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Clarice Grote, MS, OTR/L

Cristina Reyes Smith – 2024 AOTA Elections Vice 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 Cristina Reyes Smith for the 2024 AOTA Elections. You can also watch/read my interviews with the president-elect candidates and the vice president-elect candidates at

Participating in AOTA elections is crucial for shaping the future of our profession. And this election is a biggie! Not only do we have four candidates running for president-elect, but we have two for VP, three for board member, and numerous other positions that are on the ballot! Board members will serve 3-year terms starting in July, which means they’ll be at the table to shape the 2030 vision for AOTA and help establish the strategic priorities.

In our interviews, we discuss their perspectives on AOTA, membership, advocacy, leadership, and more. I encourage you to watch the two vice president-elect interviews in addition to the president-elect 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

Below is the transcript for my interview with Dr. Cristina Reyes Smith. I have removed the intro and outro from the transcript so it just contains the interview and bio. Cristina’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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Cristina Reyes Smith Bio

[00:02:53] Clarice Grote: Dr. Cristina Reyes Smith is an associate professor and Director of Admissions at the College of Health Professions, Division of Occupational Therapy at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Smith has served in multiple national leadership roles, including as a director for the American Occupational Therapy Association Board of Directors from 2020 to 2023 and on the editorial board of the Journal of Occupational Therapy of Education, J-O-T-E. She is a co-founder of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity, which is a national 501(c)(3), which is a national organization. And in 2022, Dr. Smith was invited to serve on the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, or AOTF, Standing Together for Research Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (STRIDE) Committee.

[00:03:42] She was the founder and business development coordinator for Vida Bella Services, LLC, a pediatric OT and PT agency with a focus on providing access to quality care for underserved communities for almost 10 years. She serves as the co-director of the HRSA-MUSC occupational therapy scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds program. And Dr. Smith also serves as the chair of the MUSCS College of Health Professions, Faculty Assembly, and Faculty Council.

[00:04:09] She has also previously served as the chair of the MUSC Faculty Senate Institutional Advancement Committee. She’s coordinated multiple annual events, published and presented nationally and internationally with a focus on access to care as well as clinical practice and education with diverse and underserved communities.

[00:04:26] She teaches multiple courses on leadership and management, advises student organizations, and mentors doctoral students in the entry-level and post-professional OTD programs at MUSC. All right. Let’s welcome. Dr. Cristina Reyes Smith.

Start of Interview with Cristina Reyes Smith

[00:04:42] Welcome, Cristina, to the Amplify OT Podcast. I am so excited to bring you on and have you part of this exciting project for AOTA elections. And so to kick us off, I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about you and how you found yourself here.

[00:04:56] Cristina Reyes Smith: Sure, Clarice, and I’m really thrilled to be here. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Thank you for what you’re doing for OT. Also, I love what you’re doing with the platform and elevating our profession with advocacy and policy in particular, too. So, I have been an occupational therapist for almost 20 years now. And I was looking back at my AOTA membership, and it was 2004 in June, so almost 20 years. It kind of blows my mind.

[00:05:25] I serve as the admissions director and I’m an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. Right now, I’ve been a part of multiple initiatives, both related to occupational therapy inter-professionally as well across our university, and often may have to do with access to care.

[00:05:44] They have to do with diverse and underserved communities, different leadership development programs for our students for, but colleagues as well. And so I have also had the opportunity to be involved with these kinds of initiatives across the country. I served on the board of directors for the AOTA from 2020 to 2023.

[00:06:08] Clarice Grote: A good time.

[00:06:08] Cristina Reyes Smith: I was elected in January 2020. I did not know how exciting it was going to be for the next few years during that time, but we absolutely learned a lot. And so my term ended July of 2023, and I’ve been taking some time over this past year for rest and rejuvenation. A lot of reflection also, which has been really great. A holistic approach to my own health and wellbeing has been a part of that, and I’m really excited about this opportunity to run as vice president of the AOTA.

Why are you running for AOTA vice president, and why now?

[00:06:51] Clarice Grote: So, what made you decide to run for vice president, and why now? Because you say you took some time off, but it sounds like it’s only about a year. So why right now for VP?

[00:07:01] Cristina Reyes Smith: So that’s a great question, Clarice. I think we really are at a pivotal time in our profession as we have been through this global crisis, multiple crises, really, as a profession, as a society. And we’re in a place where awareness is still low of the profession.

