Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


While student-run free clinic (SRFC) participation is well-documented among many health professions, no study has comprehensively characterized occupational therapy student participation. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand both the current presence as well as educational impact of occupational therapy student participation in university-based SRFCs in the United States (U.S). Data collection occurred through a national survey and semi-structured interviews. Surveys were sent to representatives (e.g. program directors, faculty advisors, and student leaders) at all 190 accredited occupational therapy schools. Of these, 118 responded, for an overall response rate of 62.1%. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of physician’s assistant, medical, pharmacy, and occupational therapy students (N=9). Results showed that 12.7% of schools contributed volunteers to at least one SRFC (N=15). Themes included that occupational therapy students provided a unique perspective to the interprofessional team, educated other students about occupational therapy’s scope, and demonstrated strong patient interviewing skills. They also learned from opportunities to explore future career possibilities, engage in interdisciplinary teamwork, and practice skills in a safe space. Occupational therapy programs have a relatively low rate of participation (12.7%) in SRFCs compared to other health professions nationally. However, occupational therapy and other health professional students report that occupational therapy student participation creates important educational opportunities. These opportunities may strengthen occupational therapy’s role in interprofessional team-based care, especially within the emerging practice area of primary care.


Janis W. Yue, OTD, MA, OTR/L completed an occupational therapy doctoral residency at the Violence Intervention Program, a community-based mental health center. Janis is passionate about working at the intersections of social justice, mental health, and community-building. Her research interests include mental health care within structurally marginalized communities and anti-oppressive pedagogy.

Mina Delavar, OTD, MA, OTR/L is from Woodland Hills, California. She earned her bachelor's degree in Psychology at CSUN. After earning her master's in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California, she pursued her doctoral degree. Currently, Mina serves families through a sensory integration and trauma-informed lens at Sprout Children’s Therapy Center.

Bethrese Elane Padini, OTD, MA, OTR/L received her Master of Arts in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California in 2020 and completed her doctoral residency serving college students with disabilities. As an occupational therapist, she has experience serving people across the lifespan from early intervention to home health geriatrics.

Erik Vanstrum, BA is an MD candidate at Keck School of Medicine. He is pursuing a career in otolaryngology and has a special interest in interdisciplinary care.

Tessa Milman, OTD, OTR/L teaches mental health, clinical reasoning, program development and qualitative research in the Chan Division of Occupational Therapy at USC, utilizing Team-Based Learning and other learner-centered pedagogies, with a focus on integrating lived experience with academic knowledge. She has practiced and supervised students in mental health settings.

John Sideris, PhD is a Professor of Research and the Director of Instrument Development and Psychometric/Statistical Analysis in the USC Chan Division of OS/OT. He has served as methodologist on multiple projects, providing expertise in psychometrics, linear models, longitudinal analysis, and randomized clinical trials.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.