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 Vikram Pagpatan for the 2024 AOTA Elections. You can also watch/read my interview with the three other candidates at amplifyot.com/elections.
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 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 will 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. Vikram Pagpatan. I have removed the intro and outro from the transcript so it just contains the interview and bio. Vik’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.
Vikram Pagpatan Bio
[00:02:53] Clarice Grote: Our next interview is with Vikram Pagpatan. Dr. Pagpatan is a licensed and registered New York state occupational therapist and graduate of York College CUNY.
[00:03:05] His clinical expertise includes the assessment and treatment of neuromotor pediatric conditions, congenital pediatric diagnoses, and the application of rehabilitative assistive technologies for individuals across the lifespan.
[00:03:19] As a dedicated educator and researcher, Dr. Pagpatan pursues his passion for education through instructing theTheory & Practice: School Aged Pediatrics, Foundations I, and the Assistive Technology course within the core curriculum of SUNY Downstate. He serves as a master’s research project advisor and contributes annually to the NBCOT board examination prep course at Downstate.
[00:03:40] Now I’d like to go ahead and say that you may notice in this next interview, that my voice does sound a little bit off, and that’s because unfortunately I do have a cold.
[00:03:47] So please ignore any of the gravel in my throat and let’s go ahead and welcome Vikram Pagpatan.
Start of Interview with Vikram Pagpatan
[00:03:54] Well, welcome Vic again to the Amplify OT Podcast. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you?
[00:04:00] Vikram Pagpatan: First of all, please. Thank you so much for having me on again. I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It’s great to have your voice amplified and it’s great to have your voice reach communities that often, you know, may not feel heard or underrepresented.
[00:04:12] So again, any type of amplification, any type of platform that you’re able to be on to not only advocate, but to represent the profession… So I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity, Clarice. Thank you so much. I do appreciate it. My name is Vikram Pagpatan. I am an AOTA board director at the moment.
[00:04:29] I’m also a candidate for AOTA president-elect in 2024. I am from Brooklyn, New York. I’m currently in academia as an assistant professor and admissions coordinator for SUNY Downstate’s MSOT program. I also adjunct at York College, which is my alma mater, which is a part of the City University of New York.
[00:04:48] Clinically, I practice in pediatrics, assistive technology, and outpatient care. And in leadership, I am 100 percent passionate about occupational therapy, and I have so many visionary ideas and collaborative opportunities for our community to be unified for one cause, which is to advance occupational therapy forward.
[00:05:08] So thank you Clarice for having me on the podcast.
Why are you running for AOTA president, and why now?
[00:05:10] Clarice Grote: Yeah, thank you so much, and running that right into our next question of why are you running for president, and why, right now?
[00:05:19] Vikram Pagpatan: Sure, sure. There’s many reasons, Clarice, and I’ll give you three primary reasons that I think fit well together. First off, for a number of years, for almost more than a decade, I’ve been truly inspired by the potential of our profession.
[00:05:32] We have amazing responsibilities in changing lives for better, from early intervention, to outpatient care, to hand therapy, to inpatient rehabilitation, then to skilled nursing facilities. When truly we think about it, our profession covers the lifespan, but our practice covers the lifespan.
[00:05:50] And it’s an incredible opportunity to be a part of the OT profession. So first and foremost, I am passionate about occupational therapy. Second of all, I’ve, you know, given this thoughtful consideration, and based upon mentorship, based upon both the micro and macro social circles and professional circles, you know, I’ve been thinking very deeply about the meaning of our profession, the meaning of our future. And I look at students as a visionary ideal to strive towards. Their aspirations, their goals, their inspirations, and what they look towards as mentors and models, and I see unlimited potential for occupational therapy in not only our current students’ practice areas but expanded practice areas.
[00:06:37] I look at the innovation that lies ahead of us when it comes to technology. I look at the incredible work that the AOTA staff and the multiple volunteer leaders in the state associations and in our representative assemblies, and what they do on an everyday basis to not only make meaningful choices and meaningful decisions, but to make meaningful advancements in occupational therapy.
