Emily Welch embarked on her Anne Gary Pannell Merit Scholarship project with two goals in mind: to learn everything she could about the field of occupational therapy and to share that knowledge with others.
She began her research by attending the North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference in October, then delved into the literature over the course of the year. From December through March, Welch, a biology major from Appomattox, spent time observing at a pediatric occupational therapy clinic in Lynchburg. She worked with Megen Brummett ’07, an occupational therapist at the clinic.
Welch kept a blog to fulfill the second objective of her project — sharing what she learned with others. In regular entries, she described her experience at the conference, discussed the articles she read and the therapies she was exposed to at the clinic.
The Pannell Scholarship is intended to provide funding and freedom for students who excelled in their first year to spend their sophomore year thoroughly exploring something that interests them. Projects can be scholarly, career-related or borne of pure intellectual curiosity for its own sake.
For Welch, the scholarship was all she’d hoped for. Combining traditional research with real experiences at a professional conference and immersed in the clinic setting made the difference.
“I believe that research is a good way to learn information, but I think that actually putting yourself in the environment is an even better way to learn,” she wrote in her April 8 blog entry.
“I was able to spend a couple days a week for about three months at the clinic, and during that time I was able to watch the kids learn and grow so much,” she wrote, noting she’d have gladly devoted more hours to the clinic if her schedule allowed.
“However, since I know that I would have happily spent more time at the clinic, I’m pleased to say that I really think I’ve picked the right career path for myself, and I can’t wait to continue to pursue this aspiration.”