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What You Missed at AOTA 2019

by Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi, OTD, OTR/L

We had members of the CovalentCareers team all over AOTA 2019! We gathered highlights from both practicing and future OTs to see what their favorite moments and most exciting memories of the conference were.

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Erika del Pozo MS, OTR/L (

I loved attending the AOTA conference for a few reasons. Apart from the rich professional development opportunities, the contacts I've made have made it so much more worth it! What was most memorable for me was getting to present my poster presentation: Bash the Burnout for Healthcare Professionals: A Holistic Approach to Burnout Prevention and Management. I got to share what I love talking about, helping others deal with burnout in healthcare, with people that genuinely expressed interest. This led to incredible conversations.

I learned that our profession offers way more opportunities to work in new, unexplored territories than I thought. There are so many positions outside of the traditional settings that we're used to seeing and working in. This opened my eyes a bit and truly encouraged me to pursue wellness in the workplace.

Also, I finally got to meet the incredible Instagram role models of occupational therapy in real life! I'm so grateful for the online community and having a space like AOTA that brings us together to learn and grow together.

Lastly, I was impressed with the food options this time (poke bowls? Yes, please)! Just want to throw this out there: I would totally be okay if AOTA had frozen yogurt at their next conference!

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Sue Ram OT/s

I learned a lot about the importance of networking, especially as a soon to be new grad, at the conference this year. My most memorable experiences from the conference were:

  • Getting to get to know the new member of the AOTA Steering committee
  • Attending my 3rd ASD meeting where we learned about leadership, advocacy, and how to get involved!
  • Receiving the outstanding student advocate award! I was so overwhelmed with all of the support from my colleagues and new friends

Plus, we were in NOLA, and it was important to try new foods and experience the true flavor of the city. Willie’s Chicken was amazing; the chicken was so good (and the drinks were even better)! I’m allergic to shellfish so some options were limited, but I had an amazing experience nonetheless!

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Philip Nordeck OT/s

I've been enrolled in my OTD program for less than an academic semester, so my experiences with the field, let alone my expectations regarding a conference, are limited. As with any new endeavor, there is a learning curve. After attending my first conference, I don't claim to be an expert, but I do feel like I have a better grasp of how to approach conferences as a student in the future!

The poster sessions were the most valuable to me as they allowed for personal interactions with the presenters, many of whom were students as well! Furthermore, the posters allow student attendees to survey the vast array of work being done in the field, which widened my perspective on educational, clinical, and fieldwork opportunities. For this reason alone, I would encourage students and new graduates to attend.

Moreover, the conference breathes life into the grand scope of the profession and all who are involved. After meeting people from all across the United States and around the world, all while learning about the work being done in so many sub-disciplines, I was reminded that there’s so much going on in the field of occupational therapy! So much more than that what is going on in immediate clinical surroundings and even at my university. I was able to appreciate that I’m a part of something that is truly larger than myself, and that was inspiring.

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Kristen Jensen OT/s

Overall, going to the conference is an awesome experience that I believe that every student should have at least once. During the opening ceremony on Thursday, I felt like I was at a rock concert. Live music, a parade of committees, and a sea of OTs! This was a pretty big "wow" moment in fully understanding what this conference is all about.

With all of the stimulation and commotion, I had to plan accordingly! The AOTA made it very easy with their app so I could figure out what I wanted to see and do more easily.

Following the grand opening, the best day at the expo for me was Thursday (who wouldn't want free stuff and free food?). The expo enabled me to connect with other schools, businesses, and fieldwork opportunities that had the potential to open new doors.

Some of my favorite content and courses that I went to during the conference were part of the Conversations That Matter series. These included:

  • Entrepreneurial lessons learned and the experience of psychosis
  • The impact of visual processing dysfunction on neurological rehabilitation
  • Telehealth in the use of recovery from stroke
“...we have to be bold about moving our profession forward and sitting at the table with other healthcare professionals.”

These sessions not only furthered my insight into their content, but I was able to converse with other students and OT professionals in a judgment-free zone. The poster sessions also made the top of my list because I got to interact with the people who put together their research and understand different occupational needs in a variety of settings.

The other big moment that stood out for me was my favorite speech: Amy Lamb's "Be Bold." She said that in order for change to occur, we have to be bold about moving our profession forward and sitting at the table with other healthcare professionals.

Also, I definitely got a taste for New Orleans food! I had oysters every night along with gumbo, fried chicken, jambalaya, crawfish, catfish, fried alligator, and crawfish etouffee. It was all remarkable food and southern hospitality from NOLA.

From this experience, I learned the importance of admiring the diverse backgrounds of OT students. Being flexible and remaining open to different viewpoints will help me become a better clinician and allow me to meet others where they are at.

Did anyone else make it out to NOLA for the AOTA Conference this year? We want to hear all about your experience in the comments!


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