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The Diagnosis of a Family Member Inspired Michela Salvucci’s Shift from Sports Medicine to OT

Michela Salvucci head shotIn 2013, during her sophomore year studying sports medicine at Merrimack College, Michaela Salvucci MS ’20 got her first introduction to occupational therapy. “When my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease I was visiting the rehabilitation hospital and was able to watch the OT sessions,” she recalls. “It really struck me how client-centered the therapy was. Coming from an Italian family, being able to navigate a kitchen and eat independently were some of the important activities of daily living. My grandfather’s OT really took this into consideration and targeted these functional areas during treatment, which is what really drew me to the profession. I soon discovered that OT is even more vast than just in rehabilitation hospitals, which really solidified my interest.”

By her senior year, Michela had another introduction to the profession as a volunteer group leader with Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica. The organization serves children and young adults with disabilities such as Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy as well as children affected by HIV/AIDS and teen mothers along with their babies. “I had been considering going to school for occupational therapy at the time and when we went to Mustard Seed Communities, it really solidified my passion in helping the pediatric special needs population,” she explains. “When I was there, I learned that occupational therapists can make trips [through the organization] and help with wheelchair adaption using donated supplies from the U.S..” The international relief group is just one of the beneficiaries of Michela’s commitment to service. For 8 years, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Durbin, West Virginia and since 2015, she has donated her time to organizations working to alleviate homelessness in Washington D.C..

Even as Michela completed her undergraduate work, she had a plan in mind, sticking with her sports medicine track because she knew it would cover many of the prerequisite classes to get her master’s degree in occupational therapy. She was drawn to the program at Regis by the 15-member cohort. “It really made a difference to become so close with my fellow classmates and professors,” she wrote. “The experiences that stood out to me most from my time in the program were some of the field trips we went on with Dr. [Suzanne] Rappaport,” assistant professor of occupational therapy. “We were exposed to traditional and non-traditional practice areas and I felt like I got well-rounded exposure to all the settings OTs can work with.”

Dr. Rappaport describes Michela as “a hard-working and empathetic individual who I am sure will help many, many people as an occupational therapist.”

After obtaining her license, Michela accepted a full-time job with Easter Seals Massachusetts, an organization she had been working for part-time for nearly 8 years. “It’s a great opportunity to get exposure to many different settings across the lifespan as a new graduate,” she explains.

As far as her long-term plan, Michela says “I really hope to return to Jamaica someday as an OT and really make a difference in their community…the nice thing about OT is that you can work in so many different settings. I am still figuring out where my passion lies.”