Maria Ma knew occupational therapy was the perfect profession for her when her grandfather started working with an occupational therapist (OT) following a stroke which left him with one-sided weakness and prone to falls.
“I love the immediate real-life interventions that occupational therapy can provide. It’s the perfect blend of scientific theory and real-life application for me. And while OTs can work in many settings, with various populations, I think I gravitated towards working with seniors because of how it allowed my grandfather to live independently and enjoy a good quality of life,” says Maria.
Maria supports Circle of Care’s Exercise and Falls Prevention program. The team of physiotherapy assistants and exercise instructors run more than 150 classes for older adults in the Greater Toronto Area. “I’m part of an amazing group,” says Maria. “Everyone loves their job, and enjoys making a difference in our participants’ lives.”
In her daily work, Maria leads classes and works with clients one-on-one to support their goals of living independently at home. “It always brings a smile to my face whenever I see my class get into a lively discussion about bathroom equipment, or walker functions, or even the best winter footgear. Seeing the participants engaged in class discussions is very satisfying.”
Outside of work, Maria focuses on her love of music, art and culture around Toronto. She is also passionate about languages, and speaks English, French and Mandarin fluently, understands a fair amount of Italian and Japanese and most recently started learning Korean. “I find languages to be the right level of challenge for me. They’re not too hard, but they’re very rewarding,” says Maria. “My love of music is also a motivator, because I listen to a bit of everything and I like looking up lyrics to understand and appreciate their meanings.”
Maria’s greatest influence is her mother. “She’s an amazing woman,” Maria says. “She’s an advocate of staying true to oneself and she’s honestly been a constant positive force in my life, giving me support when I needed or a gentle nudge forward at times. This is probably a good time to say, ‘Thanks Mom!’”
A true optimist, Maria encourages everyone she works with to find the silver lining in their situation. “Working in health care, I often see people who believe their situation is hopeless and I feel like a major part of my role— and part of every health care practitioner’s role—is about lifting people up when they need it so that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”