Meet the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Director Dr. Mary Kay Wolfe
It’s Occupational Therapy Month! We sat down with CBD College’s OTA PD Dr. Mary Kay Wolfe. Read her amazing story below! Her inspiring words and insight into education really show how there’s no one way to success, but passion forges the path of your career.
My first career was in video production when I lived in Pittsburgh. I first worked as an intern, and it taught me so much about organization and priorities.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I spent time focusing on “passion.” One of the keys to life is doing what you’re passionate about, and I started receiving advice (and many signs) pointing me towards Occupational Therapy. I applied and was accepted into a full-time program. I had to quit my day job, which was really scary because I only had myself on which to depend. My second year, I was offered a position within the program, and then a grant to work on. Then I was offered the ability to stay, finish the grant, and finish my doctorate part-time. I stayed on at the faculty practice and helped develop OT programs there. My main concentration is mental illness. So I helped provide services for students with psychiatric diagnoses.
What led you to pursue instructing?
After a series of fortuitous events, my next job was the Director of Rehab of Kedren Psychiatric Hospital. I loved working with students, and it made me realize I’d love to go into academia. I started applying for teaching positions and found one close to where I grew up back east. However, it wasn’t feeling right teaching in Maryland specifically, and the market was saturated in Pittsburgh.
After visiting California for a holiday later that year, sitting on the flight back to Pittsburgh, I knew I needed to be in California. I started searching, saw that this position– Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Director– was open, and I applied. I was offered the position, and interestingly enough, I didn’t understand why my path took me to Maryland in the first place until that moment: to be a Program Director, you need to have one full year of teaching experience. Ultimately I’ve found it ’s so important to stay true to ourselves and keep following the voice within. As humans, we’re meant to be happy.
When did you start at CBD College?
I physically came here in September of 2014. I was here to start the program and assist in putting the curriculum together.
Who has been your greatest inspiration or mentor?
My next door neighbor’s mom, Doris, served as a great inspiration in my life. She was a cool mom, and always ready for adventure. She’d would pack us up in her big van and take us camping. She could put a tent together by herself. At the time, I didn’t know a woman could have a fulltime job and work in an office, so it opened me up to this other world of what a woman can be. She was tough, but also really warm. She was very compassionate and well rounded and that spoke to my heart. I’m on the hunt for her on social media, so I can reach out and say thanks.
How are you involved with Occupational Therapy outside of CBD College?
I used to volunteer and run life skills groups for restorative justice programs for people who were never really taught life skills. A lot of the people in our groups were men who were raised in foster homes or the juvenile detention system. The 12-week program would teach them stress management, communication skills and how to express yourself. They were very respectful and appreciative of us giving them our time and giving them the tools to help them grow. The people who were there really wanted to get better. Our own students could volunteer for these opportunities.
Do you have any advice for potential students interested in pursuing a career as an Occupational Therapist or a healthcare career in general?
I would tell them to make sure they’re doing it for the right reason. Often times we get students who apply for this, or other healthcare profession programs, and see it as a secure job. Of course, it is, but there are other secure jobs. Follow your passion. When you graduate, don’t take the $80,000 position at a skilled nursing facility. The money will come, so take a little less, and work for a population that you care about deeply.