Photo of Meera Premnazeer, Class of 2021

Meera Premnazeer, Class of 2021

What got you interested in occupational therapy?

During my undergrad, I was the president of a club that focused on addressing local and global issues. The unique aspect of this club was that individuals could come to us with a problem they may have, and we would help them address it from the ground up. I would say this experience, and many other interactions I have had, led me onto the path of occupational therapy (OT). When I took a break to figure out my desired career path, a friend suggested that OT would be the right choice. I did not know what OT was, so I immediately took the time to research and volunteer in settings where OTs were working. This strengthened my resolve to become an OT. Today, I am very happy that I get to be part of a career that has so many diverse settings to work in. After all, occupation is EVERYTHING.

 What are your areas of interest?

My area of interest lies in stroke rehabilitation. While in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MScOT) program, I participated in a senior interprofessional project. After completing this project, which primarily focused on stroke, and having had my own experience with my grandfather who suffered a stroke, I realized that there was no clear guidance for family caregivers navigating this change. This experience led me to examine the existing literature regarding support strategies for families involved in the post-stroke care journey. My experience in the MScOT program has further strengthened my research interest in stroke and led me to connect with my wonderful supervisor, Dr. Jill Cameron, a leading scientist in this area. I am now pursuing my doctoral studies as a first-year PhD student within the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute. My research centres around stroke and improving healthcare delivery for patients and their caregivers.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself working as a clinician scientist improving healthcare delivery for patients and their families. Throughout the OT program and based on my own personal experiences, I’ve learned the importance of advocacy for patients and their families and the need to address gaps in healthcare effectively through evidence-based strategies. I plan on combining the research and clinician viewpoint I bring to mitigate systemic barriers that impact patients and their caregivers.

What will you remember most about your time in the program?

Within the program, I will remember all the friendships I’ve gained and the key faculty and staff who supported me along the way. I was a part of the program during a time of uncertainty – the pandemic. I already had a close-knit group of friends in OT who supported me, and I enjoyed spending every moment with them, from the study rooms to the lecture halls and then to various outings we would take in Toronto. This had immediately shifted once the pandemic hit. However, I appreciated that we had a wonderful set of student groups to fall back onto during the shift to online learning. It felt comfortable to work online with them despite the apparent fact that we couldn’t see each other in-person. I did begin to miss my interactions with them a lot, but it definitely helped that they were also going through the same thing. We found unique ways to connect through weekly game and movie nights and I will never forget how we all came together to support each other.

I also will remember key faculty and staff who guided me along the way. To note, I sincerely appreciate my research supervisor Dr. Andrea Duncan who has guided me in my research pursuit. She supported my research partner and me wholeheartedly. We were able to complete writing two manuscripts and we presented at multiple conferences – all in the two-year timespan while being online for one year of it. I also will always remember the wonderful staff upstairs, from Alim Lalani to Nella Campisi. They have always been the sweetest supporters of all the OT students. I will also not forget Jill Stier for being ever present from our first OT class to the time we finally convocated. She has also been a great guide to me and many other students. More than anything, I will remember the amazing faculty and placement supervisors who have led me to be the OT I am today. Thank you to all of you!

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Based on my own experience, I would say three things are important: (1) take part in extracurricular opportunities throughout the OT program, including attending to work-study positions or volunteering with professors to assist in their research. Having taken part in multiple work-study opportunities throughout the MScOT program, I have found it to be a great opportunity to take part in research by the department’s faculty members. The research experience also adds to gaining more skills when working clinically using evidence-based strategies. Also, volunteering is a great opportunity to make connections with faculty and current OTs in meaningful ways; (2) make time for yourself, friends, and family to enjoy your two years in the program as much as possible. After being in a pandemic while in this program, I see the value of self-care and making time for those whom you are close to more than ever. Having that in-person interaction and connection with others has helped me get through the past two years; (3) research your area of interest and try to plan for your third or fourth placement accordingly, as many OTs end up getting jobs through the connections they make.