experience a different culture in a different environment. This was a really awesome opportunity to broaden and diversify my understanding of health care systems.” 

Bridget was thrilled when she learned that she had been placed at ASSA along with a few other students from the program. Part of her decision to apply to work at ASSA was because her living arrangements were taken care of – the hospital welcomes international students so frequently that they have a designated residence on the hospital campus. Here, Bridget lived alongside other students from across Canada and other parts of the world, which allowed them to share stories and connect over dinners in the cafeteria.  

After spending a couple of days getting settled into her new place and exploring the area, Bridget showed up for day one of her placement working with clients with spinal cord injuries. One of the first things she learned after stepping foot inside the hospital was that occupational therapists, like many other professionals in India, take their shoes off at work. But what stood out to her most was how similar the practice is. “I was really happy to see that a lot of our core values were very much the same. On the first day that we worked with clients, we used the same occupational therapy assessment that I used in Canada.” 

“There weren’t a lot of differences in the approach to occupational therapy. The biggest differences were the resources I had access to and the time that we had with clients,” she adds. 

At ASSA, they have built a Valley for the Differently Abled; a 30-acre land where clients are welcome to stay for up to a year while they work on their recovery. “There was less of a rush, which was a really beautiful part of this placement. Every day we got to have a solid hour with our clients, which was a bit of a luxury compared to what I experienced in Canada where there is more push to discharge patients,” says Bridget. 

Another unique feature was the variety of resources they offer. In one of the buildings, a team of professionals are available to build custom devices to help occupational therapists meet their clients’ needs. “For one of my clients, I needed a custom orthosis for his hand. They have a seamstress on site to build people saris as part of their uniform. I was able to go to a seamstress and tell him my idea and he built this custom orthosis, which was so cool. We just had this creative license that we don’t always have in Canada.” 

Bridget found that ASSA takes a village-based approach to rehabilitation. At the hospital, clients’ families are welcomed to stay on campus to make it easier to visit and support the recovery process. Bridget says, “The community culture of the hospital was really wonderful to witness. There were a lot of other facilities, too, like vocational training for people with different abilities to train to get jobs in the future. There were so many people around and everyone was so warm and welcoming – it felt like the whole campus was a little community designed for everyone to come and thrive just as they are.” 

On top of the support clients get from having family nearby, ASSA employs former clients to work as translators between Bridget and her clients. “The translators were actually previous clients at ASSA that had experienced spinal cord injuries themselves, so they could offer peer support and share their experiences with the people I was working with.” 

Bridget says she will be bringing the lessons she learned in India with her to her next placement in Canada. “In class we talk about how important it is to be curious. Active listening is such an important part of being a good clinician and working in India took those skills to a new level. I needed to ask so many more questions to understand my clients and learn about their background and day-to-day activities.” 

She says that working through language barriers is another important skill that she will use in her future practice. “Toronto is such a multicultural city and our clients speak all kinds of languages here. Learning how to work with an interpreter and getting used to communicating in a language that’s not your own is a really awesome part of the experience.” 

Bridget strongly urges future students to push themselves out of their comfort zone and apply for an international fieldwork placement. “This experience was so awesome! I didn’t come into this program thinking that I would do an international placement, never mind one on the other side of the world. But this experience has definitely helped me grow as a clinician and as a person, and I would recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to do an international placement should definitely do it.”