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Clarice Grote, MS, OTR/L

Arameh Anvarizadeh – 2024 AOTA Elections President-Elect Candidate

The 2024 AOTA Elections are HERE! Voting is open from February 2nd to February 23 at 11:59am EST. (So – if you’re on Pacific time, you should probably just vote on the 22nd).

This year, I decided to do our first ever Amplify OT interview series with the candidates! I interviewed all four president-elect candidates and the two vice president candidates. This is the transcript for my interview with Arameh Anvarizadeh for the 2024 AOTA Elections. You can also watch/read my interview with the three other candidates at amplifyot.com/elections.

In our interviews, we discuss their perspectives on AOTA, membership, advocacy, leadership, and more. I encourage you to watch all four interviews because there are so many ways in which these candidates overlap in vision but many ways in which they differ as well. Even if you think you know who you’re going to vote for, I encourage you to listen to their different perspectives anyway. You’ll either reaffirm that you’re making the right decision, or you may find another candidate who interests you!

**Please note that Amplify OT does not endorse any specific candidate on the ballot**

If you are a member, you can vote at aota.org/elections.

Below is the transcript for my interview with Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh. I have removed the intro and outro from the transcript so it just contains the interview and bio. Karen’s full bio is at the end of this article. I also added headings to indicate where questions were asked to help you navigate the large body of text.

Happy voting!

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Arameh Anvarizadeh Bio

[00:02:53] Clarice Grote: Our next interview is with Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh. She’s an innovative leader and associate professor of clinical occupational therapy at the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. As the former director of admissions, she implemented a holistic admissions process resulting in the most diverse cohorts in USC Chan.

[00:03:16] Dr. Anvarizadeh is a trailblazer serving as the youngest and first Black and Iranian woman to be vice president of AOTA, and the first Black and Iranian woman to be inducted into the prestigious Roster of Fellows, or FAOTA. She is aiming to make history again by running for AOTA president

[00:03:32] Dr. Anvarizadeh is a founding member and former chair of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity, or COTAD. She spearheaded initiatives for justice, equity, diversion, inclusion, anti-racism, and anti-oppression. As a prolific author and speaker, she has contributed significantly to the field, emphasizing the importance of inclusion and empowerment. Dr. Anvarizadeh is committed to building sustainable, healthy, diverse communities, and continues to inspire others to reach their maximum potential. So without further ado. Let’s welcome, Dr. Anvarizadeh .

Start of Interview with Arameh Anvarizadeh

[00:04:05] Clarice Grote: Welcome, Arameh. Thank you so much for being part of this project. It’s historic, I feel like, to have four people running for president-elect, and I’m so excited that I’m here to talk to you and that I can bring your voice to all the folks here in the Amplifier community.

[00:04:20] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yes, yes. Hello, hello. Thank you for inviting me to the Amplify community. And I’m excited. I’m excited to talk and I’m excited that there are multiple people on the slate so that everyone can hear and listen and learn, and perspectives and all the things. So let’s do this.

[00:04:38] Clarice Grote: Yeah, it’s been great. So I always like to start with a little bit of background. You know, we talked briefly before this, you have quite the extensive background of being the current VP of AOTA, founder of COTAD, or co-founder. So, tell us a little bit about yourself.

[00:04:55] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah! Oh my god, what? How about myself? Let’s see. I am an occupational therapist now of, Jesus, 17, 18 years? I don’t even know. I’m a lover of occupation and an ambassador for what we do.

[00:05:14] I am an Angeleno. I am a lefty Leo. I am a mother of two. My main occupation right now is breastfeeding. Where all are my breastfeeders at? I am a mobilizer. I am an organizer. I am a believer in change. I am a doer. That is the foundation of occupation, right?

[00:05:38] We do, we become. And so I believe that in all the spaces that I occupy, I should do and become. And so I am a person who is a gate-opener. And that is a little bit about myself.

[00:05:53] Clarice Grote: That’s quite the occupational profile, right, is what they say.

