School of Health Professions

OT scholarship recipients find purpose in profession

Jackie Johnson, OTD student and Ellsworth Scholarship winner
Third-year OTD student Jackie Johnson is one of two students to receive this year's Ellsworth scholarship.


Third-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy students Jackie Johnson and Ayla Akers have received the 2022 Paul D. Ellsworth Endowed Scholarship in Occupational Therapy. The scholarship honors Army Lt. Col. Paul D. Ellsworth, who retired from the occupational therapy faculty in 1998 and passed away in 2016.

Learn more about what drew Johnson and Akers to UT Health San Antonio and what they love about the OT profession.

Q: Why did you choose the OTD program at UT Health San Antonio? 

Johnson: The first time I visited the UT Health SA campus was to learn about the OT program. I remember entering the building not sure where I was going and immediately being helped by friendly people in the lobby. During the informational tour, I felt reassured that the program was conducive to learning with experienced and knowledgeable professors, and I knew I had found my dream program.  

Akers: I chose UT Health because I love the culture in San Antonio and grew up hearing about UT Health's awesome reputation. 

Q: What do you like most about OT? 

Akers: I love that OT is personalized to meet the needs and preferences of each client and their families. OT services are very diverse and dynamic and can benefit anyone and everyone. 

Johnson: Occupational therapy focuses on patient-centered goals and facilitates the process of helping patients perform their everyday activities and participate in everyday life. We focus on activities that are meaningful to the patient and draw on intrinsic factors to habilitate and rehabilitate for purposeful and lasting results.    

Q: When and why did you choose to pursue a career in OT? 

Johnson: I grew up watching and participating in therapy for my autistic sister, and I particularly enjoyed the occupational therapy she was doing. As I got older, I shadowed occupational therapists and found that I really enjoyed the profession and the emphasis they put on patient-centered care.  

Akers: I wanted to feel like I was making lives better and helping people through what could possibly be the most challenging time of their life, as would be the case in working with clients who are recovering from significant injury or managing a complex illness. 

Describe what receiving this award means to you. 

Akers: I am very honored to have been selected for this award and feel an even greater sense of responsibility to make the most of the educational opportunities I have been so fortunate to receive during my time at UT Health. 

Johnson: The Ellsworth scholarship enables me and other students to be able to focus on our studies and do the best we can in school and in fieldwork. I greatly appreciate the time and effort it takes to provide financial support to me and other students.

To contribute to the Paul D. Ellsworth Endowed Scholarship in Occupational Therapy fund, please visit

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