“ You are the product of your ancestors’ sacrifices. Among the many barriers that you may face, do not give up. Your resilience will be compensated, and most importantly: do not be afraid to ask for help when you have questions. ”Gabriela Carmona
Occupational Therapy, Class of 2024
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month reminds me to embrace my Latinx culture and honor my upbringing. It is a time in which I reflect and celebrate the culture and values inherited from my ancestors.
Discuss your background a little and what made you decide to get into the healthcare profession.
My interest in the healthcare field started when my mother was involved in an accident that led her to undergo several surgical procedures. At the time, I was pursuing a degree in elementary education. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of many students and influence their decisions and behaviors in a positive way. However, because of my mother’s incident, I became increasingly interested in occupational therapy. I accompanied her to many rehabilitation sessions, and it was then that I realized occupational therapists were also teachers in their own way. Although they carry different responsibilities, they both ultimately make a positive difference in people’s lives. My mother's occupational therapist helped her regain skills and abilities that were lost as a result of her injuries, allowing her to resume her household occupations. The therapist also educated my family and me on maintaining proper preservation of her mobility and sustaining that strength. Since then, I became interested in the human body and what behaviors and motivations can initiate physical engagement.
Are you the first in your family to go into college/graduate school/medical school? If so, what challenges did you face?
I am a first-generation Mexican American student. My parents migrated to the United States to seek a better life. A few barriers that were present during my academic journey include familial responsibilities, financial support, and negative perceptions and attitudes towards my Latinx identity. Additionally, I lacked the guidance necessary to coach me through difficult times and unknown processes. The presence of constant pressure to meet expectations caused mental exhaustion. However, I eventually realized that my voice matters, and my experiences are needed in higher education. One of my driving forces is a sense of responsibility to advocate for others and bring awareness to the fact that not many Latinx individuals are represented in professional medical careers. I hope to mentor and guide future generations so that they do not experience the challenges that I did.
What was it like to get accepted into Midwestern and what does that mean to you (and to your family)?
Being accepted into Midwestern University has been a dream come true. I was attracted to the welcoming atmosphere that the faculty created during the interview. Midwestern University prepares its students to become intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, and socially responsible occupational therapists. I am both impressed and honored to work alongside faculty who are dedicated to education and advocacy. I also appreciate their open-door policy and the mentorship that is nurtured within students and faculty. These relationships are so valuable. Their efforts in diversity and inclusion are notable. I feel comfortable voicing my opinions during class.
After you graduate, what are your plans?
My primary long-term goal is to enhance the knowledge of the profession by providing an intersectional understanding to individuals from different backgrounds. I want to be involved in research that creates new assessments that are culturally sensitive and expand research to more diverse populations. Also, I plan to work alongside legislators to move our professions forward and advocate for occupational therapy in the front line of legislation.
Any advice you'd like to give to other students who come from a similar background?
You are the product of your ancestors’ sacrifices. Among the many barriers that you may face, do not give up. Your resilience will be compensated. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help when you have questions.
Gabriela Carmona is a Class of 2024 Occupational Therapy student on the Downers Grove Campus.