[00:07:21] Burnout is high. Admissions numbers are low of people entering the profession, and we have people exiting the profession at a higher rate than before. And so we really have multiple areas to address. We’re a little over 100 years old from our centennial, and we’re still talking about challenges related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, sometimes, the identity of occupational therapy, what it is, what it entails, what is our scope. Last year with women’s health, that was a place where there was a lot of dialogue about what is the role of occupational therapy in women’s health. And so, having been on the board recently, having been in other leadership positions as well, I served twice two terms on the representative assembly of the AOTA for my state, and, I’m a co founder of COTAD, the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity, which just celebrated a 10 year anniversary.

[00:08:26] Clarice Grote: Congrats.

[00:08:27] Cristina Reyes Smith: Thank you. Thank you. All of those experiences have allowed me to be involved and engage, collaborate with other leaders in our profession, occupational therapist occupational therapy assistants students at times as well, to help to move the profession forward in these areas with The Centennial Vision.

[00:08:49] The vision was published, the citation I used was from 2006, which is also the year that I graduated from OT school. And so, I consider myself to be a child of The Centennial Vision. That has really framed my identity in the profession, my goals, my aims, and my why for many of the things that I do now as an educator, as an entrepreneur. I had a company for almost 10 years where we had a focus on access to quality care for underserved communities with OT, PT, and pediatrics.

[00:09:26] Also, with research that I’ve been able to be involved with, with the focus on health disparities, access to care, leadership development… For example, we had a grant meeting this morning on a training program that we’re trying to develop around early intervention and access. And so that has really been tied into the centennial vision, and then vision 2025 and beyond.

[00:09:52] We’re still in that figuring-out what does that and beyond look like as a profession, and The Centennial Vision was so powerful, and it was such a time when we turned at the anniversary for the profession to come together. Our membership really skyrocketed, the sense of camaraderie and community really skyrocketed.

[00:10:15] And I think we have an opportunity in the envisioning of the and-beyond piece to bring our profession together and get on the same page about what are our core values. What is our core identity? Yes, we are different. We are diverse. We have a variety of practice settings. We have a variety of areas of expertise and characteristics in our identities.

[00:10:42] But what are those things that are core features to who we are? What is the the lifeblood, the ethos of our profession now and into the future? And so that is why I’m running for vice president, because I want to be right in the middle of that envisioning. I feel that I can help in unique ways from my background, my experiences personally and professionally, and the collaborations and coalitions that I’ve been able to help be a part of and and help lead at times as well in the past.

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

[00:11:18] Clarice Grote: Yeah. And you’ve already kind of touched on some of these priorities and talking about the centennial. I was a student during the centennial conference. And so you’re right, that was a big time, was the one of the biggest conferences in history, I believe, in Philadelphia. And that was very exciting, then entering the field right after that. But you’ve kind of talked about maybe some of your priorities, meaning, like, diversity, as well as talking about workforce issues, admission issues. So if it was up to you, what would be kind of your day one priorities if you were elected VP?

[00:11:50] Cristina Reyes Smith: So for me, day one would be about establishing relationships for that future, for future collaborations. And in some cases, it would be re-establishing relationships that I’ve had in the past from this different perspective. But it would also be about establishing new relationships with some that I may not have had a relationship with in the future.

[00:12:15] So for example, the MDI Network, the Multicultural Diversity and Inclusion Network, it would be a high priority for me to connect with that group, if not day one, sometime very close to it. I feel like that’s a group that in spite of all of our efforts around DEI and the great gains that we’ve had with the DEI committee, sometimes I think, or the message that I’ve gotten, is that the MDI group still don’t feel completely engaged in the way that they would like to be. The ASAP group, the Affiliation of State Association Presidents, would also be a high priority group to reengage with to identify what are their priorities. There are many, many needs, but I think we have an enormous opportunity for continued collaboration and engagement with them.

[00:13:09] So many people right now are, they choose one or the other. Either they’re a team member, or they’re state association members, but it’s really, it’s not effective. It’s at a loss to all of us when we don’t have that active membership and engagement at both of the levels. Also meeting with other association leaders would be a high priority.

[00:13:30] So on day one, I would like to reach out to the leadership group to try to listen, identify what are those needs? What are those priorities? And then we would go from there to establish an action plan to move forward.

