TWU alumnus finds new purpose in helping others through occupational therapy

TWU alumnus Christopher Villarreal (MOT ’17)
Alumnus Christopher Villarreal (MOT ’17)

When the infinite cycle of sales quotas, corporate ladder expectations and ethical dilemmas finally became too much for former sales associate and Texas Woman’s alumnus Christopher Villarreal (MOT ’17), he decided to go back to school and pursue his earlier dream of occupational therapy. That decision has not only awarded him a more fulfilling life, but it continues to enable him to affect positive change in this world.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Villarreal lived in San Antonio for nine years, where he earned his BBA in marketing and began his career in sales. But the hustle and bustle of the corporate world began to take a toll on him.

“I was beginning to lose the young, slightly naïve, idealist inside who still believed in the innate goodness of humanity,” said Villarreal. “I had attained some level of financial success, but inwardly, I was becoming a shell of man. If I didn’t do something, I would lose myself entirely.”

That’s when Villarreal decided to act upon a long-held dream.

“I have a son who has both a developmental disability and autism and has been working with occupational therapists from an early age,” he said. “Occupational therapy helped my son develop essential living skills, but also created innovative solutions to facilitate his academic success. The dream of being an occupational therapist was always there, but it was just that—a dream.”

Villarreal finally decided to make that dream a reality. He downsized, selling what assets he had so that he could afford being a student again, and enrolled in the TWU School of Occupational Therapy on the Dallas campus. At TWU, he found exactly what he was looking for.

“The education at TWU is provided by professors who either are or were clinicians or researchers in the field, so they have practical advice and experiential knowledge to superimpose over the formal academic learning,” he said. “The occupational therapy program helped me become a creative but practical, solution-based thinker through both lecture and hands-on clinical application during paired lab instruction.”

Christopher Villarreal

Villarreal now works as an acute care occupational therapist at Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health. He is the lead occupational therapist for the hospital’s Dedicated COVID-19 Therapy Team, which entails collaborating with physical and occupational therapists and administrators in the creation of rules, policies and occupational therapy treatment design, as well as performing actual direct patient care and provision of telehealth services to patients with COVID-19. He also is a member of the Neurology and Trauma Rehabilitation Team and was previously on the Cardiopulmonary Team.

Villarreal believes he has finally found his true calling, and though the work is often difficult, for him, the ability to help others makes it all worthwhile.

“I am part of a wonderful therapy department, surrounded by an amazing and brilliant team of speech, physical and occupational therapists who support one another on both a professional and personal level,” he said. “I’ve been able to work with patients from all backgrounds and walks of life, and I have had a direct impact on the local community here in Dallas, not just a privileged few. Every day in the hospital is different, and depending on the diagnosis or type of injury that our patients have, presents its own difficulties, which challenge me as a therapist—but that’s the beauty of it.”

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Page last updated 2:11 PM, September 18, 2020