TODOS: Promoting Diversity within Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy for diversity 

The profession of occupational therapy is not reflective of the diverse populations we are privileged to serve. Nowhere does this hit home like walking around the AOTA national conference. Many of the professionals look like me--caucasian women. This needs to change. 

The centennial vision for occupational therapy is that we will be a diverse workforce. Given that our centennial is in 2017, we have significant progress to make.

So how do you change the make-up of the occupational therapy workforce?

Terapia Ocupacional para la Diversidad (Occupational Therapists for Diversity)

One group of people contributing to that conversation is TODOS, a network of occupational therapy practitioners working promote the exploration of OT careers by people of Hispanic descent as well as address issues of diversity within our profession. 

I was able to connect with Leo Castro, one of the co-chairs of the group to learn more about the organization and ways to become involved. 

Can you tell me about the founding of TODOS? 

Leo: In 1991, the Hispanic Occupational Therapists of Illinois (HOTI) organized the first national meeting for Hispanic practitioners during the AOTA annual conference in Cincinnati. Five practitioners attended.  Jaime Phillip Muñoz and Lesbia Acevedo-Navarro pushed for the development of a national Hispanic network and the following year more than 50 practitioners and students met at the AOTA Conference in Houston. Members of HOTI and the Puerto Rico Occupational Therapy Association were instrumental in the success of this second meeting. Following the conference, the Southeastern Hispanic Occupational Therapy network was formed in Florida

At the third annual meeting in Seattle, the members focused on finding ways to strengthen the network —the drafting of a mission statement begun and the first Adelante newsletter was published. The 1994 Boston conference was a hallmark for the network. The name Terapia Ocupacional para la Diversidad, Oportunidad y Solidaridad (TODOS) became adopted and a mission statement, including outlined objectives were created. In 1997, a third state network, the Hispanic Occupational Therapists of New York became established. TODOS members have continued the tradition of meeting each year at the annual AOTA conference.

Can you explain its relation to the AOTA and Multicultural Networking Group? 

Leo: TODOS is part of the Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Network (MDI) group recognized by, but independent of the AOTA governance. The MDI Network consists of seven independent groups of various diverse identity and affiliations based on race/ethnicity; disability; sexual orientation; and religious affiliation that collectively support the strategic plan of increasing diversity and inclusion in occupational therapy.

“We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society’s occupational needs” (AOTA, 2007).

TODOS encourages the initiative to be globally connected and have a diverse workforce amongst students, practitioners, researchers, and educators to address the ever-changing population we serve in the United States and territories.

In what ways has the group been active since its founding?

Leo: Participation in this group has ebbed and flowed in the years since it was first formed. The annual AOTA conference continues to be an integral part of the network.  This year in Nashville, TODOS was part of a conference presentation with the other MDI groups that focused on cultural sensitivity in an effort to assist practitioners who want to gain more knowledge on a particular culture or multiple cultures. The MDI Exchange Diversity Toolkit was part of the presentation and can be found on the AOTA’s website. TODOS also collaborated with AOTA to translate six consumer fact sheets into Spanish. In recent months, TODOS’ website was updated and now provides free upcoming educational opportunities through webinars and Twitter chats. Topics range in practice areas and are updated weekly.

What are some of the key issues that TODOS hopes to address over the next 5 years?

Leo: While we stand strongly behind our mission statement of providing mentorship, promoting the exploration of OT in Hispanics, and addressing diversity, we are in a position to expand and grow as those interested in the group would like. Those that attended the Nashville meeting were a younger generation and showed a lot of enthusiasm. We hope to revisit some of those ideas in Chicago and create an action plan. Mentorship and role modeling were major topics. Having said that, one of our major goals is to establish a scholarship fund that provides one OTA and one OT student a small scholarship is a major goal for us. Perhaps the number of scholarships can grow larger as interest in the group expands to more practitioners nationwide. 

How has TODOS impacted your experience as an occupational therapy practitioner?

I have been a therapist for over 20 years, but until I moved to an area that is 90% Hispanic, seeing other Hispanic therapists was not very common. Finding other Hispanic OTs in our profession, especially during conference, has been a great experience. It is nice to go to one event during conference that has Hispanics from different parts of the country come together and meet. Many people I meet want to assist other practitioners in their practice area gain a better understanding and provide advice for becoming more sensitive to cultural issues of clients that are Hispanic.
— Dahlia Castillo, MS, OTR
Although I have only been active with TODOS for a few months, it has already been an invaluable experience! Maintaining a website has led me to be more aware of what is going on in social media, upcoming educational events, and stay current with topics/issues in the OT blogging community. In addition, I have explored discovered a wealth of online resources available in Spanish.

Prior to my involvement with TODOS, I only used social media for personal reasons. I occasionally used Twitter during my Level II Fieldwork at AOTA to promote projects, but I quickly stopped using it. However, once I begun managing the website, Twitter became a go-to tool to stay current on events and connect with practitioners around the world. Thinking back, I was shocked by the large presence of OT practitioners and the available educational opportunities through this medium. While it’s impossible to sit in on all of the chats, I have been introduced to #OTalkstoUS and #OTalk chats, which I highly recommend to everyone!
— Leo Castro, MS, OTR

What are some different ways to become involved in TODOS?

Dahlia: The TODOS Network is re-establishing its presence in the OT community. Last year we had about 15 practitioners who attended the annual meeting in Nashville. Our goal is to increase that number for Chicago by promoting the network. Sirley Marin, MS, OTR/L is in charge of this through social media. Our website will continue to expand and offers resources for visitors to engage and connect. It will soon be available in Spanish thanks to the initiative of our OT Peruvian colleague, Billy Chavez. The next task is to develop content in various practice areas and we welcome anyone who is interesting in contributing to a post (English and/or Spanish).

Our major event is still the annual AOTA conference. This year look for the meeting time and place in the conference brochure and come to the meeting and if you are interested, find out how to become more involved.  We hope to begin the conversation of Steering Committee positions so that we can work collectively to accomplish goals, projects and tasks of the network. Though the TODOS name implies a Hispanic network, everyone is welcome to attend and practice their Spanish, network, and/or learn how to better serve one of America's fastest-growing minority populations.

Co-Chairs: Dahlia Castillo, MS, OTR, Leo Castro, MS, OTR

Social Media: Sirley Marin, MS, OTR/L

International Coordinator: Billy Chavez

TODOS Website