OT Wins “Woman of the Year” Award in Los Angeles County
By Stephanie Yamkovenko
An occupational therapist recently received a woman of the year award for making a difference in the lives of women in Los Angeles County and bringing about social and economic change. Terri Nishimura, MA, OTR/L, was one of five women to win the award presented by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Commission for Women.
Nishimura is one of the founding executive directors of Pediatric Therapy Network, where she currently works as executive director of policy and community affairs. She has been a licensed occupational therapist since 1983 and volunteers her time to promote occupational therapy and the clients she serves.
She has served on a variety of commissions, boards, and committees, and is currently the chairperson of the Policy Roundtable for Child Care, which strengthens the child care system and infrastructure by providing policy recommendations to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“My experience on the commission has helped open the doors for different things, but most importantly for the Pediatric Therapy Network to receive funding to create an Early Head Start program,” says Nishimura. “Being involved with the community and the business world leads to innovative opportunities; for example, we are partnering with Virco Manufacturing to create new classroom furniture, and a toy company is interested in having occupational therapists consult on toy designs.”
Nishimura was looking to cultivate relationships with local corporations and elected officials, so she started volunteering with her local chamber of commerce. “Someone told me to put in ‘sweat equity,’ which meant volunteering and serving on committees,” she says. “I passed my business card out at every event and eventually was voted to serve on the Board of Directors, which had me working alongside executives of Toyota, American Honda, ExxonMobil, utility companies, and more.”
By receiving the woman of the year award, Nishimura has brought occupational therapy into high definition—nearly 600 people attended the awards ceremony and the county has 10 million residents. “I believe that I have helped to promote occupational therapy by doing things that are unconventional,” she says.
“Occupational therapy practitioners should know who their federal, state, county, and city elected officials are and get involved by hosting fundraisers or meet and greets,” says Nishimura. “Try to set up lunches and tours of your center with as many business or individuals as possible—think outside the box, be creative, and have fun.”
Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s staff writer.