[00:07:01] So I am truly just fueled by multiple perspectives and multiple areas in our field to really move us forward towards the right direction. But the most important part, Clarice, is together, not in a divisive way, but rather in a unified way, together towards one cause, which is to advance occupational therapy forward.
What would be your ‘day one’ priorities as AOTA president?
[00:07:20] Clarice Grote: Absolutely. So with that being said, what would be your day one priorities as president? We hear that a lot from people who are running for president of the United States, where they have these day one priorities. What would be yours as AOTA president?
[00:07:36] Vikram Pagpatan: Sure, sure. If I’m able to earn earn, is the important word. If I’m able to earn the trust, support, and confidence of our community, then the day one priorities would be first, not to change anything right away, as I think it’s an important point to relate. To make drastic decisions and decisions out of…
[00:07:57]… sometimes biased perspectives or decisions that often are not collaborative, I think is truly a negative aspect of leadership that does not condone an equitable and inclusive mindset or culture. So for me, my day one priorities would be to truly empathize, understand, and reach out to all stakeholders of our profession.
[00:08:18] So what does that mean, Clarice, in actuality? It means I’m going to continue to engage OTA and OT students. I’m going to continue to, to engage OTA and OT practitioners. I’ve said this before during the evening with candidates, Clarice. I’m not waiting for invitations. I will make my own. I will print out my own invitation card.
[00:08:38] I’ll invite myself to the wedding because I want to know what the pulse is of our profession from academic to practice and also from perspectives of academicians, researchers, and stakeholders. So , as the current president, Dr. Alyson Stover, has done, I’m going to continue that legacy forward by being accessible, by being approachable, and easily to be engaged in conversations that are difficult, and conversations that move us forward.
[00:09:03] So again, the day one priorities is to collect quantitative and qualitative information from everyone.
[00:09:10] Clarice Grote: Yeah, and I think you’ll have your fair share of difficult conversations. That’s one thing that many of us recognize, that we feel like we’re in a bit of a pivoting point, that this is an important election. And I think that ties in well, right? Collecting all this information, you’ve been really kind of touring the country, almost, collecting it.
What do you believe is the primary role or mission of AOTA within our profession?
[00:09:26] Clarice Grote: What in your opinion, after talking to all these different groups, is the primary role or mission of AOTA within our profession of occupational therapy?
[00:09:35] Vikram Pagpatan: Sure, sure. Unlike many, I do know what the mission of AOTA is because again, as a board director, I’m an extension of the entire membership body.
[00:09:43] So I think an important aspect of the role of AOTA, not so much as a mission, but now the role of AOTA based upon, again, in representation of our entire community, which includes members and non-members. I believe the role of AOTA now is to serve as a practical tool. For everyone. Everyone, including again, individuals that look at us for academic support, clinical support, advocacy support, and research support.
[00:10:09] So I think, again, if you think about it from many perspectives, we have to be a tool that serves a need. And that need can be AKA, called a value. And this is something that I believe that not only state associations, but our national association has been challenged with for multiple years at this point.
[00:10:27] What is the value of membership? And this does tie into our next question, but the gist is, if AOTA serves as a tool, a tool that could be used for an objective, an objective that has a clear outcome, an outcome which either further advances practice, durther advances research, makes the job of teaching OTA and OT students easier…
[00:10:48] … whatever is tangible to the person, I think that’s what AOTA needs to be. It needs to be a tangible tool. And we did talk about this a little bit before, but I do look at innovation and technology as almost like a guide or a hint. Where, again, if it’s handheld, if it’s easily accessible, and if it gives us what we need at the moment, efficiently, then AOTA can strive to be that, that tool that provides information and resources.
Do you believe AOTA membership is important, and why or why not?
[00:11:15] Clarice Grote: Yeah. So what is your opinion or do you believe that membership’s important with AOTA, and why or why not?
