Occupational Therapy Doctorate Student Supports Ukrainian Relief Efforts

Through her fieldwork, Toni Feite provides aid and teaches life skills.
Toni Feite with medical supplies
Student Toni Feite works at the Afya Foundation, a New York nonprofit that's collecting and shipping pallets of critical medical and humanitarian supplies to Ukraine.

Toni Feite’s younger brother, Paul, was born with one hand after developing amniotic band syndrome in the womb. As a child, Feite vividly remembers an occupational therapist visiting their home to work with him and strengthen his development.

All the early skill-building paid off as Paul now wrestles competitively in college, she says. After seeing the profound impact occupational therapy had on his life, Feite knew where her career would head.

“I want to develop that independence for people,” says Feite, presently a student in the occupational therapy doctoral program at Jefferson.

As part of her level II fieldwork arranged by academic fieldwork coordinators Drs. Leigh Leonard and Amanda Lyons, Feite now helps others with special needs while supporting relief efforts in war-torn Ukraine. She soon will wrap up a 12-week stint at the Afya Foundation. The Yonkers, N.Y.-based nonprofit collects unused medical supplies and transports them to underserved communities and health systems around the globe.

I have developed my therapeutic use of self. I’m getting to know each client and making them feel involved, meaningful and special.
–Toni Feite

The organization is currently focused on the crisis in Ukraine, where they’re shipping pallets of critical medical and humanitarian supplies.

Many of Afya’s volunteers have special needs. Feite takes a strength-based approach to support their independence and develop their life and employment skills as they sort, count and bag the products in a real-world setting, she says.

Feite first completes an occupational profile, conducts assessments and observes the client in the warehouse environment to identify strengths and interests, which she uses as a foundation to guide treatment.

She often assists in developing executive functioning, professional and social skills, sensory integration and coping mechanism utilization. Feite also offers strategies to increase work tolerance and supports job readiness skills through résumé building, the application process and interview prep. (Along with assisting the volunteers, Feite performs quality checks on the bags of supplies before they head overseas.)

Supplies at the Afya Foundation
Many of the Afya Foundation’s volunteers have special needs. During her fieldwork, Toni Fiete takes a strength-based approach to support their independence and develop skills as they sort, count and bag the medical and humanitarian supplies (above).

“I love coming here,” Feite shares. “I have developed my therapeutic use of self. I’m getting to know each client and making them feel involved, meaningful and special. That’s really important in healthcare and can sometimes get lost in a traditional setting.”

After Feite graduates from Jefferson’s occupational therapy doctoral program in June 2023, she hopes to continue in the nonprofit world. She plans to collect and recycle prosthetics for those in need and provide occupational therapy services to help people maximize the equipment’s functionality.

“Access to prosthetics can be hard,” Feite says. “I want to support people like my brother and other amputees.”

Watch student Toni Feite interviewed by CBS New York about her fieldwork below.

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