Can one imagine driving 45 minutes to an hour to receive needed occupational therapy services after a traumatic event such as a stroke? That is the unfortunate reality for many folks in Southwest Virginia.
I have always had a passion for rural health care, beginning with personal experiences growing up in Richlands. This passion continued to develop through volunteer experiences with my time spent at Mission of Mercy and the New River Valley Free Clinic.
However, a career in occupational therapy did not cross my mind until my junior year at Virginia Tech. That year, my father survived a hemorrhagic stroke, secondary to an aneurysm rupture in his brain. This event was a humbling experience for my family and me as we watched my dad relearn ordinary activities, many of which we all often take for granted, including eating, bathing, dressing, talking and walking.
For two and half months, my family stayed in Charlottesville as my father received intensive inpatient rehabilitation from occupational, physical and speech therapists. After returning home, he would complete another two years of physical and occupational therapy, and he continues to receive intermittent services to this day.
This experience inspired me to pursue occupational therapy as I watched my father regain the skills my family thought were lost forever. It was occupational therapists who helped him recover his lost abilities and find new ways to return to his previous level of independence.
To this day, I can still remember the feeling of joy that came over me when I first learned that Radford University was starting a Master of Occupational Therapy program. I had been exploring occupational therapy programs in Virginia and surrounding states, but once I read about RU’s mission to train occupational therapists to assume positions in Southwest Virginia and learned of the program’s focus on rural health needs, I knew Radford University was the right place for me.
My education at Radford University has taught me to become a culturally competent, client-centered therapist, who, through the power of everyday occupation, rebuilds lives and co-authors new life stories.
I know because of the strong foundation I received at Radford, I can help other families like my own here in Southwest Virginia. I hope to inspire others to become occupational therapists too.
Tara Brown Morris '11 is a recent graduate in the Master of Occupational Therapy program.