[00:11:22] Vikram Pagpatan: Well, membership matters. So that’s the first one. I’m laughing because again, it’s an incredible way of looking at membership from a, not an entitlement perspective, but rather to understand, does membership matter?
[00:11:34] And if it does matter, why? Now on the flip side, if membership does not matter, let’s truly understand why. So yes, to answer your question, membership is a critical aspect in many places. Not only in the national association, but in state associations as well. And as well as in other spaces. I think before we address, or before we talk about the membership issue, which is again a factor across multiple areas, it’s truly important to understand what exactly is it that our communities need.
[00:12:04] And again, that also brings that concept where we may not be able to suffice all of the needs at the given time, right? At the current moment. And that’s perfectly fine, but if our role is to advance occupational therapy forward, as per our mission, we should be able to take that long walk with our members and non-members in finding those resources.
[00:12:26] So I think that’s what membership is, is that undeniable support across the board for our entire community, where if we don’t have the answers, we can definitely build solutions together or build pathways towards those resources together. I think that’s a pivotal point of membership. It’s again, a sense of community and belonging.
[00:12:47] Clarice Grote: Yeah, that’s what it sounds like. That kind of – to summarize that point – of having a community to rely on. I think you and I talked about this before. That, you know, especially when I was burnt out, the thing that kept me tied to this profession was my community of people that were both in my state association and within AOTA. Otherwise, I don’t know where I would have wound up.
[00:13:05] Vikram Pagpatan: Correct.
[00:13:05] Clarice Grote: Right?
[00:13:06] Vikram Pagpatan: Correct. It’s almost like it’s there whether you need it or not.
[00:13:09] Clarice Grote: Exactly. So, why are you a member of AOTA?
[00:13:12] Vikram Pagpatan: Oh my goodness. So to me, membership is much more than just tangible outcomes or tangible results.
[00:13:19] I had this conversation with a plethora of institutions and clinics so far. It’s almost like the value is a very subjective concept, right? And my values may not be your values. And that’s what makes it beautiful, that we have diverse values when it comes to our approach to membership. Why am I a member?
[00:13:38] I truly embrace the idea of having a community of support. I’ve said this in multiple ways, from state associations to national associations. And I say, I’m saying it in plural. There are multiple forms of national associations. Amplify OT is another form of membership that adds to the idea of leveraging resources to advance practice, to advance knowledge.
[00:13:59] I don’t believe in just one entity having everything that you need in the lifespan of being an occupational therapy practitioner. I think there are multiple ways of leveraging resources, again, to advance the mission forward. I’m a member because I truly benefited from the community of support. From mentorship, to academic supports, and also as a small business owner.
[00:14:22] I need AOTA as a brand, as a strong, reliable, understandable, noticeable brand of excellence to define my business. So I, really quickly, I’ve invested into a board certification within AOTA. So I have a BCP in pediatrics, and that has helped me tremendously to not only teach pediatrics, but to practice pediatrics.
[00:14:44] I’ve invested into the CLA, which is the Certified Leader in Academia of the Academic Leadership Institute of AOTA, which has advanced my ability to feel more confident in my abilities to teach occupational therapy education. So, I can name a whole magnitude of other tangible outcomes. But the point is, again, with value comes service.
[00:15:05] With value comes giving back. So what mentorship has also allowed me to do is to engage state and national associations. I do believe it’s reciprocal. I don’t want to look at this as a concept where I must take, but I also must give back and again. If I’m looking for leadership opportunities, let me contact my state association board or state association president.
[00:15:28] If I’m looking for opportunities to collaborate with others nationally, let me go through my national association. Again, these are pathways to leverage.
[00:15:36] Clarice Grote: Yeah. I like to summarize sometimes as a choose your own adventure, right? You get out what you put into it. And I think that’s definitely true, especially with volunteering and getting into those roles.
Workforce and Membership Concerns: How can we address this?
