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Please tell us about your background?

My name is Sharon Kurian, and I am currently a fourth-year Health Science Major on the Pre-Occupational Therapy track here at the University of Florida. Not only have the University of Florida and this Bachelor of Health Science program given me an excellent education and countless opportunities, but they have also sparked a passion for a field and career that has forever changed my life.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

When I started my first year at UF as a business major, I felt as if my disparate interests were pulling me in multiple directions. I spent much of my first year exploring these interests in the hopes of finding one I could wholeheartedly pursue. Though business intrigued me and eventually led me to complete my minor in business administration, I missed serving my community like I had through most of high school. As I was giving up hope and coming to the realization that I would have to settle, I discovered occupational therapy, and it met and exceeded all my expectations.

My first exposure to occupational therapy was through a close family friend whose little girl was born with congenital heart defects that required her to endure multiple, strenuous surgeries. Over the years, with the help of an occupational therapist and countless other supporters, she was able to learn to feed and dress herself and engage in activities most children her age were participating in. Though the journey she has been on with her family has been arduous, it was nothing short of miraculous to see her start kindergarten this year as a strong, spirited five-year old. Her life and recovery is a testament to the tremendous power of occupational therapy, and this experience propelled me to pursue this field. Since then, every lecture I have watched, recovery story I have heard, and therapy session I have observed has further solidified my choice. The simple, but monumental, ability to change patients’ perspectives on what is truly possible and assist them in partaking in daily tasks that make them feel like themselves again is incredible. And the time I have spent observing OT in inpatient, hand therapy, and pediatric settings has given me the privilege of witnessing this occur time and time again. These experiences have cultivated a deeper understanding and unrelenting passion for this field, and I can’t imagine a more rewarding career through which to serve my community.

Can you tell us about your experience as a student?

In my time at UF, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous organizations. Of these, one that has been immensely influential in my undergraduate career has been Student Occupational Therapy Association. I have been an active member in SOTA for multiple semesters and have the privilege of serving as secretary for the upcoming school year. As a member of SOTA, I have been able to broaden my understanding of OT, find my place among a community of students who are passionate about the subject, and serve the Gainesville community through organizations such as Balance180. Another organization I have been involved in is the L.E.A.P program, which provides mentorship to freshman and sophomores interested in pursuing careers in the health field through the BHS program. As a mentor, I’ve gotten the chance to build mentoring relationships with new, curious students and provide them with the same guidance and friendship I received as a mentee in the program.

In the past year, I have also started working with an organization called GRIP, in which students from multiple disciplines come together to construct and assemble 3-D printed prosthetics for children with upper limb differences. As a part of this organization, I was able to attend Hands to Love’s Hand Camp and present eager campers with prosthetic devices we had built over the course of the semester. Witnessing their faces light up at the prospect of a new device that could break down the barriers of what they thought was possible was an incredible experience I won’t soon forget. Finally, through the BHS Honors Program, I have also had the opportunity to explore the realm of research. I recently began working as a research assistant under Dr. Pereira and the SPARC lab, examining the well being of women undergoing surgery for endometrial cancer and specifically focusing on possible correlations between pre-operative mood and post-operative pain and disability in this population.

What are your future goals?

I hope to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Health Science degree and am looking forward to furthering my knowledge and passion for occupational therapy in graduate school. I believe that my education and experiences will allow me to be a local leader in the field, serving a variety of populations and bettering my community. I also aspire to champion this practice in the global sphere in order to raise awareness about the incredible importance of occupational therapy, especially in areas such as my home country of India, where its benefits aren’t as well known.

Looking back, I never imagined I would be where I am now. I am beyond grateful to my family, friends, mentors, peers, and professors for their support throughout my journey and to the University of Florida for supplying me with the stepping-stones to achieve my own—as well as my parents’—dreams. I am expectant for everything the future has in store, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to utilize everything I have learned as an occupational therapist to help my future patients achieve their “impossible” goals.