Leidy Montoya: M.O.T. student builds future on her healthcare experience
Leidy Montoya explored a variety of healthcare professions for over a decade before settling on becoming an occupational therapist. The second-year Radford University Carilion (RUC) Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.T.) student has been, at various times, a phlebotomist, clinical medical assistant, nurse, clinical manager, Hispanic outreach coordinator and medical interpreter. All of these roles, however, had one common element: patients and their well-being.
“Whether my goal was to improve a patient’s daily living routine performing home visits alongside social workers and therapists or promoting wellness alongside doctors,” Montoya said, “my overall mission has always been to advocate for my patients and place their interests above everything else.”
Montoya said that her decision to pursue occupational therapy stemmed from her desire to combine her bachelor’s-level education in psychology, her clinical experience and her artistic nature into a career that could be of service to others.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) describes occupational therapy as “the only profession that helps people across the lifespan do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities or occupations. Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent — or live better with — injury, illness or disability… Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.”
AOTA cites examples of the varied work that occupational therapists do as helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
“I am drawn to the field given the diverse range of patients that I will have the opportunity to work with, the flexibility of working in different settings and the potential of making a positive impact on a patient’s life and their families,” Montoya said.
Montoya said that RUC is an excellent place for occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals to build on their experiences and take their careers to the next level.
“RUC provides all the support necessary for a student to not only succeed but excel on their educational path,” Montoya said. “From specialized labs and a fully invested faculty to additional resources like the writing center, Center for Accessibility Services, mentoring, counseling services and more, Highlanders are provided with a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on their health studies in a diverse and inclusive environment.”
While Montoya and her classmates have faced challenges during their time as students in the program due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, she said she is thrilled to be back on campus and working with patients in person.
“Not being able to fully engage with classmates during hands-on labs due to the physical and communication barriers imposed by the personal protective equipment has affected my learning experience,” Montoya recalled. “However, I believe that it is important to be flexible in these times of adversity and adapt to any changes we encounter on the road. At the end of the day, one of the main skills of an occupational therapist is the ability to adapt and modify visions and expectations as situations arise.”
When she graduates in December 2022, Montoya hopes to further her professional development by pursuing a neurorehabilitation fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. During her time in the M.O.T. program, Montoya has worked with patients with neurological impairments, developing an affinity for neuroscience.
“I am very excited about my professional future, and I'm looking forward to becoming a successful occupational therapist,” she said.