[00:05:56] Arameh Anavarizadeh: You know, I can go on, but you know, I don’t know how much you want me to brag. No, I’m just kidding.

[00:06:04] Clarice Grote: No, that’s perfect.

[00:06:05] Arameh Anavarizadeh: It’s a hard question to ask because I I have so many parts of who I am, that make me who I am, so many intersectionalities that make me who I am, so many stories and narratives that make me who I am, and lived experiences, that it’s hard to pull. But I am a lover of occupation and a lover of the people.

Why are you running for AOTA President, and why now?

[00:06:20] Clarice Grote: So why are you running for AOTA president, and why right now?

[00:06:26] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah, listen, I’m running because it’s time for a change. I’m running because we need to steer this ship upwards. I am running because there is so much opportunity for this time of transition, right? There’s opportunity, like I really legit feel like this is the most important election in years, right?

[00:06:42] You’re voting for a president. You’re voting for a vice president. You have a new executive director coming in. You have that leadership shift, one that will be creating the tide of the direction that we’re going, right? And so we need somebody in there that is visionary, not only that vision, but understands how to execute that vision.

[00:07:01] And so we know somebody who’s prepared to do this work because, you know, what I’ve done my 17, 18 years of being in this field is volunteer leadership and volunteer service, right? I’ve given of myself my entire career. And also, like, there’s so much opportunity right now with renewing and re-boosting and shifting and changing our mission, our vision, our strategic plan.

[00:07:22] Clarice Grote: Yeah.

[00:07:22] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Hello? Like I was literally talking about our mission and I read it to someone. I was like, “First of all, do you know our mission?” Like even Clarice, do you know our mission by heart?

[00:07:30] Clarice Grote: No, I’ll be honest, I do not.

[00:07:34] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Like, how are we, like, how are we inspired by that? You know, how are we identifying who we are through that?

[00:07:39] How are we guiding the actions of the association by that, right? And like, when you look at our vision, like, how are we like… It’s vision 2025 is about to be here. You know, it’s like ’24, when you blink, ’25 is here. So like, what are we envisioning for the future of who we are? Like, you know, and currently our mission and vision, like, what are the actionships to help us accomplish it?

[00:08:00] What are the ways of holding each other accountable by not accomplishing it, right? So you need somebody asking these questions to get us aligned in thinking about the future, right? And then our strategic plan, like we need a strategic plan. Like Clarice, you should be able to go on the website, you should be able to access it, see it, understand it, digest it, see what the priorities are of the institution, which helps drive the profession, right? So that’s not really there. And you need somebody who, like, really believes in this type of transparency, right? Who is a voice for the people. And so, I am that person. And so, I believe that I have the stamina, I have the tenacity, I have the vision, I have the dedication. I have all the things.

[00:08:42] And more importantly, why now is because it is time for all the change to happen based on all of these things I just shared, and you need somebody to take us there. So I’m excited and I want to continue serving our community. I want to continue serving our students, our occupational scientists, our occupational therapy practitioners, from OTs to OTAs.

[00:09:01] And so that’s just a constant thread of who I am.

What would be your ‘day one’ priorities as AOTA president?

[00:09:06] Clarice Grote: Yeah, and I definitely agree with you where you can feel that shift. And you’re right. There is a lot of change in leadership that’s coming up, including the executive director. And I feel like you can really feel that even within our larger community United States and within our OT profession of how you can feel there’s an unease of where are we going to go, what’s going to be next. And so I think when you’re talking about making those improvements, if you could be like the president of the United States, what would be, like, your day one priorities for AOTA as the next president?

[00:09:38] Arameh Anavarizadeh: So this is a good question because you’re asking particularly – and I think people get these things confused sometimes when they think about it – you’re particularly asking about the association. And I think people want to see, like, what are those day one priorities for the profession? It does connect. But like I could say, you know, we need to be a household name.

[00:09:55] We need to be, you know, but that’s for the profession, right? We need to have these campaigns and be OT champions. That’s for the profession, right? And we need to make sure that we’re visible and we’re viable. That’s for the profession. You’re asking about the day one for the association, for AOTA.

