Occupational Therapy

Joe Ulloa


Home Care Occupational Therapist

Trinity Health Systems

reality get personal rewards

Looking back

“I’m glad I went to St. Ambrose. Football is what took me there, but OT is getting me where I am now.”

As a home care occupational therapist, Joe works with people in their real-life settings, at home and at their jobs. He helps them to manage their disability and become functionally independent, whether it’s cooking in kitchen, cleaning the house, or bathing themselves. He recalls one patient saying, “Joe, I made dinner for me and my husband last night. I haven’t been able to do that.” And that is a personal reward.  


In his/her own words:

Why did you choose St. Ambrose?

I wanted to go somewhere I could play football. I visited five schools, and Ambrose just felt like home to me. I liked students and a few professors I met. Ambrose having more allied health programs is a huge advantage.

Why did you become an occupational therapist?

It’s one of those funny stories. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I went to college. I knew I wanted to do a job where I could help people. I’m a people person. My freshman advisor was Terry Schlabach, a professor in the program. Terry knew me before I realized who she was, because she was my soccer coach in third and fourth grade. I asked her what OT was and did some research. The rest is history. I shadowed different therapists and ended up applying to the program.

How has the program prepared for other aspects of your career?

I was a rehab director in charge of as many as four nursing homes and a home health contract in Des Moines, with a staff of 10. At Ambrose you take a business class, which prepared me for that leadership role. Doing research projects, you have to learn to work with different types of people and personalities. I can look back at my education and say, “This is how I dealt with conflict and group dynamics, and I can use that here.”

What’s your most memorable learning experience?

I work with mainly geriatric patients, aged 60 and up, and also with children. The program gets you in all different settings, from pediatrics to geriatrics. As a student, I didn’t know I’d like working with an older population until a professor took my class to the Center for Active Seniors for a learning experience. It was amazing when I put my hand on the shoulder of one elderly woman, and her face lit up. That decided it for me.


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