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

[00:13:46] Clarice Grote: Yeah, that’s great. And that’s a lot of great priorities. I think collaboration is definitely a key of this election. That’s a term that I seem to keep hearing over and over. And I love that involvement of state associations as someone who’s volunteered both on the AOTA and state association side. I’m sure you have as well, that you can see how much there is of a connection and how much we need both of those advocacy fronts in order to protect all sides of occupational therapy and advance it.

[00:14:13] So, which brings us then right into AOTA. So what, in your opinion, is the primary role or mission of AOTA within our profession?

[00:14:25] Cristina Reyes Smith: So, our primary mission is really to represent our members, but really our profession at large. I think sometimes it gets compartmentalized, AOTA members, AOTA non-members, but it really is AOTA members’ perspective, AOTA members, and the profession at large.

[00:14:45] And so, with that, we represent, with regard to regulatory affairs, inter-professionally across our national association partners and potential partners. Internationally, the AOTA represents us as well. And it really sets the… It sets the stage, the tone. It steers the ship for our profession with regard to education, initiatives, resources.

[00:15:18] Even though we have other organizations that have critical needs in our profession, AOTA really has been at the center of that in the development of ACOTE, AOTF, even COTAD has roots through AOTA initiative. And so it is that representation of the membership and the profession at large that I see as the critical mission and role of the AOTA.

Do you believe AOTA membership is important, and why or why not?

[00:15:46] Clarice Grote: Yeah, and I love the members and prospective members, right, versus members and non-members. And so, I think I know the answer of whether or not you believe membership is important, but I’d love to know what would you say, especially to our prospective members, as to why AOTA membership is so important?

[00:16:03] Cristina Reyes Smith: Yeah, AOTA membership is critical for us as individual practitioners, as groups, teams, organizations. AOTA, as I said, that’s the tone, the standards, the strategic priorities for our profession, which really do trickle down to other areas and organizations of our profession. AOTA membership is definitely critical.

[00:16:29] So, another reason why AOTA membership is so critical is because AOTA engages with other healthcare organizations and non-healthcare organizations inter-professionally. And when we’re going up against policy decisions, against funding, against scope of practice, types of challenges and initiatives, AOTA is the organization that is fighting for occupational therapy

[00:17:01] Clarice Grote: Right.

[00:17:01] Cristina Reyes Smith: And the association is only as strong as its membership. And that comes down to funding. It comes down to resources that are provided. It comes down to impact of our profession. We are only as strong as our membership. So I encourage everyone to commit to being an AOTA member for life. You’ll continue to benefit from the AOTA, whether you are paying your dues or not, so to speak. But it really is just fundamental for our professional identity and for the vitality of our profession.

How will you support a collaborative relationship between the AOTA president, vice president, and the board?

[00:17:38] Clarice Grote: Yeah. Well, as someone who’s also an AOTA member, I definitely agree, especially on that advocacy piece. Now, you said that you’ve been on the board before, and this is a question I’ve saved for our vice presidents. How will you support a collaborative relationship between the president, the vice president, and the rest of the board?

[00:17:57] Cristina Reyes Smith: So in the role as vice president, I would have the primary aim of supporting our president, our board, our staff association and our membership to the best of my ability. And so communication would really be key for that.

[00:18:14] My strategy is to listen first. And to share with humility, cultural humility, is something that we talk about a great deal. And I think it’s critical for leadership to be able to try to have empathy, compassion from where people are coming from. I also am keenly aware that leaders are also human.

[00:18:37] Clarice Grote: Yes.

[00:18:38] Cristina Reyes Smith: And sometimes, sometimes we tend to forget about the humanity that we have in each other. And so grace is critical. Having opportunities for conflict resolution is critical. There’s a really great book called “Crucial Conversations” that I have really relied on in my journey as an occupational therapist and as a clinician leader.

[00:19:03] And It’s about calming down and being able to talk about these major issues that are deeply personal to us often, some that may impact us to our core. But not talking does not get us anywhere, right? And screaming at each other does not get us anywhere either. And so that goes back to just seeing the humanity in each other, creating spaces for safe dialogue to help get to some of those next places.

[00:19:39] And I feel like some of the challenges over the past couple years in particular are that our conflicts have arisen nationally and unfolded often on social media or other forums, but we haven’t been able to get to the resolution state of those yet and communicate that to the community as well.

[00:20:00] And so, that would be one of my goals, would be to try to help to bring together our leadership, our membership and our profession to that resolution and moving forward together. And that has really become a motto for me. Not only when I was running for AOTA Board of Directors, but for now as VP. Moving forward together, that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to get to where we want to be in the future.

