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‘You Never Know What You Are Capable Of Until You Try’

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    Elizabeth Dinn Marsh speaks at the 2012 King Creativity Fund symposium. (Photo by Lucas Adams)

2001 King Creativity Fund grant recipient Elizabeth Dinn Marsh talks about how she has used her creativity since leaving Southwestern

Elizabeth Dinn Marsh graduated from Southwestern in 2001 with a BA in studio art. She subsequently earned a Master of Science in art education from Syracuse University and a Master of Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University New Orleans Health Science Center. She currently owns her own business, San Antonio Pediatric Therapy Specialists, and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning Disorders. 

In April 2012, Marsh was invited to come back to Southwestern to speak to recipients of the 2011-2012 King Creativity Fund awards. Here are her remarks:

In 2001, as a graduating senior, I had the great opportunity to be a recipient of the King Creativity Fund. This financial assistance helped fund my senior show, “A Reinterpretation of Oceanic Culture through Form, Shape, and Color.” My ceramic pieces ranged from large drums and fertility poles to masks conveying my understanding and reinterpretation of the Oceanic culture within a contemporary setting. My parents were proud to see that my senior show was the pinnacle of my creativity at Southwestern and not the coffee table I made out of beer cans. I really enjoyed my time at Southwestern meeting my husband and being involved in Tri Delta and the Art Association. I continued my education with an artistic creativity emphasis by receiving a master’s of science in art education at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.

Upon moving from New York to New Orleans in 2003 when my husband got accepted into Tulane University for his doctorate, I taught private art classes to children with special needs. I loved the one on one, individual time with the children as opposed to the classroom environment. To help supplement my income, I became an occupational therapy tech at a private outpatient clinic. Quickly I fell in love with OT because I could use my creativity to help children. I was accepted to the master’s of occupational therapy program at the LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans.

While we were living in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina hit and offered many opportunities to volunteer in the community. My experiences dealing with the negative impact of Katrina fortuitously culminated in many good things. After evacuating to Houston safely, my husband Mike and I volunteered in the Houston Astrodome helping other evacuees and helped many friends rebuild their houses once relocating back to New Orleans. Secondly, I was honored by receiving the Chancellor’s Award for my scholarship, leadership, and professional excellence in the Allied Health Department upon graduating in 2007. Lastly, I was third author in a paper titled First Year Post-Katrina: Changes in Occupational Performance and Emotional Responses published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health in 2008.

My liberal arts and artistic background, nurtured at Southwestern University, has helped me become a more creative pediatric occupational therapist. I work with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders; learning disabilities; neuromuscular disorders; traumatic brain injury; developmental, genetic, neurological, and feeding disorders; and sensory processing disorder.

As an occupational therapist, I evaluate each child and his activities of daily living and build a treatment plan to increase his independence as he interacts with others and the environment. One of my patients, a 3-year-old with sensory processing disorder, has tried new foods at home after getting used to different textures through a texture board I made and messy play with applesauce, shaving cream, pudding, oatmeal, and rice cereal. By the end of our sessions we were both covered in oatmeal, but had big smiles!  

Another one of my patients was hit by a drunken driver in a gated community at the age of 18 months and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I have worked with her twice a week for three years now since she was released from inpatient therapy and have taken her from crawling to jumping up and down independently. She can also use her left arm involuntary with good fine motor skill and has beaten all odds of a slim recovery from a severe traumatic brain injury. Now at four years of age, she and I work on walking on a balance beam, writing her name, and decreasing her impulsivity. She has been my motivation in many of my Ph.D. research papers looking at the neurobiological outcomes of severe pediatric traumatic brain injury.

Throughout my five-year career as a pediatric occupational therapist, I have many stories like the ones above – those stories and memories keep you going when the days are long and your paperwork is piling up. Those patients’ stories are motivation to keep creating equipment and treatment ideas that will help those kids keep reaching for independence and success in therapy.

Now as a small business entrepreneur, I am not daunted when it comes to using my creativity for developing a website, solving employee problems, writing brochures, and designing my own gym and therapy equipment. I did bring in a safety engineer to make sure all my equipment, like our zipline, was safe for the kids!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I see this quote on a bright yellow piece of paper on my fridge every morning. This quote has motivated me many times in the last three years to accomplish many of my goals that I set forth at the start of my career, like owning my own therapy clinic and pursuing my doctorate.

I see Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote very applicable to all King Creativity Fund grant recipients. Because of Joey King’s generosity and insight over the past 11 years, many Southwestern students are able to do the one thing they might not have been able to do because of financial restraints. You never know what you are capable of until you try. Just like the patients I work with are learning or re-learning life skills, we all should be taking the initiative and trying to challenge ourselves to try new things. You never know what might happen

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