[00:10:12] And I believe the reason why we have so many people who are disconnected is because there’s a lack of transparency. And when I talk about lack of transparency, I want to be very clear what I mean. I mean there’s a lack of transparency in how governance is done. There’s a lack of transparency and clarity on how the bylaws are implemented and when they are implemented.

[00:10:30] There is a culture right now that can feel like there’s a lack of belonging, right? There is a decrease in membership and you have to ask why, you know? And so it all goes back to this idea of what building trust looks like, right? Like yesterday was the president-elect conversation.

[00:10:53] Clarice Grote: Yeah.

[00:10:54] Arameh Anavarizadeh: I’m the VP, I shouldn’t have had to dig through link, through link, through link, through link to that centered in the, you know. It’s an important election on the website. Or how about we have people like you who are entrepreneurs, right? How do we lean into that? So like, we just don’t have, I’m just talking about the website for some stock photos, you know, like show the people doing the occupations and more importantly, we must highlight the staff doing the incredible work.

[00:11:22] You are a fieldwork student with Heather Parsons. Like her and her team and the regulatory and government affairs team are doing some legit work. That should be blasted so people understand our membership value, our consumer value, what we do at the Hill, what we’re doing for you advocating, like, but we don’t, right?

[00:11:41] So this lack of transparency, this lack of knowledge, this lack of clarity in how bylaws are done, this strategic plan that doesn’t really show the priorities of getting us aligned in an order where staff board and members know the priorities. This is what disconnects us, right? And it all boils down to transparency and clarity.

[00:12:00] But so for me, you need a president that has this vision, that understands what’s disconnecting us and brings us back together. Isn’t that what OT is? It’s the doing, it’s the belonging, it’s connection, right? And so, day one priorities for that is to shift that culture so that we can start reconnecting again and remembering why we fell in love with this profession, because when you get that one order, then baby, you can move mountains and we can get in order with what we want to tell the masses about who we are.

[00:12:34] People don’t also understand, like, what… I feel like, you asked about the United States, I feel like oftentimes people don’t even understand how, like, governance is in the United States, let alone in AOTA, right?

[00:12:44] Clarice Grote: I can, yes, I can testify to that.

[00:12:45] Arameh Anavarizadeh: You know, like, I think people think AOTA is all this, but we’re really this, right? And so we have to re-educate people on, like, what we do, what we don’t do, but also, like, what AOTA is for. And I think that a lot of times, like, people think, like, the board is, like, it’s for volunteer leaders. And so I feel like teams like the VLDC, Rebecca’s governance team, like, wonderful, wonderful leaders, but also they are doing some wonderful work in, like, creating onboarding processes.

[00:13:11] And I was saying this, like, you could be a volunteer leader and maybe year one, you’re like, year two. Finally, year three, you’re like, “This is what my role is. This is… Where was my onboarding? Where was my mentorship?” And by that time, it’s like, your time is up, you know? So you’re constantly like… So we, like, get people on-boarded, get us going, get us in motion, get us aligned.

[00:13:30] Can you imagine the diversity and thinkers and representation that’s at the table if we just kind of have this kind of space of alignment? So, things I would love to do, it’s a lot of priority.

What do you believe is the primary role or mission of AOTA within our profession?

[00:13:41] Clarice Grote: Yeah, no, and I think that really translates well into our next question of, in your opinion, what do you believe is the primary role and mission of AOTA in that bigger bubble of our profession?

[00:13:53] Arameh Anavarizadeh: We are keeping our profession alive. You know what I mean? Like without AOTA, it’s like our profession can literally, like, you know, which is why membership is so important, right? We have the people like the regulatory and government affairs advocating on behalf of us daily, day in and day out, on state and national levels to ensure that we are a reimbursable profession, to ensure that we are viable, to ensure that we are sustainable.

