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April is Occupational Therapy Month. We sat down with Gina Kim to learn more about her OT career and journey. Gina Kim, MOT, OTR/L, CBIS, graduated Cum Laude from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2015 with a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Kim is an Advisory Board Member for the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association and will start her new position as Neuro Occupational Therapist Clinical Specialist Johns Hopkins’ Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute in June 2021.

Why did you decide to become an OT?

I knew I always wanted to help people. There was always a part of me that would look for people who look or felt out of place. I started volunteering and doing admin work at a pediatric clinic where they had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech, but that was the first time I ever heard about occupational therapy.

Being introduced to this rehab world and seeing how occupational therapists used equal parts of science, creativity, and interpersonal skills was very, very appealing to me. The more I learned about it, the more I felt like it was in tune with my personality and became further ingrained when I got into school.

There is a beauty in giving somebody the opportunity to know that whatever happens in their life, it isn't the end of the road. Together, we can help problem-solve and find that meaningful purpose in their life, so they feel motivated to wake up every day. I think it's just a beautiful concept.

What is the most rewarding part of being an OT?

There is just so much that I see from my patients every day. They come in with so many challenges, but I can see in their spirit that they are determined to improve. For me, it is a push for me to show up. Many uphill battles that come with recovery impact the patient, the family, and friends. It always helps put things into perspective. We have one life; let’s make it worth it.

I share this quote with my patients often “To be bold. What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?” I tell my patients working hard and pushing yourself is important, but give yourself some grace and keep moving forward. I feel like shifting to occupational therapy has made me no longer think in black and white. I now get to know the person and with that comes so much more patience and gratitude.

Challenges along the way?

I think something that gives me a little bit more of a boost is the realization that not everybody has access to care. Some challenges include financial barriers, disrupted social supports, or environmental obstacles. Or that they didn't have a lot of these expenses to purchase A, B, and C tools. So it's a good challenge in seeing, okay, let's be resourceful and problem-solve together. What kind of things do you have around the house that we could build into a therapeutic tool? So I would say there are plenty of challenges with patient care, but it's all challenges that we want to take and share with our patients.

Have any tips for fellow OTs?

I think that the biggest tip for fellow OTs would be to stay curious and keep learning. Keep humbling yourself by knowing that there are new developments. Make sure you keep connections to stay informed on all the new research, practices, and products.

Kim participated in the 2020 Los Angles Marathon and ran a total of 26.2 miles! She asked her patients to share what their mantra is that helps them during therapy. For every mile Kim ran, she carried their handwritten notecards with the inspiring quotes and dedicated each mile to them.

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