[00:15:47] Clarice Grote: So here’s our tough question. So our last workforce survey showed that about 25 percent of practitioners are considering leaving the field of OT, and AOTA also had a 7 percent drop in membership this past year. So in your opinion. Are these issues related, and what’s really the best way to address both our burnout issues within our profession, as well as that membership problem?
[00:16:12] Vikram Pagpatan: Sure, sure. I think first and foremost, the culture of looking at it as an opportunity to really explore a different avenue of a place where we, most likely, we have not been in this magnitude. We’ve been in membership drops before or membership crisis before, but not in this magnitude. And then the idea of individuals or communities exiting the profession is another area that’s an opportunity, not just a challenge, but to really understand the why.
[00:16:38] I think in any case, whether it’s community practice or as a clinician, that occupational profile, right, that needs assessment. That understanding the chief complaint, the chief reason why we’re interacting at the moment, I think that’s critical. So in this case, I think it’s important to understand that membership is related to an exodus of a number of communities that are leaving our profession. Now, does that mean that membership has not sufficed their needs or a lack thereof, or again, to the point is what is their value of membership? Could an individualization or a personalization of value cater to, again, meeting the milestones of our communities?
[00:17:18] So Clarice, to sum this up, I kind of talk about this in many different perspectives. The student is almost absorbed into academia, into expectations of academic excellence, milestones, grades, passing fieldwork, passing their board exam, getting their first job and so forth. These are milestones in the occupational therapy journey.
[00:17:38] My vision is to match membership to milestones, ensure that there is a clear support of that student who may not be struggling, but rather wants to be further challenged in their OTA/OT education. That student who wants to give back in prepping for the board exam to individuals across the board.
[00:17:59] It’s almost like that membership is a tandem. It’s almost like a personalization of your strengths and agilities to match challenges. So I do think the crisis is at our doorstep. I don’t think that it’s a challenge. I think it’s an opportunity to further revision what membership can be.
[00:18:20] Like it’s a great opportunity to take a challenge and to flip that into a learning experience.
[00:18:25] Clarice Grote: It sounds like, if I had to kind of summarize off of what you’ve said over these last few questions, your perspective, if it’s right to say this, is almost as taking a step back and taking a pulse of where people are at and what they need, and then using that information then to move forward in that kind of building that sense of community. And I think that’s an interesting perspective along how can we align membership with the different milestones within our career because you’re right, the needs of a student is very different from the needs of a practitioner five years out or the needs of someone who’s in academia and doing research.
[00:19:01] Vikram Pagpatan: Correct.
[00:19:01] Clarice Grote: Does that kind of sound like a fair summarization? That your, kind of, idea is to step a bit back and develop that community and those needs?
[00:19:07] Vikram Pagpatan: Correct, correct. And it’s almost like the three A’s. You have to be agile, you have to be adaptive, but you also have to be aligned. You must be aligned to what you can provide, but also provide it at the right time, right, the most appropriate time. And if it’s resources and supports that don’t match what I need, there might not be an incentive to value membership. But if we can at least look at it from a milestone perspective, just almost like, think pediatrics, right? If you just kind of match them to where they are, it’s almost like it’s a given.
[00:19:38] It, you know, it fits. It aligns to their needs at the moment. So I think, yeah, definitely, it’s almost like it’s our duty to ensure that we’re not a cookie cutter when it comes to the concept of membership. If we truly are going to be inclusive and embrace diversity and look at equity across the board, then it has to be personalized.
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or leadership?
[00:19:58] Clarice Grote: Yeah. So what advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering or taking on a leadership role like you have?
[00:20:05] Vikram Pagpatan: Oh, sure, sure. Most importantly, take the first step. Just like going to the gym, you know, going to the gym, trying to jump off a plane to do skydiving or anything else…
[00:20:15] It’s that first step that is incredibly difficult. But it’s important to understand that many before you have taken that first step, and that first step is the most challenging. But there is a plethora of communities, of supports, that are out there, I think, when it comes to volunteering. And I said this before previously, Clarice, but the idea that you can be a volunteer leader as a student, you can embrace leadership opportunities and qualities as a student.
