Photo of Esmeralda Wang

Esmeralda Wang

John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences

Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD)

Shanghai native and the first person in her family to earn a doctorate

From Shanghai to Pittsburgh. Yinao or "Esme" as she likes to be called, landed on Duquesne's campus to study for a master's as part of the University's collaboration with the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine through the China Linkage Program (CLP). It provides a means for exchanging faculty and master's and doctoral students. Students coming to Duquesne can earn master's degrees in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology. To date, 87 students from China have graduated from the program and now work in the country's major hospitals and medical institutes. Emse continued on for the Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.

"I'm the first one who in my family who will have earned a doctorate degree as well as going abroad to study." Though her family back in Shanghai won't be able to attend the ceremony she says that it's easy to regularly keep in touch with them through video chat. "My family doesn't really care about what degree would get, they really care about what interests me and what will provide me the best experience."

She came to Duquesne to continue pursuing her passion, occupational therapy and mental health. She has done her field work in several health facilities in the Pittsburgh area including UPMC Mercy, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and the East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM). It is here where she has also done her research with people experiencing substance abuse in an effort to improve their mental health and healthy habits. "When you talk about time use, it actually includes a lot of things like self-care, how you do your morning routine, how much time you spent on different activities and how one values their leisure time and balance stress," she said.

Her experience working in a patient-centered facility like EECM has led Emse to want to continue her work at a place like that. Long term she wants to return to China to help improve mental health outcomes and even one day teach OT at a university. "This is one of the very emerging areas (in China)."

"I'm not a very talkative person so I usually just listen. But if you want to use your language skills you need to talk a lot. My class and my professors have been very supportive and patient." Emse also appreciated her classmates including her in holiday traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. That encouragement from professors also led her to present at multiple American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conferences, including next year's in Boston. She has also presented at Duquesne's Graduate Research Symposium.

Outside of the classroom and her research Esme enjoys playing the piano and considers herself a lover of Nike Air Jordans. Over the last year she has taken up kickboxing as well.

On graduating she says, "it's a new journey. You start a new page for yourself. No matter what job I get, as long as I do OT I will be fine. OT is my passion and that's kind of nice because my parents told me it's hard for people to find what really interests them in life."

There are popular misconceptions about what occupational therapist do and what the profession is. "We can design your home, we can help you regulate your emotion and we can help you enhance the quality of your life," Esme says with a big smile. Her passion is there for all to see.