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Cheri Nipp, MS, OTR/L, SCLV

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
~Helen Keller

When I was 18, on a small country road, my world was altered. I collided with an oil tanker and this was followed by many months of pain and rehabilitation.

At the time of the accident, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my future, or at least I “thought” I did. But because of my experiences during my accident, my path changed and led me to a career in occupational therapy. I switched majors and found my way to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy at UAB and began working in a field that I loved. After 20 years as an OT another trial presented which again changed my path.

My grandmother was diagnosed with a condition called Macular Degeneration. I was at a loss - this wasn’t in my text books from 20 years ago. My grandmother who had been so independent was having difficulty setting her stove dials, dialing the phone and reading.

I began searching for an answer and I found Mary Warren. To my delight, Mary was conducting seminars regularly and was the director of UAB's Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation. By this time, I was 40 years old and thinking: “there’s no way you can get another degree with a 4-year-old and a full-time job.”

Fast forward to 2015, and I will say going back to school for the Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation and finally my Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy, has been the most rewarding time of my career. Completing this program prepared me to meet the needs of patients I had never even considered.

Because of my training at UAB, I am the only OT in my state to hold a Specialty Certification in Low Vision Rehabilitation from AOTA.

When my grandmother was able to set the dials on her stove and cook I knew it was worth every late night tear I shed, the extra hair color needed to cover the new gray and the test anxiety dreams of being suddenly naked in a classroom. My grandmother has since passed away, but with every patient who read their bible for the first time in years or threaded a needle to quilt, I consider it a small triumph in her honor.

If you are wondering if you can go back to school and complete this program - know that you can. Remember anything that build’s character may include trials and stress. Through those tough moments, remember Helen Keller’s words and expect ambition, success and a strengthened soul. UAB’s program gave me a new passion for occupational therapy and I can’t wait for the next 20 years.