[00:14:21] So, like, AOTA’s role is really being the voice for who we are and to make sure that no one encroaches on that, right? To make sure that we are advocates, to make sure that we are champions. And I feel like we need to steer ourselves to remember, you know, the purpose of what AOTA is serving us as a profession.

[00:14:40] And I want to be very clear that we are membership-based. And we cannot forget the members, you know. Like, we can’t run as an inc, you know, without bringing in the voices of the members, without hearing the voices of the members, right? Our role is also to serve our members, right?

[00:15:02] And so our members are so critical, important, and our members’ voices, our diverse voices, should be included and should be heard. And so once you can bring that to the table, then we become stronger, you know, and we need to become stronger to position ourselves to be a force in not just the healthcare profession, but just to be a force, right?

[00:15:23] Clarice Grote: Yeah.

[00:15:24] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Like people should know OT. And so I go back to what I said before, like we have the opportunity to reboot. Our mission, you know, like you said, you don’t know our mission by heart, but I do. And really, it really is about advancing OT. This is what it is.

[00:15:37] “Advancing OT practice, education, and research through standard setting and advocacy on behalf of its members, the profession, and the public.” When I read that, I’m like, “OK, cool. What does that mean?” [laughs] You know, so for me, when we can come together with these diverse voices and recreate and redevelop, and our mission and our vision, it’s game time.

Why is AOTA membership important and what would you say to someone who does not want to be a member?

[00:15:58] Clarice Grote: Yeah, and I think, you know, again, you’re leading right into all my questions. You’ve already touched on this, that you believe that, we’re saying yes, that you believe that membership in AOTA is important and I’d love for you to explain, why you think it’s important and maybe also what you would say to someone who does not want to be a member.

[00:16:18] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Oh, like membership is… It’s a membership-based organization. Like, being a member is your voice, you know. I always say this in my advocacy because, you know, I’ve been doing this thing for a minute. Like, I started state-wide. Like, you got to know your state.You got to know… You have to understand the governance even in your state. When I was a part of OTAC leadership, which is a California association, you know, like we were part of advocacy, I would tell people like, “OK, listen. If we were going to the Hill…” And we were saying, “Listen, there are 10 OTs/OTAs in California. And this is what we want to do.” Or, “We feel like there are arbitrary number, 100, 000, you know, that we’re representing. You know, we have the ears. We can, you know, people. You know, we have the power and with power… in numbers, right? And in togetherness, we create change.”

[00:17:10] How do we duplicate that so that everyone understands their power and their voice right, so that everyone understands our role in advocacy, so that everyone recognizes that their membership holds value? The issue is that we’re not showing them with that value. And based on what I said, why we’re so disconnected.

[00:17:28] No one wants to be a part of a membership-based organization that it doesn’t even stick to their role and their priorities, right? So it’s opportunity to show our members again their value, that we feel like they belong, but also to remind our members, which were non-members, how we can form and create community to be together, and why having community is so important. Because we say we want to be a household name, but how are we a household name when we’re all not members of an association that’s keeping, you know, keeping the lights on, right? You know what I mean? When we think about the other professions, ABA, speech, PT, you know, who’s advocating, you know, we’re doing it in our own spaces that we occupy, but they’re doing it on the Hill.

[00:18:14] So membership is critical because it gives us the power to say, “This is why OT… This is why our profession is so necessary. This is why our profession is so, like, important, significant. This is why…” Call me cheesy, I don’t know. Clarice, I feel like OT changes the world. “This is why we change the world,” you know.

[00:18:35] And so you asked me this, like, why should people, like, what do I tell people about renewing their membership, right?

[00:18:40] Clarice Grote: Yeah. For someone who doesn’t want to be a member.

[00:18:42] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah. It’s like, okay, I get it. I understand. Like, I understand why you could be disgruntled, especially now in this, in this climate. Right. But also, like, you can’t be disgruntled if you’re not at the table. Like, get here so we can start, like… I’m a believer in walking the talk, Clarice. So like, let’s get here. Let’s walk that talk together. You know, let me hear you so that we can really create change. But the thing about it, we are so status-quo and we lack so much transparency that this is why people are like, “I’m going to stay away.”

