Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


This study explored how occupational therapy students’ perceptions of racism and ethnic discrimination impacted their educational experiences. Participants included 226 students ages 18-60 years old enrolled in occupational therapy entry-level, post-professional, or assistant programs throughout the United States. Students completed an anonymous web-based survey that included a demographic questionnaire, the Brief Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire-Community Version (PEDQ-CV), and open-ended survey questions. Results found that students’ educational performance were negatively impacted by their experiences with racism and ethnic discrimination. While students reported to have experienced racism or ethnic discrimination within the classroom and fieldwork settings, classroom conversations and content related to topics on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism were limited. Based on the study’s findings, schools are encouraged to increase these conversations and implement supportive resources for students who have experienced racism and ethnic discrimination. Implications for improved occupational therapy educational experiences for students included recommendations to: a) acquire additional education in DEI-related subjects; b) continue to incorporate more conversations related to topics of DEI, racism, and ethnic discrimination in the classroom and fieldwork settings; c) provide simulated or real-life hands-on opportunities and experiences to work with people of color within the community; d) teach students how to appropriately behave and respond to racism and ethnic discriminatory situations; e) create program curriculums that focus on DEI and anti-racism content; f) host support groups with diverse people to encourage mentorship between students, practitioners, and community members; and g) diversify course content to include images, perspectives, and stories of people of color.


Melissa Luong, OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who graduated with a master’s degree and a post-professional doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Loma Linda University. Areas of professional interest include neurorehabilitation, racial equity, health and wellness promotion, education, and community-based practice.

Julie Kugel, OTD, OTR/L is an Associate Professor and the Program Director of the Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy. Areas of professional interest include wellness, pediatrics, education, research, and advocacy. In 2019 she obtained her board certification as a Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Sharon Pavlovich, EdD, MAM, COTA/L is a faculty member at Loma Linda University’s Occupational Therapy program and holds the position of California Board of Occupational Therapy president for the state of California. Areas of professional interest include leadership, advocacy, business, entrepreneurship, and mentorship.

Liane Hewitt, DrPH, CHES, OTR/L serves as the Chairperson of the Department of Occupational Therapy at Loma Linda University. She worked in a variety of settings including home health, skilled nursing, schools, and community-based practice. Areas of professional interest include community-based practice, health education and promotion and administration, geriatric care.

Lida Gharibvand, MS, Ph.D is Director of Statistics and Associate Professor at Loma Linda University with broad teaching and research expertise in epidemiology, data analysis, and bio/statistics. She holds a PhD in Epidemiology from Loma Linda University, MS Applied Statistics from University of California-Riverside, and MS Mathematics from University of Nevada-Reno.

Declaration of Interest

My deepest appreciation extends to the California Foundation for Occupational Therapy (CFOT) for funding this research study with a generous research grant.

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.