Workforce and Membership Concerns: How can we address this?

[00:20:29] Clarice Grote: Yeah, I love that humanity piece. I think it was during one of the DEI presentations at the Momentum Summit for AOTA where they said we need to make room for mistakes. And I really, I don’t know if that – because I believe you may have been on that panel – I don’t know if that was you who said it. But I really liked that statement and reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect beings, and that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we can move forward together. So thinking of that humanity piece, the last workforce survey conducted by AOTA showed that 25 percent of practitioners are considering leaving the field of OT. And also, AOTA had a 7-percent drop in membership this past year. So, do you think these issues are related? And also, what do you think is the best way to try and address these workforce burnout and also AOTA membership drops?

[00:21:20] Cristina Reyes Smith: Yeah, so these are really great questions that you ask Clarice, and I do think that they are related. Last year, we had a rollout of a new membership model. There was a new technology that was a part of that with subscription services. And so, with that transition, we did lose a number of membership that we’ve been working hard to to regain. What I hear from clinician friends and colleagues who are actively practicing…

[00:21:52] … the regulatory burden has been significant for people. They report that the documentation at times, the administrative overhead and burdens are just overwhelming. I have friends who own private practices, and that was my experience as well, was that the admin overhead…

[00:22:16] I had a company for almost 10 years providing the pediatric OT and PT. It was very challenging just to get reimbursed for services that had already been rendered and expenses paid for. And so, with our healthcare system at large, the Affordable Care Act attempted to alleviate some of those challenges. It created opportunities for us. We’re in the top 10 essential health benefits, which is incredible. I know it advocated very hard for that. But a lot of the regulations are being mediated at the state level.

[00:22:52] Clarice Grote: Yeah.

[00:22:52] Cristina Reyes Smith: And so, if we’re not having that advocacy at the state level with Medicaid, with early intervention, and some of those different regulatory bodies, it, the admin overhead, continues to increase.

[00:23:09] We had an opportunity. We took, uh, I took a group of students to our state house in South Carolina back in the fall as a part of, that’s an annual visit that we do on or around AOTA Hill Day. And we met with the Director of Medical Affairs for our state at that time, with Medicaid and Department of Health and Human Services.

[00:23:29] And so, the understanding of what occupational therapy is and does was not ideal. And he read the definition to us directly from the policy manual and he said, I see the words here, but I still don’t really understand. And he was a pediatric, medical doctor, a pediatrician. And so the the ongoing education advocacy, the lack of awareness of our profession, these are some of the factors that our clinicians and practitioners are just getting burnt.

[00:24:08] It contributes to the burnout. But its awareness, the limited appreciation, and then one other huge piece of it that I’ve seen in myself in the past and in others is we care so much.

[00:24:26] Clarice Grote: Yes.

[00:24:26] Cristina Reyes Smith: We have so much passion for this profession, for our patients. If we’re in education for our students or our communities, that sometimes it is to our own detriment because we are so empathetic and we will invest our time, our energy, our talents to the point of overwhelm at times. And having been there myself over a few years ago, sometimes it’s a slippery slope. Sometimes we wake up one day and say, “How did I get in this situation?” And you add a global pandemic and all these different crises over the past couple years to it. And it’s, I think some people… And I have a friend who has currently issues, exited the profession for now.

[00:25:20] And I do hope she’ll make her way back. But she just needs a break for her own personal wellbeing. And so we care so much about others, we forget to care for ourselves. And over the past couple of years, I’ve been speaking much more about self care, and I have to always qualify it to say not the ADL kind of safe self care necessarily, but this, the wellness self care, and having habits that are healthy for ourselves.

[00:25:53] I have advisees and I ask them, “How are you sleeping? Are you eating? Are you exercising regularly? Do you have good social support? Are you finding time for yourself?” And I try to ask them this regularly, and I try to ask myself this regularly, too. And that’s why this last six months I’ve been really trying to focus on having those healthier habits so that when the hard times come, and I know that they will, whether it’s through the VP role or other aspects of life, I’ll be ready. I’ll be stronger, and I’ll have a more solid foundation to be able to navigate those challenges.

[00:26:33] Clarice Grote: Yes, and I can see how all of these are connecting is that, you know, you’re talking about reaching those individual practitioners. That connects back to reaching out with ASAP and wanting to build better connections with them, and as someone who’s also experienced that severe level of burnout, I can definitely attest that one of the only things that helped keep me tied to this profession was the people I knew within AOTA and within our state association who I could look to and see, okay, there is light on the other side. I maybe need to step back for now, but that, you know, they helped keep me tied to what, you know, what OT was all about in the beginning.

