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Chatham Alumna Dr. Oluwatosin “Tosin” Osibajo Emmanuel ‘17

Chatham Alumna Dr. Oluwatosin “Tosin” Osibajo Emmanuel ‘17

The MENTORS

From Lagos to Pittsburgh, How One Occupational Therapist Moved Borders

Determination, the lottery and Google conspire to fulfill Tosin’s American Dream

 

 

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Oluwatosin Osibajo Emmanuel (Tosin) learned at an early age that there was nothing more valuable in this world than a well-rounded education. Her father and mother—an engineer and accountant, respectively—often spoke to Tosin about the importance of pursuing higher learning in the U.S. in order to achieve the American Dream. After winning the Diversity Lottery in 2000—a program where 55,000 immigrant visas were made available in an annual draw in Nigeria—Tosin and her family immigrated to New York. Since then, Tosin has accomplished one great feat after another.

Upon arriving in New York, Tosin enrolled in a military academy, which she attended while in middle school. She then went on to graduate high school with top honors. Tosin continued her educational journey at City University of New York (CUNY) where she completed her bachelors and masters while on the dean’s list. She recalls that an internet search started her down the path to occupational therapy.

“I knew I was going into a medical profession, but I wasn’t sure of the field. I decided to Google the top careers and to my surprise occupational therapy was the 7th top career listed in Forbes!”

Armed with a goal to obtain her doctorate before turning 30, Tosin applied to Chatham’s Occupational Therapy Doctoral program. She was impressed by the city of Pittsburgh and the diverse student population. Once at Chatham, her expectations were beyond exceeded. Chatham’s culture of promoting community and inclusion had a lasting impact on Tosin.

“My experience at Chatham University was amazing. I can still remember the peaceful feeling of being on campus, when my cohort and I were on tour with our professor. On that tour, President David Finegold and his wife, Sue were also extremely welcoming and encouraging with my pursuits, even after completing my program.”

Tosin may have been under the impression that she was just one in a sea of many students at Chatham—often the case at larger universities—but she soon learned that Chatham students are always top-of-mind.

“During a Black Excellence Award ceremony, Dr. Finegold spoke about my international engagement and advocacy of occupational therapy in Nigeria. I was amazed because I never thought he would remember meeting me after only meeting once with everyone in my cohort. To have your work announced and reflected on during an award ceremony—it was a day I will forever cherish.”

After graduating from Chatham in 2017, Tosin became the first female therapist to have obtained a doctorate at her company, Carerite Centers. Shortly after, she was recognized as “The Face of Occupational Therapy” during National Nursing Home Week in 2018.

“To be the face of rehabilitation means that you have excelled greater than your peers in regards to the services you have rendered, your leadership abilities, and overall work ethic.”

Even more impressive is her role as Founder and President of the Therapists Without Borders Foundation (TWBF). The foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 2015, supports the provision of therapeutic services, consultation, and education to the community at large. TWBF was created with a distinct purpose to increase a person’s quality of life through therapeutic activities.

“I wanted a foundation that was primarily geared toward the promotion and advocacy of therapists within the rehabilitation practice. Many times, the rehabilitation field doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. This organization helps to promote occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. I gathered a group of my friends who were therapists and we came together to launch it in New York.”

Tosin’s life experiences thus far have made her a great mentor to anyone she encounters. Her approach is to always encourage mentees to pursue their dreams and believe that through persistence and perseverance they can attain anything. Just like she did!

“My advice to anyone interested in occupational therapy is to always remember that being an occupational therapist is about providing a service. It requires one to be selfless, empathetic, and determined to make a difference in their patients’ lives.”