In the home stretch before graduation, Carol Haywood has her share of lessons learned from her journey to earning her PhD in Occupational Science from the USC Chan Divison of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

“The type of research you do and the ways you demonstrate your competency as a scholar and researcher will/should be unique from your peers,” Haywood said. “Identify ways to make your program requirements and related benchmarks fit what’s true to you and your passions.”

In addition to completing her dissertation research with Professor Mary Lawlor, ScD, OTR/L, working with adolescents with chronic conditions and their caregivers, Haywood simultaneously pursued her own passion for patient engagement and collaboration. She was awarded a Pipeline-to-Proposal grant from the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to lead a project focused on directly involving patient stakeholders to make research and practice more relevant and relatable.

Haywood already is looking to what lies in her academic journey ahead. She plans to advance her training through a postdoctoral fellowship, continue work related to her PCORI grant and prioritize a few summer travel adventures for good measure.

In the spirit of paying it forward, Haywood encourages future PhD students to access experts and discover shared interests, whether that’s in the first year of PhD studies or after 30 years of research.

“I’ve “fangirl-ed” a few times in my PhD experience,” Haywood said. “Meeting and working with scholars whose work I’ve long admired has been surreal and intimidating. But what I’ve consistently experienced has been an unexpected willingness of many experts to converse and collaborate with me; It’s been a refreshing reminder that we’re all humans who share passions and common interests.”

— Erika Lim