[00:27:10] And so, is it fair to say that kind of your main themes, if we had to summarize your campaign for VP, it sounds a lot like connection, of reaching out to individuals, and also some of those diversity elements and community.

[00:27:24] Cristina Reyes Smith: Absolutely. So I’ve summarized my platform as a focus on leadership, advocacy, and access to care. And my teaching area is in leadership and management. My experience has been in leadership roles, and leadership development is an area I’m very passionate about with my students, with colleagues, other clinicians, educators.

[00:27:50] And I have to admit, I never saw myself as a leader as a young person. I had a negative view of leadership and leaders and what I thought that entailed. And what I discovered was very different. As I’ve grownas a person, I have been motivated by the needs that I have seen around me in my own backyard, in my community, in the people in my life over time. And that has taken me down this journey of leadership. And so, in our profession, many people don’t see themselves as leaders either. But occupational therapy practitioners are fantastic leaders, yes, when they are able to see that, applying the short-term and long-term strategic planning process, looking at the big picture, but also the details, applying action steps. And so I do think that we need more training opportunities and people having time to access training opportunities

[00:28:57] Clarice Grote: Yeah.

[00:28:58] Cristina Reyes Smith: Because I believe we really can solve some of the world’s greatest challenges and problems through occupational therapy if we provide those structures, provide the resources, and provide the support in our members and prospective members to help move forward societal needs.

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

[00:29:20] Clarice Grote: I think anyone who’s listened to me has heard me say that I think we can solve many of the world’s problems and that everyone needs an OT or OTA in their life. And so thinking of that leadership piece, right, where we don’t always see ourselves as leaders, and I can definitely resonate with that feeling as well. What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or taking on a leadership role?

[00:29:41] Cristina Reyes Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing I would say is, everyone has a leader within them, and it’s just a matter of getting to know who that person is. What are their strengths? What are their areas for growth? And what’s possible? And I tell my students, if you graduate when you’re 25 years old and you retire when you’re 65 years old, hypothetically, that’s 40 years of career where anything can happen. I’m running for vice president of the AOTA. I will tell you, anything can happen. Never saw this coming, but here we are.

[00:30:18] And so, I love helping people to get to know that leader within. I’m happy to meet with anyone if they’re interested and brainstorming a little bit. That’s one of my favorite things to do, is sort of that in that visioning. But I would also suggest start with smaller roles. So no one runs for a board of directors in their first year of practice. That would be interesting, but it’s about taking on those smaller roles where you do feel comfortable. Maybe in your community or in your, in some organizations at your state level. We have huge holes at times, vacancies in our state leadership for roles like special interest section, leadership or district leadership, where people can get involved. And often, they’re meeting online now. So you don’t have to necessarily travel for that. And it can be hard to make time, but often it’s a few hours per month that you’re contributing to these groups. I encourage you to start with smaller roles and then go from there. And then the other thing that I would say is just to know that imposter syndrome impacts all of us…

[00:31:33] Clarice Grote: Definitely.

[00:31:34] Cristina Reyes Smith: … regardless of what stage of the leadership journey we are in.

[00:31:38] Anytime you are in a new role or expanding a role to try something new… I know for me, I had to really work on mental discipline because my brain would go to all the failures from the past, which I won’t go into at large right now. So I had to be disciplined in my thoughts, and sometimes I would write out what were the things I was proud of, or what I had accomplished, or what were the goals. I would put it on a post-it note, or I keep, I have Evernote, which is a great app that I can use across my devices. And so I would reference that kind of regularly. Also, having really good theme, a good theme song has been critical.

[00:32:28] Clarice Grote: What’s your theme song? Can we know it?

[00:32:30] Cristina Reyes Smith: So my theme songs vary, and I haven’t gotten one with VP just yet. There’s great music that is very powerful and that can really help to move us forward. I’ve been learning “Claire de Lune.”

[00:32:47] Clarice Grote: Oh, I love that song. Yeah, that piece is great.

[00:32:49] Cristina Reyes Smith: Yes. And so for me, I think that has become a bit of a theme song because I never imagined I’d be learning Claire de Lune. And here we are.

[00:32:59] Clarice Grote: It’s a tough piece too. It’s not an easy one.