[00:20:41] As a student in academia, whether it’s an OTA or an OT school, but looking at student associations as a great way to get a little bit of a macro view as to what leadership looks like in other spaces, at that point, being a clinician. Again, I think in volunteering and leadership, clinicians are an incredible aspect of our profession in the sense that they’re doing the work that we are striving for in terms of advancing the profession.
[00:21:08] Now, time might be a barrier when it comes to volunteering, or advocacy, or getting engaged. But at the same time, we have a multitude of contexts, including digital contexts, which is the social media world, where leadership opportunities, advancements, advocacy can easily happen, if that makes sense. Meaning, taking leadership from the traditional perspective of engagement, right, physical engagement, to not thinking about digital engagement, because this is the next wave of interaction, right? Whether it’s AI or apps, but engaging in the digital context can embrace those leadership qualities that may not be attainable if time is a barrier or if resources are a barrier.
[00:21:50] So take that first step is a critical aspect.
[00:21:53] Clarice Grote: Now more so than ever, you’re right. There’s so many different ways to get involved and get your voice out there and your perspective.
[00:21:59] Vikram Pagpatan: Yeah.
Why should someone vote for Vikram Pagpatan?
[00:22:00] Clarice Grote: So to wrap up our interview, of course, the most important question, why should someone vote for Vikram Pagpatan?
[00:22:07] Vikram Pagpatan: Sure, sure. Well, I’ll say this humbly because that’s the way that I am in terms of my tone. I want to earn a voter’s trust. I want to earn a voter’s confidence. I want to earn a voter’s support. I don’t want a vote just based upon affiliation or kind of like one thing that Vic said. Check my receipts, do a background check, ensure that I can walk the walk and I can talk the talk.
[00:22:31] I do believe that a leader should be able to earn their stripes in regards to ensuring that they’re acting in the best interest of the entire membership body. In our case, in our profession, an extension of both members and non-members. I believe a leader should be able to walk in spaces that are comfortable and uncomfortable. Again, you’re representing the profession in multiple spaces and in multiple contexts. So I’m running to earn our community’s trust, our community’s vote, and our community’s confidence. And again, voting is an incredible aspect in our profession where we have representation that requires your engagement.
[00:23:11] So, you know, when we talk about representation matters, voting matters, occupational therapy matters, showing up and voting for where you would like the profession to be matters. So, and last thing, Clarice, I want to say there is a plethora of diversity of experience across multiple slates. I think it’s an incredible opportunity to rejoice and celebrate where we’ve been and where we are. The diversity in our presidential slate, the diversity in our VP slate, and as well as our board directors and multiple other volunteer roles, including the RA, is a great place in terms of the milestones we’ve reached and the amazing journey ahead of us when it comes to the advancements for our profession. So I think we’re at a great place, and voting starts on Friday.
[00:23:55] Clarice Grote: Well, thank you so much, Vik, for taking the time to speak with me and then to speak with everyone who is listening, our Amplifier community.
[00:24:03] Wish you the best of luck on your campaign, and thank you so much for coming in.
[00:24:06] Vikram Pagpatan: Thank you, Clarice
About Vikram Pagpatan, EdD, OTR/L, CLA, ATP, BCP, FAOTA
Learn more about Vikram and his accomplishments at vikrampagpatan.com
Dr. Pagpatan (he/him) is a licensed and registered NYS occupational therapist and a graduate of York College CUNY. His clinical expertise includes the assessment and treatment of neuromotor pediatric conditions, congenital pediatric conditions, progressive neurological adult diagnoses, and the application of rehabilitative assistive technologies for individuals across the lifespan.
As a dedicated educator and researcher, Dr. Pagpatan pursues his passion for education through instructing the Theory & Practice: School Aged Pediatrics, Foundations I and the Assistive Technology course within the core curriculum at SUNY Downstate, serves as a Master’s Research Project advisor and contributes annually to the NBCOT board examination prep course at Downstate.