Upon graduation, Kniquiah Hughes, OTD, OTR/L (OTD ’21) returned to her home in the West Indies and became the first occupational therapist in Anguilla. The Caribbean island has a population of about 15,000. Then, in 2021 on World Occupational Therapy Day (October 27), she opened her own occupational therapy (OT) practice providing services to clients at home and in all schools on the island.
On May 26, 2022, Dr. Hughes opened an OT clinic, named Wellness Ave. As CEO and founder, Dr. Hughes says the goal of Wellness Ave. is to provide adult, adolescent and pediatric interventions. The clinic has two rooms, one for adults and one for pediatrics. She specializes in Autism, dementia and stroke patients.
“There is so much to learn and do,” she says. “One challenge is advocating insurance companies and the government, which often struggle to differentiate OT with physical therapy (PT). Another is helping patients to understand the specific needs of OT and PT.”
“I give myself a lot of grace, which has become one of my favorite words.”
In addition to her clinic work, Dr. Hughes is the Vice President of the Association of Caribbean Occupational Therapists (ACOT). She has presented at several national and international conferences, including the 2021 ACOT biennial conference, the American Occupational Therapy Association conference and the World Federation of Occupational Therapy International Congress on the topic of promoting occupational performance in adolescents with disabilities in Anguilla.
Connecting with Students
Recently Dr. Hughes spoke to students who are part of the San Marcos, CA campus COTAD chapter (Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity).
“I was set on becoming a physical OTD therapist in school, but over three years after being denied entry into 20 PT schools and universities, I became very depressed,” she shared. “I then shadowed a cousin who is an occupational therapist, and my mind was blown!”
“I loved the purely holistic, one-on-one interaction that OT brings, as well as the ‘let me make you happy again by showing how to maneuver challenges’ approach.”
She then applied to only one OT university—USAHS—and got an immediate response! She enrolled in the MOT program on the Miami campus in 2018 but quickly transferred to the OTD cohort. “There were only 15 of us, and we were quite a diverse group,” she remembers.
When asked how her time at USAHS prepared her for her journey, Dr. Hughes replied, “I made plenty of connections, which are still especially important to me. This helps since I don’t have all the answers. Connections are key!”
Dr. Hughes told the students that she has been incredibly grateful for her journey and that everyone’s steps do not look the same. “My advice is to listen well, tackle challenges one by one and keep pushing!”