The Impact of Attending AOTA Inspire 2024

On April 4, 2024, attendees of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Inspire 2024 Annual Conference and Expo shared highlights and resources from the conference for those who did not attend. The event took place in Orlando, Florida from Thursday, March 21 – Saturday, March 23 and gathered practitioners nationwide to share insights, form connections, and discover the latest products and technology.

Eleven students were sponsored by the GW occupational therapy program to attend the conference, including the State of Science Symposium hosted by the American Occupational Therapy Foundation and led by an OT capstone advisor, associate dean for Health Sciences Research, and associate professor, Trudy Mallinson, PhD, OTR/L, NZROT, FAOTA, FACRM.

Below are reflections from students and faculty on the workshops attended, research learned about, and relationships built.

Workshops: Gaining Perspective and Knowledge

“It was empowering to be in a room with that many people who care and are there to make a change. It was very inspiring and motivating and I don't think I would have gotten that type of experience without going to the conference,” said Rachel Metts.

“I participated in a pre-institute course that was linking upper limb anatomy to functional performance and there was a cadaver. There's only one other student that attended as the rest were practicing clinicians from all over the country and different practice areas. It was a really amazing experience and a great refresher to going into field work this summer and fall. It really made me feel like I knew my anatomy even though I was a little nervous because it said it was an intermediate course,” said Alexis Clapper.

“One of the courses that I went to was about culturally diverse activities of daily living and it was really nice to go there because my capstone is about implicit bias and how we can incorporate education about different cultures to limit implicit bias. In that workshop they had speakers on how to properly moisturize 4C hair. They also had a table about people who pray during Ramadan and how to be culturally respectful when they're fasting and how to be supportive if they have physical limitations where they can't bend down to pray. I found that to be really helpful.” said Collese Daley.

“I tried to branch out of my direct interest and also go to workshops that I typically would not have gone to. I didn't realize the military has so many OT fellowships, so that could be a really cool option for people who might want to get into a more niche area after graduation,” said Kate Agnes.

“My favorite part was to see mental health infused across different areas of practice because all of our patients have mind, body, and spirit that we're addressing. That was really empowering for me,” said Ann Henshaw, MPH, MBA, OTD.

“There was a greater diversity of material that was being covered. There was a lot more with emerging practice areas and expanding outside of the traditional OT bubble that was very exciting to see,” said Danielle Centi, DrOT, OTR/L, CBIS.

Research: Learning and Building Confidence

“It was so cool being currently in the Capstone project and then going to the State of the Science Symposium, which is based on the current research and measurement, and it is directly related to my capstone. Confidence washed over us after going to that symposium because I really understood what they were trying to say.”

“I built up the confidence to feel like I wasn't just an OT student. I was the OT student there,” said Sabrina Luu.

“I went to a lecture that was about coding and technology, which is kind of niche, but it made me realize that we as OT's are super creative and we can make adaptive tools that are extremely low cost for our clients with a little bit of resources,” said Victoria Leger.

Building Relationships

“What really surprised me is that OT is so broad. You were able to talk to people from every single walk of OT life. I also met a ton of students from a lot of schools and it was really cool to talk to everybody about their coursework and then also learn their areas of interest,” said Abigail Buchanan.

“I got to meet so many different people from all around the country and the world. It was really nice to see all of them gathered together to celebrate OT and talk about all the things that are happening and are up and coming. One of the most valuable things I gained was having space for affinity groups and meeting people who come from similar backgrounds as me and who are doing so well in the field,” said Amy Arellano.

“In terms of networking, my advice would be to go up to tables and say ‘Hi, my name is Justine Williams. I'm a OT first-year. I'd love to hear about your business and how I can get involved.’ I talked to a lot of people, specifically amputees, which is what I want to get into hopefully after school and there was a woman talking about internships who invited me to visit their facility,” said Justine Williams.

“The OT community is so small and everybody's willing to help you grow as a future practitioner. I ended up getting a lot of mentors in the process learning about neuroscience and how OT plays a role in that. I was really thankful for that,” said Sabrina Luu.

“I ended up meeting an OT that works at a sailing community club in New York and my capstone project is in sailing and I had no idea that there would be an OT doing that at the conference, so that was really cool,” said Emma Tober.

The AOTA Inspire 2025 Annual Conference and Expo takes place on April 3-5, 2025 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which the program expects to sponsor more students to attend and learn about new research, develop relationships, and build their confidence. As the location of the 2024 conference sparked a debate about diversity and inclusion, the GW OT program discussed their values and action plan in the recent article, Program Values and Community Action Plan.

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