Fall Convocation 2021: Celebrating our Newest Grads

We invited two graduates from the Class of 2021 to share their thoughts about their time spent in the MScOT program these past two years, future plans, and advice for incoming students.

Gobika Sithamparanathan

Photo of Gobika Sithamparanathan

Growing up in a war-torn country, my passion for creatively supporting folks with finite resources started from an early age and has remained close to my heart. The holistic approach occupational therapists take resonated with me and the professional I wanted to be.  Occupational therapists play a crucial role in ensuring well-being in many aspects of someone’s life, including physical and psychological well-being.

Since my first year of MScOT, I have been involved in various research projects, with the hope of highlighting the often-underrepresented occupational lens in research. My research projects include evaluating leadership skill development of occupational therapists, work disability prevention, return to work, disability management and pathways to belonging in young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I hope to continue to contribute to research and apply the findings in clinical settings and academia.

The best part of my experience at U of T have been the relationships I’ve built; with peers, mentors, educators, clinicians, patients/clients, family members and caregivers. COVID-19 also provided many novel opportunities to explore virtual social connectivity that I am very thankful to have utilized (i.e., national and international opportunities to represent and advocate for occupational therapy).

I currently work in the private auto insurance sector and public home healthcare sector. I am looking forward to being open to learning, making connections and continued personal and professional development in this unique profession.

To incoming OS&OT students: I would strongly suggest using the various professional and personal development opportunities that are available to you at the departmental, faculty and university level. What makes a great occupational therapist is not only the occupational therapy-specific training, but also the transferable skills you learn from getting involved in meaningful activities, i.e., creative expression through arts. I would also suggest exploring career options through different types of placement opportunities and networking with professionals, as these are valuable ways to gather insights into a practice setting and assess if your values and goals align.  Most importantly, enjoy your 2 years because they go by very fast!

Marcus Yu

Photo of Marcus Yu

I always knew that I wanted to work with people and pursue a career on the frontline. Five years ago, occupational therapy did not mean much to me; if you asked me what it was, I probably would have said something along the lines of return to work. I had no idea that occupational therapists could be useful in so many different settings. I took an Introduction to Occupational Therapy course during my third year of my undergraduate degree, and I realized the broad scope that the profession has. That course solidified my desire to pursue a profession in occupational therapy.

Before completing the MScOT program at the University of Toronto, conducting research was never a priority that I wanted to pursue. However, after experiencing an ethical dilemma during an introductory fieldwork experience, I was encouraged by professors and faculty advisors to pursue a student-initiated research project. My research project focused on why adults choose to pursue major career transitions and how adults facilitate meaningful career transitions. For example, we wanted to know why a journalist would leave their profession to become a carpenter or why a nurse would leave their profession to become a knitter. I had the pleasure of working with an amazing partner and two phenomenal research supervisors who supported my learning and participation in research.

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest challenge during my time in the MScOT program at the University of Toronto. However, my classmates and I were able to support each other and stay resilient. Aside from this challenge, I had the opportunity to spend three months during the middle of winter in North Bay, Ontario, to complete a clinical fieldwork placement with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Additionally, I played a lead role in acquiring a Graduate Student Wellness Grant which supported a pilot project titled, The Art of Keeping Well: A Creative-Arts Hub for Graduate Students. This project will continue beyond my graduation and aims to support graduate student mental health and wellness through creative arts.

Professionally, I want to build a solid clinical foundation by exposing myself to as many different clinical experiences as possible. I really enjoy taking on leadership roles and eventually, I intend to pursue supervisory and management roles.

New and incoming students: take advantage of connections and opportunities that you will have while in school. The faculty, preceptors, guests, and peers that you will meet will help you succeed within and beyond the program. Simple introductions go a long way! Have an open mind and embrace new experiences. While you will probably feel vulnerable at times, these experiences will help you grow personally and professionally. For example, I never thought that I would be pursuing student-initiated research, completing fieldwork in Northern Ontario, or taking the lead on large student-led initiatives. Also, set your boundaries and establish a healthy work-life balance that works for you. I consistently had a full load of academic, extracurricular, and personal commitments and it was extremely important for me to find ways to recharge and stay resilient.