Black experiences in health education: OT alumnus Clifford Lyons Jr.

We asked Black students, alumni, faculty and staff in the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to share – in their own words – challenges they've faced in professional health education or clinical practice. 

Clifford LyonsClifford Lyons Jr. '21

Program: Master of Occupational Therapy
Hometown: Southfield, MI
Current position: Inpatient psychiatric OT

While taking classes as a community college student I always had intentions of transferring to a university. After exploring other universities in Michigan, Wayne State checked all of my boxes, it was close to home, and it had numerous connections to various hospitals and a diverse student body.

After shadowing multiple occupational therapists and having the opportunity to witness the positive impact an occupational therapist can have on the lives of clients, I instantly knew occupational therapy was the perfect profession for me.

I initially found it difficult to connect with members of my cohort. I honestly felt like a puzzle piece that did not fit within a puzzle. This connection led me to become isolated and withdrawn from my peers during my first semester in OT school.

I was (and still am) a member of Wayne State's undergraduate program known as the “Brotherhood.” I reached out to the organization and they contacted the head of the occupational therapy director, Dr. Doreen Head, who connected me with a former African American student that graduated from the program, who eventually became my mentor.

After conversing with my mentor and sharing some of my experiences, I received guidance on how to find ways to become better connected with my classmates. Taking his advice, I began to socialize with members of my cohort both inside and outside the classroom. After the first semester, I began to make friends who I stay in contact with all the time and who have helped me grow and develop into the therapist I am today.

An anchor in urban health care 
The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels – from undergraduates to veteran faculty members – translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 25,000 students.

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