Island University Honors Program Student Improves Quality of Life for Rehab Patients

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Everyday, people around the world take things like brushing their teeth, combing their hair, or even going to the bathroom on their own for granted. For those recovering from illness or injury, not being able to complete these seemingly simple tasks could result in huge setbacks when it comes to physical and mental health.

Rachel Brown, who is an Honors Program student and is studying kinesiology with an emphasis in pre-allied health in the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, spent her last semester completing more than 400 internship hours on the rehabilitation floor of Christus Spohn Hospital-Shoreline studying how self-care affects an individual’s psychological and physical state.

“Occupational therapy is often described as a life-changing profession that focuses on helping people live as independently as possible,” shared Brown, who says she has always had the desire to help people from a very early age. “In this profession, you put others before yourself and that is why I chose it. I wanted to be sure I will have a job where I can help people accomplish little everyday things that would make them happy and their lives more meaningful.”

Brown impacted the lives of more than 100 patients over the course of the spring 2018 semester by helping them learn how to do simple tasks such as walk across the room without losing their breath. Her favorite memory includes helping a 92-year-old woman do just that.

“She was so positive and always made us laugh. She was willing to do whatever she could to be more independent,” said Brown. “So we worked with her every day and by the time she left the hospital, she was able to walk down the hall without getting tired. These small accomplishments translate into huge wins for patients.”

Huge wins for her patients also translated into major wins for Brown who says being part of the Honors Program prepared her to take on the challenge of pursuing a master’s degree.

“The classes I took for the Honors Program prepared me to take higher level classes later on. They challenged me to think critically, look at things more analytically and improved my writing skills,” she said. “When I first came to the Honors Program as a freshman and learned about our Project of Excellence, I thought it was going to be just some project I had to complete but I realized it was something that not all undergrads get to do. I mean, I got to perform my own research!”

All Honors Program students are required to complete a Project of Excellence which consists of a project outline, a complete research project, a written thesis and give an oral presentation. This process is similar to what graduate students are required to do for a master’s degree. Brown worked on her Project of Excellence with faculty mentor, Dr. Mikaela Boham, who is an assistant professor and athletic training director in the COEHD. From passing on research articles to sharing ideas, Boham believes Brown’s internship experience will shape her into an outstanding occupational therapy professional.

“In the allied health profession, practitioners should have a rhyme or reason as to why we do things,” said Boham. “That is why Rachel’s project is so important. She was able to talk to patients, take their feedback and incorporate it into her research.”

But the Honors Program is more than studying hard and performing research, explained Dr. Joshua Ozymy, professor and director of the program – it’s about taking great students and giving them exceptional experiences.

“The program is centered on three key areas of personal development: research and creative activity, study abroad opportunities and service learning,” said Ozymy. “By focusing on these areas, students like Rachel can expand and brighten their horizons.”

Brown, who plans to walk across the commencement stage Saturday, May 12, with her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology Pre-Allied Health, Summa Cum Laude, is ready to continue pursuing her passion for helping people – all thanks to the rigor and challenge of the Honors Program.

“I am so grateful to have been selected to be part of the Honors Program because I have made a lot of great friendships and have had many amazing experiences,” said Brown. “I really recommend other students consider applying. There are just so many benefits.”