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For DrOT Alumna, USciences Provided an Accelerated Program and a Fulfilling Campus Experience

By Steve Neumann

Published on December 3, 2019

Pooja Patel DrOT'17When Pooja A. Patel DrOT’17 was in high school, she took a course on early childhood development that allowed her to work with preschool children, some of whom had developmental delays. That experience got her thinking about college and her future career. 

You’re in college to learn, grow, and pursue a career ... the learning will and growing happen constantly outside of the classroom, too

-- Pooja Patel DrOT'17

“I did some research and looked up a lot of different areas,” said Dr. Patel, “and /samson-college-of-health-sciences/occupational-therapy/index.html was one of the first ones that came up.”

During the college application process, Dr. Patel found that USciences offered exactly what she wanted — an accelerated degree program and a well-rounded education. Once on campus, she realized that USciences offered her much more than just an education for a career. 

“You’re in college to learn, grow, and pursue a career,” Dr. Patel says. “While the latter will happen through hard work and perseverance, the learning and growing happen constantly outside of the classroom, too.”

For Dr. Patel, that meant being on the steering committee for the JED Campus Initiative, the Vice President and fundraising chair for the Student Occupational Therapy Association, and president of USciences Delta Iota Chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon, USciences’ national honor society for occupational therapy.   

But with all her curricular and extracurricular activities while at USciences, learning when to take time away from the day-to-day stressors and pursue some self-care was also key for Dr. Patel. 

Pooja Patel and her fiance“I learned to always take a step back or take a mental health day when it was warranted, that self-care is much more than just treating yourself to ice cream, and your family and friends are worth much more than any job ever will be,” Dr. Patel says. 

For Dr. Patel, the annual Pink-A-Thon, a student-run event to raise money and awareness for breast cancer, and Student Appreciation Day, a carnival-like celebration of students, were the two events she most looked forward to each year. 

“I felt like it was a very wholesome opportunity for everyone to kind of get away from their books and computers and actually go out and enjoy the campus,” Dr. Patel says.

All her hard work has paid off. For the past year and a half, Dr. Patel, who was recently engaged to be married, has been working as an occupational therapist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in her fiancé’s hometown of Chicago, IL., where she continues to learn and grow beyond the USciences campus.  

Through YPO, I hope to build a strong foundation for communication between current students and alumni.

-- Pooja Patel DrOT'17

While she pursues her post-USciences career, Dr. Patel remembers the importance of self-care. With all of her friends and family in New Jersey, where she was born and raised, she’s found it somewhat difficult to make meaningful friendships in her new home of Chicago. It’s even harder for couples, because all four have to get along. So she and her fiancé have created an app called “Couplr.”

“There's all these dating apps,” Dr. Patel says, “but there's nothing that can connect you to like-minded couples in the same area.”

With Couplr, both partners create an account and go through a list of a dozen or so different preferences for things like adventure, movies, music, dining, etc. The algorithm matches couples based on those preferences and then they can decide if they want to meet and hang out.

But even as Dr. Patel continues to build her personal and professional life after leaving USciences, she stays connected to her alma mater by remaining an active member of the steering committee of USciences' Young Professionals Organization (YPO). 

“Through YPO, I hope to build a strong foundation for communication between current students and alumni, the ability to identify a strong network for mentoring opportunities, and an open forum for alumni to guide current students through their time at USciences and thereafter,” said Dr. Patel. 

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Alumni, Proven Everywhere, Feature Story, USciences