By Kate Hunger
Occupational therapy first-year student Jennifer Sanchez decided she wanted to become an occupational therapist after her older brother suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident. She was 13 years old.
After the accident, her brother had limited function in one of his arms. Occupational therapy services helped him make huge progress and made a big impression on Sanchez.
“He went from being completely immobile to regaining almost everything—his dexterity, strength, and mobility,” she said. “It was an unparalleled experience. I was able to see how client-centered this profession is and just how the quality of life changed for my bother, for me and for my family. I wanted to have a career that allowed me to do that.”
Sanchez hopes to bring her passion for occupational therapy to her new role as the student representative for the Texas Occupational Therapy Association (TOTA). In her role, she will serve as a student liaison to the more than 1,000 student members of TOTA, with the goal of serving as a bridge between practicing clinicians and students as they prepare to become first-year clinicians.
The OT program has helped Sanchez discover her passion for patient advocacy to address healthcare disparities. After practicing as an occupational therapist, she said she plans to go to law school in order to advocate for patients in the legal system.
Sanchez also was recently selected as the 2020 Presidential Ambassador Scholar representing the School of Health Professions. Each year, one student from each school within UT Health San Antonio is selected for the award, which includes a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity for scholars to represent their schools at presidential events and during visits by distinguished guests.