Occupational therapy graduate students prepare for clinical rotations

May 07, 2022

Headshot of Renee Saltness

Ninety-one master of occupational therapy students earned pins, a symbol of their academic accomplishments. The members of the Class of 2023 will spend the next academic year in the occupational therapy field, participating in clinical rotations and treating patients.

Director of the Center for Interprofessional Healthcare Education and Professor of Occupational Therapy Kimberly Hartmann hosted the ceremony, held on May 6.

“It’s so fitting in my mind that you’re celebrating tonight at the base of Sleeping Giant State Park. Maybe you had an admissions meeting, found your first friendship, or an orientation at the base of the mountain,” said Hartmann. “Here you are now to celebrate the completion of your formal education. The Sleeping Giant reminds me of you as a class. The mountain is known for two things: One is the beautiful vistas at the top and its rugged terrain on the way up.”

Incoming Chair for the Department of Occupational Therapy Rondalyn Whitney reflected on her professional journey alongside tales of personal growth. The mastery of monkey bars during her childhood continues to serve as a reminder to keep reaching further towards success, as perilous as this can seem.

“You must let go of the last bar and take a grip of the present to move forward. We’ve learned to swing, reach and skip bars while hanging defiantly in the air. I have always made it; you have made it,” said Whitney. “Each part of the test, I was scared. But to soar, you must reach into the void without the safety net. Holding onto the last bar is no longer an option. Transformation is the place where real magic lives.”

Renee Saltness ’23’s capstone project focusing on concussion management and awareness was important to her for a number of reasons. As a member of Quinnipiac’s historic D-I ice hockey team that earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament, she experienced a concussion and notes the frequency of this injury in high school and college sports.

“Often as an athlete, it’s hard to see outside of the sport due to internal and
external pressures. Through our work, we hope to stress that there is life after the sport,” she said. “The goal of our project is to help promote further awareness of concussion through an OT-based lens, utilizing a holistic approach.”

Saltness and her group created a concussion assessment form for health providers; an educational digital resource created for teachers’ use; and a general eLearning tool.

Completion of the capstone project affirmed what Saltness holds as one of the most important lessons she learned at Quinnipiac.

“Occupational therapy is both an art and a science,” she said.

Clinical Professor of Occupational Therapy Deanna Proulx-Sepelak was selected by the students to deliver the faculty address. She discussed the context of the night’s slogan “Beyond mountains, there are mountains.”

A shortened version of the Haitian proverb, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” is the title of a book depicting Dr. Paul Farmer’s work. Tracey Kidder’s tome illustrates how Farmer dedicated his life to fighting invasive diseases in underdeveloped countries, she said.

Proulx-Sepelak addressed each year, or mountain range, the occupational therapy students completed. She brought laughter and collective sighs with word clouds of conquered curricula.

“The right thing may not always be the correct thing. You spent so much time learning correct answers, learning how to strive to peaks,” she said. “I’m challenging you to look at the valleys and enjoy the view.  It is through your errors you’ll learn the most.”

The class chose Caitlin McHenry, MS ’23, to deliver the student address. Her words of reflection earned a standing ovation from her peers.

“As we look toward our future, we are waiting for opportunities for inspiration, and it’s our shared values that unite us. Our genuine passion drives us to achieve excellence, and our time at Quinnipiac and the friends we made will serve as inspiration to make the right choices, to choose values overall,” said McHenry. “When it’s time to serve others, it’s values that will help you serve. When it’s time to care for yourself, it is values that will help you care.”

Alyssa LaMagna ’23 and Morgan Martinson ’23 presented the class legacy gift. Martinson drew the resplendent picture, a rendition of Sleeping Giant Mountain.

The master of occupational therapy students received their pins and then read the occupational therapy oath.

“The pin has a picture of a white oak tree, strong roots, ever-growing branches, and a color growth and leave structure for every season of the year. We hope you will enjoy the symbolic pin and wear it with pride as we faculty do,” said Hartmann.

Before the ceremony, students shared their capstone presentations with friends and family.

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