“Leaving interview day for the Occupational Therapy (OT) program, I knew I was going to come back. This place felt like home. It was a gut feeling, and I haven’t been wrong about that feeling ever since,” said Tricia Santos-Babaran ‘23 of her first glance into how her graduate career would play out at the University of Indianapolis. Tricia started her educational career out with the hopes to become a pharmacist, but as she job shadowed and got further in her classes, she knew she needed to take a different path.
Tricia had always wanted to work in healthcare. “I grew up with a mom who was a very devoted nurse,” Tricia said. “She would always tell me her crazy, but fulfilling, stories about patients.” Tricia started out as pre-pharmacy at Butler University, but ultimately decided she wanted more one-on-one interactions with her patients, and to really grow with them throughout her care. “In pharmacy school, I didn’t really feel like I was making a difference with my strengths in their lives.” Thus, she switched to Occupational Therapy, where OTs work closely with patients and build a rapport throughout their care.
Graduate school was also a way for Tricia to step out of her comfort zone. “It’s a very long process. You get to know yourself personally, professionally, and academically,” Tricia said. “And with OT, progress isn’t always linear.” But facing these hurdles helped Tricia be more empathic to her patients, and to get into the mindset of what they might be going through.
For Tricia, help facing these challenges came from her faculty and the other members of her cohort. “I was blown away by how dedicated they are. There are people there to support you when you take a misstep, or when you don’t make the progress you were hoping for.” Tricia mentioned Dr. Brenda Howard, Associate Professor at UIndy’s School of Occupational Therapy, who has been a guiding hand since she enrolled at the University. “She was so welcoming,” Tricia said.
Tricia also mentioned Kourtney Maddox, Assistant Professor of Practice, Dr. Jennifer Fogo, Interim MOT Program Director and Professor, and Dr. Taylor Gurley, Assistant Professor. “They really do care about the growth of their students,” Tricia remarked.
Involvement has also been a pillar during Tricia’s time at the University. She has been highly involved in many aspects of the OT school, as well as a graduate assistant. Tricia has participated in panel discussions, student recruitment days, and also organized a mentorship program for first-year OT students. Tricia is also the MOT representative for the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA).
Tricia particularly enjoyed being a guiding hand for incoming graduate students. “We wanted other students to have the same opportunities as us. We helped them prepare for classes and were just kind of guiding hands and friendly faces for new OT students,” Tricia said. Relationship building is important to Tricia, and she tries to model her work on that value.
Being a graduate assistant has also impacted Tricia’s time at the University in a positive way. “It was funny to be on the flip side,” Tricia said. “When I assisted with competencies, I remember being in the students’ shoes, freaking out and trying to prepare for class, but it was fun to use that experience to better serve current students.” Tricia also enjoyed getting to know her faculty more while being a graduate assistant, saying that the faculty see their students as future colleagues and treat them as such.
Tricia considers herself a “behind the scenes” person, and said, “I like pouring a lot of big love into the small things.” As a reminder to students, Tricia said, “You don’t have to have big, fancy, glamorous titles. It’s all about the little things—they really add up.”
After graduation, Tricia hopes to stay in the Indianapolis area that feels like home to her. Tricia would prefer a position that is more outpatient-based, so she’s able to see her patients for longer periods of time and really get to know them. “It makes it so much more meaningful,” she said.