Diego Lopez characterizes his time at USC as a transformative experience — and one that didn’t just begin with graduate studies at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

As an undergraduate, the Pasadena native threw the javelin for USC Track & Field and was team co-captain when his passion for occupational therapy was ignited, thanks to Assistant Clinical Professor Kate Crowley.

“She inspired me to earn a minor in occupational science, to become an advocate for persons living with disabilities and, ultimately, to teach,” Lopez said. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Mentorship from Crowley has continued into Lopez’s time in the USC Chan master’s degree in occupational therapy program, where during the spring he served as a teaching assistant in that same undergraduate course in which he was once a student.


Using occupational therapy to help people with disabilities

Although he received his degree at USC’s 2018 commencement ceremony on May 11, Lopez will be staying at USC Chan for its clinical occupational therapy doctorate program and is already looking ahead to the fall semester, when he will be a doctorate resident working at Los Angeles City College. There, he will provide clinical services to student populations, and he plans to create an “Intro to O.T.” course available to all the college’s students.

Now that he feels equipped to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives through occupational therapy, Lopez is quick to express his gratitude. Given his ambitions, the advice he offers to incoming students is no surprise.

“Take time to get to know the teachers in the program,” he said. “We have this amazing opportunity to benefit from expertise and experience that extends far beyond the classroom.”

— Evan Nicholas