[00:19:12] But if we can rip that apart and unmask and just be real, then I do believe that people will renew, will be re-inspired and be reconnected. So renew, it’s a time of change, it’s a time of great opportunity, it’s a time of electing the leaders who can lead.

[00:19:30] Clarice Grote: That’s right. Yep. It’s a time to get involved. And yeah, that old phrase, right? If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. It’s important to have your voices heard and have those two perspectives. It always takes those grassroots advocacy efforts with the grass-tops advocacy efforts.

[00:19:44] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah. And I think people are just uninspired. So they’re like, you know, “I’m cool being on the menu right now because, like, me being at the table, like, what does it matter?”And so for me, it’s like we got to remind people why it’s important to be at the table.

Workforce and Membership Concerns: How can we address this?

[00:19:56] Clarice Grote: In the last workforce survey, it showed that 25 percent of practitioners are considering leaving the field of occupational therapy. And we also heard last year that AOTA had a 7-percent drop in membership. So do you think these issues are related? And also in your opinion, what is kind of the best way to address them?

[00:20:18] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah, I mean, that’s a complicated question, right? Because leaving the field and leaving membership are like, they could have two different, like, it could be connected, it couldn’t. It’s like layers to this, right?

[00:20:28] It’s no constant thing that’s saying, “Yeah, well, obviously if you’re leaving the field, you’re not going to renew your membership.” Or you could be leaving the field because it’s not like, you know…. Someone like you, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re doing something that’s different.

[00:20:41] How is it reimbursable? You know, how are you able to survive? You know. But what are we doing as an association to say, “No, we need to center this”? You know, “We need to elevate this. We need to show that there’s different and unique and dynamic ways to still be an occupational therapist and have these skills, but do it in different ways.” Like, you should no longer be someone that’s non-traditional, right?

[00:21:06] We have a grassroot organizers. We have the people who are doing things underground, like our pelvic floor crew, right? They are massive, right? But, like, also having to figure out ways to be reimbursable. So you, you’re like, “Well, I love this. This is where we should be prioritizing. This is what we should be doing, but I can’t live. I can’t survive. So I’m going to find another niche which is called something else because I can utilize these other skills that my own profession isn’t prioritizing or isn’t capitalizing on, or isn’t making sure that there’s a lane,” right? And so there’s opportunity again with diverse voices to say, “Let’s come to the table and make these lanes and make these lanes very clear so that we can do the things that we want.”

[00:21:50] We can stay in this profession. We can be proud AOTA members and we can be visible, you know? Um, so it’s all about visibility. Like, how are we making someone like you and many other people who are entrepreneurs visible, you know, and showing, like, this is OT? And so I do believe, you know, also that a lot of things are related and down to, like, your core values, you know. And if we feel like we’ve left membership, that the core values are no longer aligned, then people have the right to drop their membership, right? If they are disgruntled because they don’t see themselves within the association and represent it, then they can drop their membership, right? That is them using their voice, you know? And so it’s about, again, how many times I have to say this?

[00:22:39] It’s a good creating connection. It’s about creating community. It’s about not just saying, “Oh, yeah, we believe in belonging,” but it’s about really actually creating belonging. “I’m at the table. You know, do I feel like I belong all the time? Are there incredible, more barriers that I feel like I come across? Yes.”

[00:22:58] You know, “Can I empathize and lean into others who may have shared these similar stories? Yes. Is it something that someone should be dealing with privately and isolated and quietly and feel like they’re the only ones dealing with it? No.” So this is why, you know, people want to feel like, “I can feel the leadership. I can connect with the leadership. I can understand what they’re doing and the priorities that they have. And I can see what the association direction, the association is clearly going because there’s some transparency. Dang it. I really feel like they’re aligned to my core values.”

