Meet our students: MOT student Natalie Grazian

Natalie sits at an outdoor table.

Please meet second-year Master of Occupational Therapy student Natalie Grazian. 

Where are you from?

I was and raised in the San Diego area and have found my home here in Seattle.  

What is your specialty? 

I’m aiming to specialize in rehab for folks with limb loss and limb difference, particularly upper extremity. I’m learning as much as I can about the physical, psychological, and societal aspects of living with less than two arms and ten fingers to better understand the barriers that each individual faces, and how to support their unique strengths and goals. 

Ultimately, I want to find (or create) a role for myself where I can help clients do the things they want and need to do. That could be finding adaptive techniques and devices for everyday life, selecting and training with a prosthesis, preventing and treating overuse injuries, managing chronic pain, returning to old hobbies and discovering new ones, exercising in a way that makes sense for their body, connecting with peer support, and having a safe space to process and problem-solve the social/societal implications of living with a visible difference. 

Why did you choose this specialty? 

This was all sparked by the need to create my own one-handed modifications for activities I care about. I was born with one hand, so I’ve been practicing OT on myself since day one. The more involved I’ve become in the limb-different community, the more aware I am of how singular each experience is, and where there seem to be gaps in support. 

What are your research interests?

I’m interested in the physical and psychosocial functions of prostheses, and how we as individuals can use (or not use) prostheses to connect with our true goals and values. 

Another major interest is related to intersectionality – how age, gender, race, nationality, culture, body size, and socioeconomic status impact the experience of limb loss/difference, in terms of stigma and health outcomes. 

What are your plans after completing your MOT?

I’m excited for my fieldwork placements, one of which will be in outpatient rehab at the VA. My second fieldwork is still up in the air, and after that, I guess I’ll start turning my ambitions into reality (read: get a job).

Natalie hiking on a bright, sunny day.
What do you like to do in your spare time?

Hanging out with my husband, friends, cat, and dog; yoga, long walks, live music; being near a body of water on warm days; crocheting and reading on chilly evenings. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate on a poster for the 2024 AOTA conference. The poster was about the current state of inequity in OT education for students with disabilities, and it invites conversation on how to advance equity further. The project was led by Sarah Tuberty, an OT practitioner and doctoral candidate at Christian Woman's University. Last year she looped in myself and Madelyn Hubbs, an MOT student at Maryville University of St. Louis, to help research and write the proposal and subsequent poster.

Our next step is advocating for the inclusion of students and faculty who identify as disabled into the demographic data that AOTA, our national professional organization, collects each year from academic OT programs. AOTA currently collects annual data on race, ethnicity, and gender, but not disability. Having this data would give us insight necessary to identify inequities, address patterns of bias and discrimination, tailor support and resources, and create a more inclusive environment in the OT profession.

Additionally, along with five other OT students and practitioners with limb differences, I co-authored an article in OT Practice Magazine that provides an intro education on terminology, physical and psychosocial considerations, and therapy resources for supporting clients with upper limb differences. I want to give a shoutout to my professor Keri DeGroot for introducing me to one of the OT practitioners, which lead to my involvement in the poster and article – Keri truly goes above and beyond to make connections for her students.

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