[00:33:02] Cristina Reyes Smith: Yeah. I have the first two pages down, and this last six months has been a time of learning new skills and developing new skills in a fun way.

[00:33:12] My son got a 3D printer from Santa Claus, for example. Some of those kinds of things. So I have that in my head regularly. And sometimes if I’m about to have an interview or teach a class, especially in the early years of becoming an educator, I would play the song beforehand and sometimes over and over again. And it would just help to help fill my spirit, help me move forward, and give me the confidence. Because I have gotten… I’ve struggled with performance anxiety in my entire life. So a good theme song is really key for the occasion. It can vary for sure.

Why should someone vote for Cristina Reyes Smith?

[00:33:54] I love that. So, to wrap up our interview, of course, the most important question is why should someone vote for Cristina Reyes Smith for vice president?

[00:34:05] Well, Clarice, I am an experienced, passionate leader who has been motivated to ultimately help our communities, our society, our workforce, our students, to have the best outcomes possible. I’ve done that through collaboration. I have a record of working inter-professionally, intra-professionally, working across major ideological differences to bring forward meaningful change in action.

[00:34:42] And that is what it has been all about for me, is to bring about, help bring about positive change for our profession and our communities and society. So I have an open leadership style. I love to hear from practitioners, students, educators directly. When I was involved with COTAD, I spearheaded COTAD Ed for educators where we could have meetings twice per year. I collaborated to spearhead. I have to qualify that. I collaborated with Stephanie Lancaster, who has another great podcast too, to help start that initiative to facilitate communication. And so we would host sessions at the national conference through AOTA and at the education summit through AOTA as well. And those meetings do still continue. I think I’m a strong candidate for the vice president role for AOTA, and I would love to help serve our profession and our society in this way, if given the opportunity.

[00:35:43] Clarice Grote: Well thank you so much Cristina, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview and to share your perspectives with all of our AOTA members and prospective members of AOTA.

[00:35:56] And this is my reminder, and I’m sure you agree, to make sure to vote. Make sure to vote in this year’s AOTA elections and all the upcoming ones. So thank you so much, Cristina. I really appreciate you.

[00:36:06] Cristina Reyes Smith: Thank you for having me, Clarice. I really appreciate you too and all that you do.

Thanks for reading! Watch all the candidate interviews at and continue the conversation at

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About Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Learn more about Cristina and her many accomplishments and publications at 

Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA has developed expertise and leadership in DEI and access to care for over 15 years. She has served as the Admissions Director for the Medical University of South Carolina since 2018. She has become established as an expert in holistic admissions, recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds, and academic preparation through national and international presentations and publications. Dr. Smith has also developed and published about Interprofessional Course Elective related to Culturally Sensitive Care which focuses on the US National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards. This program was also tied into an annual MUSC Culturally Sensitive Care Program open to all MUSC Employees and Students which has now become a national conference.

Dr. Smith founded and served as Business Development Coordinator for a pediatric OT and PT agency for almost 10 years which provided early intervention and out-patient therapy services with a focus on access to care for underserved communities with language barriers, geographic barriers (rural), and low-income families. She currently mentors entry-level and post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate students who have doctoral capstone projects in these areas. In addition, she currently engages in research related to leadership, academic preparation, and access to care with a focus on diverse and underserved communities and helped to develop a model for promoting equity in occupational therapy.

Dr. Smith has established herself as a leader nationwide serving on the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Board of Directors from 2020 to 2023, serving on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Occupational Therapy Education since 2020, and serving on the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Standing Together for Research Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (STRIDE) Committee. She is a Co-Founder of a national 501(c)(3) known as the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity which now offers a national mentorship program, network of student organizations across universities nationwide, annual events, publications, and presentations across the country. She currently developed and teaches the Leadership and Management courses in the Entry-Level and Post-Professional OTD programs at MUSC. In addition, Dr. Smith founded the MUSC Alliance for Hispanic Health in 2005. 

She currently serves as the Faculty Advisor for Aprendiendo Juntos/Learning Together, a Spanish-language club for students and as Faculty Co-Advisor for the MUSC COTAD Chapter. She serves as the Co-Director of the HRSA-MUSC OT Scholarship for Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds funded by a $3.25 million HRSA grant for students from environmentally and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  She also coordinates the OT Track for the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) Summer Careers Academy for students from under-represented backgrounds.

Additional links:

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I’m  Clarice

Occupational therapist & medicare specialist helping practitioners understand policy, engage in advocacy, and own their value!

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