[00:23:37] “I’m going to renew my membership. I’m gonna become a member. Oh, I just graduated. OK. I don’t have to be a member anymore because I’m no longer close a part of a academic program,” because, you know, a lot of academic programs, you know, have you be members?

[00:23:50] Clarice Grote: Yeah, require it.

[00:23:51] Arameh Anavarizadeh: You know, “I can make my choices.” No, no, I want the new grad to say, “I’m going to be a lifelong member.” You know what I mean? But so many people are re-inspired to become members for this election. You know what I mean? So many people are… And so, it’s about re-inspiring. It’s about momentum-building, and it’s about showing people that their membership truly matters. OK? It truly matters. And without members, we can’t get the work done.

[00:24:20] Clarice Grote: That’s definitely true.

[00:24:22] Arameh Anavarizadeh: We can’t get the work done, period. And the staff can’t prioritize and get the work done. And so, why people are leaving this profession or not joining this profession is a conversation in itself.

[00:24:31] Clarice Grote: Oh, yeah. I think we could talk for hours.

[00:24:34] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Re-invite me, Clarice. Re-invite me.

Summarizing Campaign Mission and Values

[00:24:37] Clarice Grote: And so, is it fair to say, if I’m picking up on a theme here, that transparency is really one of those number one objectives that is in your mind is kind of things we need to work on? So the transparency, building that community, and you’ve mentioned, and the strategic vision, is that kind of a fair way to kind of summarize…

[00:24:58] Arameh Anavarizadeh: I mean…

[00:24:58] Clarice Grote: …your mission?

[00:24:59] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah, but I want to be clear. Like, I feel like people drop the word transparency because it’s a cool and catchy word to drop now, but like, it’s empty. Like, you can’t just be like, I want to increase transparency. How?

[00:25:10] In what, you know? And I really want to be clear, like, in our governance, how we govern this association, and in our by-laws, you know. That’s a start. In making sure that people can trust the work of the organization. And secondly, it’s how we communicate this. Like, we can do all the wonderful things, but if it’s not communicated, perception will run wild, right? So we have to have transparency.

[00:25:40] And I’m not saying, like, you need to know, like, what shirt I’m wearing every day, like, I’m not gonna be that transparent, you know what I mean? But I’m saying, like, you can’t bury something incredibly important in the bottom of a newsletter that can change the trajectory of what this association looks and feels like during the holidays and expect people not to feel a way about the information that they eventually find.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or leadership?

[00:26:11] Clarice Grote: Yeah, and you’ve touched on this, you know, when you’re talking about not feeling like you belong at that table or things and facing those barriers. That’s a common thing that I hear from a lot of people who are in leadership positions, things that I’ve felt before, right? Is that not feeling like you deserve to be there or not feeling ready? That kind of imposter syndrome, right? So what…

[00:26:29] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah, that’s different.

[00:26:31] Clarice Grote: Yeah, all sorts of things. So what advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or taking on a leadership role?

[00:26:38] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Yeah, here’s the thing about imposter syndrome. Like I say, like, remove it immediately. Especially from my minoritized communities, or my new grads, or whatever. Like, get it out of there. Because sometimes when you are at these tables, like, you’re not the imposter. You’re not the imposter. You’re the person with heart. You’re the person with actual substance behind the work that you do. You’re the person who’s not taking up space just because it’s a title. You’re the person who really wants to get down and do the work. There’s others who you might think, “Oh, they really are the ones.” No, no, no. They might be the imposters, right? But it just doesn’t look like it or feel like it because we’re so trained to feel like we should have imposter syndrome. No, no.

[00:27:19] You belong. But the way the barriers are put in place and the way they make experiences for certain people versus others make you question if you belong. And so, cool. Cool. Question it. But don’t internalize it, right, Clarice? And so we have to say, yeah, you know what? You need to go volunteer because when I talk to students all across this country, I say, “You are at the point of your career in your life where you can say yes to opportunity. Say yes.” Because no one…

[00:27:48] I don’t say like, “Oh, you know what? I’m a graduate, and I’m going to become the president of AOTA.” I knew that 17 years ago, that I – and no shade to the people who do this – I knew that I didn’t want to go to work and just come home and watch Housewives. Because I’m a Housewives girl.

[00:28:04] But to be honest, my point is that I always wanted to be involved, be engaged, and I wanted to serve, right? And so when I got tapped on the shoulder, I gotta give a shout out to Laura Wu, who I was working for CCS, and I was in pediatrics, and she was like, “Hey, would you be interested in being the newsletter co-editor of our state?” You know, the newsletter co-editor. Like, I was like, “I’ve never been a newsletter editor to be a co-editor. Like, what is…” I said yes, I said sure, absolutely yes, because there was no COTAD, there was no, like, space where I had my people, where I found my village, you know, at the time when I graduated. They didn’t say, “Yeah, you must be involved in AOTA or OTAC.” Like, they didn’t take me by the hand and mentor me and say, “I’ve already been at a conference.”

[00:28:53] You know, these students today, they’ve been to conferences. They’ve done conference presentations. They’ve been… None of that. I had to find my way. So I said yes because I wanted to be engaged. And then I continue to say yes, and to yes, and to yes, and to yes, and just continue to serve and continue to lift other leaders, like, up, and coming leaders up with me, until now I’m here. And yes, as you get higher, it feels more isolated. Your village has to become tighter. You have to know who your people are, you know, but that all comes with preparation, Clarice. All comes because 17 years ago, I said yes, you know.

[00:29:29] Then when I got into AOTA leadership, someone said, you know, “You should really consider the RA,” and I was already very much involved in OTAC. And I was like, “All right, what is that?” You know. And I’m an involved person. Imagine somebody who’s not involved. I was like, you know, I became the California rep for two terms, you know, two terms representing Cali. And so then I continued to branch off and get more involved in committees and taskforce and learning the inner workings of, like, what we represent and who we are, right? So where I can say and comfortably say I am prepared because I said yes to volunteering and taking a leadership role. I didn’t let fear – and I could have been, like, a fearful… But that’s okay. Be uncomfortable. Like, Clarice, I’m sure you didn’t say two years ago… What year are we in? Maybe three now? That you were like, “I’m gonna quit my 9 to 5 and I’m gonna start a podcast and do all these educational things and really change the trajectory.” Like, you didn’t graduate probably and say, like, “This is…”

[00:30:27] Clarice Grote: No.

[00:30:28] Arameh Anavarizadeh: “… Amplify OT, you know?”

[00:30:29] Clarice Grote: Would’ve told you you were crazy, yeah.

[00:30:30] Arameh Anavarizadeh: And you gotta be so committed to your greatness and to the legacy that you want to leave and to the influence that you want to make to say, I’m going to do it anyway. It could be through volunteerism. It could be through entrepreneurism. It could be through grassroots, whatever thing that you do. But find the gap and, like, bridge that, you know. And you could start with volunteer work.

[00:30:54] Clarice Grote: I think that’s such an amazing commonality that so many leaders share is that – and you’ll hear that throughout even the different interviews of president-elects that we’re doing – that it always seems to start with someone who has put some belief in you and asked you to participate. That’s how I’ve gotten involved in a number of the things that I’ve done, and I always think that’s such a fascinating connector of that. It’s that outreach that someone has kind of called on you to participate.

[00:31:17] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Called on you, and it’s our responsibility to recognize that’s a call and say yes. Because we’re so fear-based. We’re so like, “I don’t want to get uncomfortable.” We’re so in our bubble that if we miss the call, you miss the trajectory. Right? So say yes.

Why should someone vote for Arameh Anavarizadeh?

[00:31:36] Clarice Grote: Well, thank you so much for coming on. The very last question is, of course, Why should someone vote for you?

[00:31:43] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Why not? No. I don’t know. You can keep that in.

[00:31:48] But no, vote for me, because like, I understand the climate that we’re in, and I recognize where we need to go and through, you know. You could be a visionary, you could have these ideas, but you have to be able to bring people along the way to believe in that, right, to want to implement it, to believe in the mission and the vision of where you want to take this association and the profession, right?

[00:32:18] You have to have somebody. You know, who has tenacity, who has experience, but more importantly, who has been through something, right? Like, here’s the thing, I say this, my two year old… Like, yeah, it’s cute, like, people say you want a bold and confident leader, right? Listen, Clarice, my two year old is bold and confident. This boy will jump off the couch, do a three-wheel 360 flip, and is very bold and confident about that. Yes, you need a bold and confident leader, but you also need someone who has the stamina to go through a challenge, the tools of understanding what being an authentic leader is, and the tools of understanding how to navigate through struggles.

[00:32:57] Because what comes with leading are the challenges and the circumstances, and we need to have the stamina, know how to pivot, and strength, and understand, and emotional intelligence to get through, right? And so you need someone who’s had some experience in that, right? And who wants to literally and truly create community. Like, not just talk about it, but like… And not just use ‘belonging’ because it’s the word of the year, you know, but actually, like, infuse it and all the things that we do.

[00:33:29] And lastly, you should vote for me because all the spaces that I occupy are spaces because I’m constantly wanting to decrease barriers and increase access for any and everybody. That’s how you could connect our profession and the people that we serve.

[00:33:44] Clarice Grote: Well, thank you so much, Arameh. I really appreciate your time, and good luck with your campaign.

[00:33:48] Arameh Anavarizadeh: Thanks for having me. And thanks for creating the space for everyone to have a voice. Really appreciate you and the work that you’re doing. And I just wish you all the success. Thank you, Clarice.


Thanks for reading! Watch all the candidate interviews at Amplifyot.com/elections and continue the conversation at learn.amplifyot.com.

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About Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA is an Associate Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy and former Director of Admissions at the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Dr. Anvarizadeh developed and implemented the holistic admissions process within the Division. Because of her innovation and transformative leadership, USC Chan has admitted the most diverse cohorts ever while also maintaining effective admissions strategies and procedures. Due to her initiatives, she has been instrumental in recruitment and retention efforts, specifically creating pathway programs, and in promoting inclusive pedagogy. 

Dr. Anvarizadeh is a Founding Member and former Chair of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD), a non-profit organization striving to empower practitioners to engage in justice, equity, diversity, inclusion (JEDI), anti-racism and anti-oppression initiatives for a more transformative occupational therapy profession. She is responsible for developing COTAD Chapters, the COTAD toolkit, the Ignite Series, and the Fieldwork Task Force. 

Dr. Anvarizadeh made history as the youngest and first Black and Iranian woman to become Vice President of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and to be inducted into the prestigious Roster of Fellows (FAOTA). She is currently running for AOTA President and is looking forward to making history yet again. 

Besides being the current AOTA Vice President, Dr. Anvarizadeh previously held the leadership positions as the Credential Review and Accountability Committee (CRAC) Chair, as a Representative Assembly Leadership Committee (RALC) member, as a Governance Task Force member, and as the liaison between the Governance and DEI task forces. Dr. Anvarizadeh was also a member of the AOTA Special Task Force on Entry Level Education, and a crucial contributor to the professional dialogue on the entry level degree requirements. She is an alumna of the 2020 cohort for the Executive Leadership Program for Multicultural Women. Within the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC), is a recipient of OTAC’s Janice Matsutsuyu Outstanding Service Award and Vision Award. She previously held the position of Communications Chair for seven years. 

Dr. Anvarizadeh is an accomplished author and speaker who has lectured at numerous state, national, and international conferences, keynotes, and commencement ceremonies. While honoring the most recent and significant role shift in her life- motherhood, Dr. Anvarizadeh is intentional about being present and leaning even more into her village. She remains passionate about building sustainable, healthy, diverse communities through inclusion, equity, empowerment and advocacy. Using her skills as an occupational therapist and her love for people, Dr. Anvarizadeh helps others discover, cultivate, and spread their maximum potential.

Additional links:

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I’m  Clarice

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