University of Findlay Alumna is Changing Lives in Veterans Affairs
Lauren Yacks, MOT ’19 grew up in Colorado, but made the move to northwest Ohio to complete undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Findlay. Upon entering college for Occupational Therapy, Lauren had her mind set on becoming an Occupational Therapist in pediatrics. Today, she works with veterans through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Working in the VA wasn’t on my career radar until it was an option for me to complete one of my fieldwork rotations. After a great experience as a student, I applied for an occupational therapy fellowship,” she said. Lauren first started working with the Cincinnati VA in assistive technology, where she focused on evaluation and implementation of assistive technology as part of the VA’s occupational therapy plan of care. “Through this fellowship, I gathered an array of experiences related to wheelchair prescription, home modifications, smart technology, and adaptive equipment.”
Thanks to her fellowship, Lauren was able to transition to her current role with the VA, working with veterans that have neurodegenerative conditions (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS). “I work with veterans in the clinic, home, and over telehealth to work toward improving and maintaining their highest level of independence in their daily activities ranging from basic self-care tasks, leisure activities, community engagements, and more.”
Lauren’s field experiences started when she was a student at UF, as she and her classmates were provided with numerous hands-on learning opportunities. “The stand-out moments were opportunities to do practice evaluations out in the community. We worked with assisted living facilities, outpatient cancer centers, pre-schools/elementary schools, and the county jail/probation office,” she recalls.
Lauren also remembers the small class sizes at UF helping her to feel supported and seen in her classes, from general education classes to her graduate program courses. “That sense of community is something I felt in all aspects of my time at UF, from the academics with all my professors, to my athletics experience on the softball team, to the clubs and social groups on campus. I was able to generate lasting relationships with my professors who pushed me to excel academically and personally,” she said. “Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I had all the tools and resources I needed to reach my personal and professional goals at UF.”
After her success at UF and now at the VA, Lauren looks to continue to grow professionally, and hopes to continue to make a difference in the lives of others. “I hope to expand occupational therapy services at the VA to fill other gaps in service for veterans with spinal cord injuries. This has become a big passion of mine with my experiences at the VA thus far.”
For more information on the Occupational Therapy programs at the University of Findlay, including master and doctoral OT options, please visit the Occupational Therapy webpage.