Student Spotlight: Q&A with Jennifer Gavia, Master of Occupational Therapy Class of 2022

We're getting to know students from every program at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Submit your own details for Student Spotlight consideration by filling out our brief form.

Q: What five words best describe you?

Jennifer Gavia
Jennifer Gavia

A: Generous, considerate, empathetic, caring and animated.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? 

A: I like to work out, go to the movie theatre or watch sports.

Q: Why did you choose Wayne State University?

A: I chose WSU because of its diverse students and faculty. I grew up and was raised in Detroit and I wanted to continue being around this familiar environment and its resilient people. I experienced a different university for undergraduate to expand my horizons. However, I always knew that I wanted Wayne State to be part of my journey from my graduate studies, as it would provide the best opportunities for me to thrive and allow me to remain close to my support systems.

Q: What brought you to our Master of Occupational Therapy program

A: I chose occupational therapy because it allows me to blend science, psychology and creativity to implement an evidence-based treatment plan based on the things that are important to each individual. It is a medical profession that allows for holistic care of one’s mind, body and soul. OTs can help you regain motivation and independence to facilitate participation in everyday activities and roles that are unique to each and every individual. OTs also help others adopt creative techniques or tools to overcome any obstacle and continue living their best life.

Jennifer Gavia and Ala Sansour
This month, Jennifer traveled to Texas with fellow MOT student Ala Sarsour for the AOTA Conference. See more photos!

Q: If you had 24 hours free from work and school obligations, how would you spend your day?

A: I would start off the day by going to the gym without rushing. I would then get breakfast and coffee with my close friends who I haven’t seen as often as I would like. Afterward, I would visit my grandma. I would take her to the mall and park, help her clean her house and make lunch for us. I would end the day by lounging with my intermediate family and then going to a sporting event with my significant other. I value and enjoy chill free time with the people I love the most.

Q: What are your career aspirations?

A: I plan to give back to the communities that have made me who I am. I want to help address health care inequities and increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the occupational therapy field. I specifically wish to give back to my Detroit community because it has made me into the resilient, strong character that I am today. I plan to help my Latino community and provide them a Spanish-speaking occupational therapist they can connect to. I hope that one day I can open a clinic where diverse OT staff is present and where all cultures, religions and LGBTQIA+ communities feel welcomed. I also aspire to give back and create a scholarship for another Wayne State student in the future, as it is important for me to help others reach the same opportunities that I have been given. [Watch Jennifer's 2021 Donors & Scholars video.] I want to continue to communicate what opportunities are available and to serve as a OT mentor to others throughout my career.

Ala Sansour and Jennifer Gavia
While at the AOTA Conference, Jennifer and Ala volunteered through Coalition of OT Advocates for Diversity to assemble play-and-learn boxes for local refugee families.

Q: What else should we know?

A: Being a first-generation student of color, I can admit to experiencing “imposter syndrome” at times. I can recall being told that I should change my career plan at one point, but all it took was someone to look at my potential, provide guidance and ultimately give me a chance. Now to have a seat in a graduate program reinforces that my hard work and passion are deserved, seen and recognized. I was able to overcome my obstacles and achieve my wish to help others. It is essential that we continue to push for increased diversity and inclusion at WSU, as we are in the heart of Detroit. This city is made up of a majority of Black Americans, and we are surrounded by several other cultural and religious groups. It is important that we ensure true representation of the people we serve. We need to continue to push for more BIPOC students to have access and a fair chance of pursing their dreams too.

Occupational therapy students Jennifer Gavia, Ala Sarsour, Hala Saif and Warda Saleh with OT alum Cassandra Webb.
Jennifer and Ala joined fellow OT students Hala Saif and Warda Saleh volunteering at Detroit's African World Festival last summer (shown here with program alum Cassandra Webb).

An occupational therapist helps patients engage in everyday activities that are important to them, using a variety of productive and creative activities. The WSU Applebaum Master of Occupational Therapy program application cycle runs from Aug. 1-Nov. 1, with classes starting the following May. Learn more by attending a college information meeting, held for prospective students at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

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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