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Occupational Therapy Student Overcomes Obstacles to Receive His Degree

By Katherine Tancredi

Christopher LeeChristopher Lee ESWT’10, MOT’17, faced a different set of challenges than most students.

Due to a motor vehicle accident in 2011, in which he sustained a mild traumatic brain injury and damage at the spinal cord, he experienced cognitive deficits, slowed thinking, and difficulty in task switching. After taking some time off from his coursework for physical therapy, Lee was eager to return to the classroom and his clinical rotations, only to find that he was in need of cognitive rehabilitation as he was unable to function quickly in a hospital setting. Even though it meant delaying his degree, in 2014 Lee dropped his course load to focus on his own therapy and recovery.

“I was told by healthcare professionals that I would not be able to get my degree,” said Lee. “But with the support of this amazing faculty, I have returned to this program stronger than before.”

For Lee, having professors and instructors who are known for both their professionalism and expertise was key. “Professors have a major role in developing great therapists,” said Lee. “I wanted to attend a program in which I would have some of the best teachers.”

Of his professors, Lee was impacted most by program director of the post-baccalaureate MOT program and assistant professor of occupational therapy Colleen Maher, OTD, OTR/L, CHT. Despite his struggles with the curriculum, she helped him see his potential strengths as a therapist.

“She told me that I had a calming personality that was perfect for therapeutic rapport with patients,” said Lee. “I had struggled with self-doubt, and her encouragement was perfectly timed to keep me going.”

Lee enjoyed that the USciences’ occupational therapy curriculum offered a combination of individual and group work as well as presentations and practical exams. A strength of the program was having the opportunity to practice different methods of work and learning, which help Lee feel better prepared to work as an occupational therapist in a real-world setting.  

After graduation, Lee plans to “pay it forward” by working in outpatient occupational therapy. He also plans to continue to work as a part-time personal trainer at Drexel University Recreation and as a strength-and-conditioning coach.

“I believe I am still alive on this planet for two reasons: I am here to help people recover after injuries and also avoid injuries,” said Lee. “Five to 10 years from now, I will be helping people become stronger and more functional, as therapists did for me after my car accident.”

For incoming students, Lee offers the following advice:

“Find your ‘why’ behind why you want to become an occupational therapist,” advises Lee. “There will be many obstacles and challenges in your education presenting as ‘why nots.’ But as long as you have one grounding reason ‘why’ behind why you want to become an OT, you will be able to get through any challenge.”

Categories: The Bulletin, Alumni, Profiles, Proven Everywhere, Student Profile, Academics, Samson College, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy