Occupational therapy students making an impact serving the community

Occupational therapy client receiving care from program members.

Pacific's occupational therapy students provide holistic client care.

Launched just 13 months ago, students in University of the Pacific’s Occupational Therapy program will be a force in the community providing highly sought-after services ranging from self-care packages for homeless individuals to mobility training for seniors and healthy eating programs for Sacramento residents.

One of five occupational therapy doctoral programs in Northern California, Pacific’s stands out because “Our program is educating and training students to be innovative and holistic when working with clients,” according to program director and clinical professor Natalie Perkins. “We are dedicated to preparing generalist clinicians that advocate for all individuals, are committed to social justice, and create inclusive strategies for those we serve.”

Pacific’s occupational therapy students will distribute self-care packages to individuals experiencing homelessness throughout Sacramento, host booths with healthy eating tips at local farmer’s markets and work with local senior care centers to provide residents information on how to stay active and socialize safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to be able to give back and educate those who do not have the resources needed to live their preferred, meaningful life,” said student Lex Acuna ’23. “I want people to have a voice to be able to advocate for themselves.”

Students will volunteer with Rebuilding Together, a local non-profit that brings volunteers and community organizations together, to improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners and to help seniors and the disabled live safely in their homes.

“There is a direct connection between the conditions of a home and a residents’ health and safety.” — Natalie Perkins, Program Director

“There is a direct connection between the conditions of a home and a residents’ health and safety,” explained Perkins. “Unsafe and unhealthy conditions account for many leading causes of preventable illness and injuries, school absenteeism and neighborhood deterioration. Preserving the history and intergenerational wealth of our neighborhoods is vital to our community’s immediate and future health.”

The program also works with the Society for the Blind to empower individuals who recently began living with low vision or blindness to discover and adapt to the changes. 

“This is an intriguing area to work in and I am interested in helping clients make their environment safer and more comfortable so they can live independently,” said student Mitchell Johnston ’23. “Working with these patients I’m hoping to help restore their self-confidence and empower people who are blind or have low vision to do familiar tasks and continue participating in activities they enjoy.”

“The classes and support being provided by Pacific's occupational therapy students will give our clients a new sense of freedom and independence—something we cherish and want to continue for them,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director of Society for the Blind. 

The occupational therapy doctoral program begins its next cohort in January 2022. To learn more about the program, contact or 916.325.4602.