Grad student advocates for people with disabilities

Diego Lopez serves as a teaching assistant in the same undergraduate course in which he was a former student.

Diego Lopez characterizes his time at USC as a transformative experience — and one that didn’t just begin with graduate studies at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Diego Lopez occupational therapy program student photographed holding a USC Jersey, and smiling looking into the camera.
Diego Lopez realized that he wanted to study occupational therapy while on the track and field team at USC. (Photo courtesy of Hong Le)

As an undergraduate, the Pasadena native threw the javelin for USC Track & Field and was team co-captain when his passion for occupational therapy was ignited, thanks to Assistant Clinical Professor Kate Crowley.

“She inspired me to earn a minor in occupational science, to become an advocate for persons living with disabilities and, ultimately, to teach,” Lopez said. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Mentorship from Crowley has continued into Lopez’s time in the USC Chan master’s degree in occupational therapy program, where during the spring he served as a teaching assistant in that same undergraduate course in which he was once a student.

Using occupational therapy to help people with disabilities

Although he received his degree at USC’s 2018 commencement ceremony Friday, Lopez will be staying at USC Chan for its clinical occupational therapy doctorate program and is already looking ahead to the fall semester, when he will be a doctorate resident working at Los Angeles City College. There, he will provide clinical services to student populations, and he plans to create an “Intro to O.T.” course available to all the college’s students.

Now that he feels equipped to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives through occupational therapy, Lopez is quick to express his gratitude. Given his ambitions, the advice he offers to incoming students is no surprise.

“Take time to get to know the teachers in the program,” he said. “We have this amazing opportunity to benefit from expertise and experience that extends far beyond the classroom.”

By Evan Nicholas

>Read the original story on USC News.