After watching her grandfather’s occupational therapist help him with post-traumatic stress disorder, Nicole Lamoureux, an occupational therapy graduate student, wanted to help others in the same way.
“In doing my own research … I just fell in love with occupational therapy,” Lamoureux said.
Her passion for occupational therapy has given her the opportunity to serve as the vice chairperson of the Assembly of Student Delegates of The American Occupational Therapy Association. She is the first JMU student from the master’s of occupational therapy program to be elected to a national office position within the association.
“I think it is the biggest honor,” Lamoreaux said. “Being the first in anything is really cool, but being the first at a national level is awesome. I am ready to take the challenge.”
AOTA is the membership organization within the profession; it provides a lot of services for both occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and students. There are multiple divisions, each with delegations, that work with education, management, program accreditation, lobbying, advocacy and more. They also publish the “American Journal of Occupational Therapy.”
“I thought ‘Wow, that’s a great opportunity for students to directly lead, first of all, and then to communicate at the national level’ And I just went for it,” Lamoureux said. “Next thing I know, my face and picture was on the AOTA website, people voted and then I got the letter saying I had won.”
Lamoureux will begin her position as vice-chairperson at the end of this year’s annual conference on April 1. She attended last year’s conference in San Diego where she served as a representative for JMU and learned about the open vice-chairperson position.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Lamoureux said. “It’s a great networking opportunity. The Steering Committee will bring in guest speakers and it’s so inspirational. I feel like I’m wearing my OT cape when I leave the conference and am ready to conquer the world.”
Lamoureux explained that in her new position she will be working with the Steering Committee of the AOTA Board of Directors in her new position. She will be in constant communication and work closely with occupational therapy school representatives and delegates as the annual conference approaches. Lamoureux will also be working with the Boardroom to Classroom program, which connects the Student Occupational Therapy Association chapters with the national organization.
Dr. Jeff Loveland, JMU occupational therapy program director, nominated Lamoureux for the position and believes the achievement accurately reflects her dedication and hard work.
“It represents that her effort and her leadership is being recognized and noted by her peers and by others in the association,” Loveland said. “I think it bodes well for what she’s capable of and what she can accomplish in the future.”
According to Loveland, Lamoureux’s new position will have a positive impact on the occupational therapy program because it exemplifies JMU’s mission statement of leading productive and meaningful lives.
“It’s another major achievement,” Loveland said. “It further puts JMU on the map whenever one of our students achieves something like this.”
Amy Russell Yun, professor of occupational therapy, has seen Lamoureux’s leadership skills be displayed in JMU’s Student Occupational Therapy Association, where Lamoureux is currently serving as vice president.
“She is a strong advocate across the board. Anything she does, she does 150 percent,” Yun said. “She’s a strong advocate within our program, getting students to pay attention to what’s going on beyond the immediate walls of JMU. Similarly she’ll be doing that within the ASD. Getting students to work toward something beyond just getting through OT school.”
Lamoureux said this opportunity is a way for her to help the occupational therapy students communicate on a national level.
“This will just be a great way for me to channel it and make sure that our voices are heard because we are going to lead the profession,” Lamoureux said.
Loveland said that Lamoureux’s success has been important to the other 23 graduate students in the program because they are excited to see their peers grow.
“It’s not a competitive group of individuals,” Loveland said. “They are a cohesive group, they try to help one another succeed. It’s a group I’m real proud of.”
Yun hopes that Lamoureux’s achievement will serve as a stepping stone to more JMU student involvement with AOTA.
“When you see your peer reaching for those kinds of opportunities and successfully attaining them, it opens that door and creates the possibility that we can do these kinds of things,” Yun said.
Lamoureux said she is excited but also nervous to start her position, and hopes that it will present other opportunities for her later in life.
She will continue to get hands-on experience during her clinical capstones in June, where she will work with individuals to help better their lives.
“OT works with individuals across the lifespan either facing physical challenges, issues with mental health, we pretty much work the spectrum,” Lamoureux said. “A fun way to say it is, a physical therapist will get you walking and an occupational therapist will get you dancing.”
Contact Megan DiMaiolo at email@example.com.