Joey Burgess, OT student, and former president of SOTA.

Joseph Burgess

Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Science '22

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy '22


Joey Burgess ’22, occupational therapy student, plays a pivotal role in defining what Alvernia’s OT program is all about. As the Student Occupational Therapy Association president, and recent recipient of both the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association and Maryland Occupational Therapy Association scholarships, he is a testament of what the OT program has to offer.

Burgess mentions one of the advantages of Alvernia is the combined 5-year MSOT program, allowing seamless transition from the bachelor’s degree to master’s, without having to worry about taking the GRE and applying to grad school. What sealed the deal for him was the campus. “The campus is beautiful, and I preferred the dorm styles to those I saw at other campuses,” says Burgess.

Learning at Alvernia awoken something in Burgess, that previously did not exist. “I was always someone who hated going to school and for the first time at Alvernia, I found myself actually wanting to go to class and enjoying what I was learning, even if it was not always easy.”  He also mentions that faculty at Alvernia are the centerpiece of that experience. In fall of his junior year, the specific coursework for the occupational therapy program began. “My junior year, I remember going into the first week of classes with some anxiety, and it all went away when all five of my professors said sentiments along the lines of ‘you are smart, you worked hard and deserve to be here, do not be afraid to ask questions, I am here to help you become the best occupational therapist you can be’. I remember thinking that I had never had a teacher say anything like that to me before, let alone all five of them. It meant a lot for them to say that and to know I was supported by them, and I think that is something I will remember the most after graduation.”

Burgess will be well-prepared for many options after graduation. Fieldwork placements are intentionally diverse, with exposure to many fields that occupational therapists can thrive in. His level I fieldwork placement at WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital in York introduced the needs of patients who had hip and knee replacements, strokes and spinal cord injuries.  “What impacted me the most about the experience was my supervisor, Lauren Hoover, OTR/L. She was able to tailor her personality to the needs of the patient; she was joyous and bubbly, but could be empathetic and serious, and she could be tough when a patient needed that extra push. I hope to use what I learned from her about therapeutic use of self in my own career.”

Burgess also completed fieldwork at Mosaic House and Hope Springs Clubhouse in Reading. This was a restorative environment for people whose lives have been severely disrupted because of their mental illness. This was quite a different experience than the rehab hospital setting, but provided another possibility as an occupational therapist. “I loved my time at the clubhouse because I saw how truly occupation-based it was. The experience taught me how to cater activities to the interests of a group and how to look at the “whole” person and not just their deficit, which will help me as an occupational therapist to provide effective and holistic treatment.”

Burgess is also the president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, raising awareness for diversity and inclusivity. The organization has held events which include a LGBTQ+ Healthcare & Occupational Therapy panel discussion and Black Therapists Matter panel discussion. Both were very well attended and provided a safe space to ask questions about challenges experienced in healthcare and conveyed the message that occupational therapists can be a catalyst for a more inclusive society. The LGBTQ+ panel discussion was awarded the event of the year by the Alvernia Student Government Association.

For now, Burgess has not determined the specific field he wants to work in as an OT after graduation. Each opportunity with his placements has him seeing the option of working in that setting. “My level I fieldwork experiences in acute rehab, mental health, and school-based settings interest me and I could see myself working in any of them!”

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