WASHINGTON, DC. The Dominican Republic. Thailand. These are just a few of the places where Health Science majors have made a difference through internships and other outside-the-classroom opportunities offered through the Health Science Department.
Thirty-one students and three faculty members recently attended the 14th annual National Health Education Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC. During the three days they were there, students learned about current legislative issues important to their field, received advocacy training, and formed delegations from their home states. In the future, these delegations plan to meet with their congressional representatives to advocate for the appropriation of funds to public health projects.
"I learned more in this two-week trip about public health than I have in the three years of being at college."
Pete Arens, one of the students who participated in the summit, said that most of the projects the students advocated for were connected to school health programs (such as requiring health classes with certified health teachers) and the new health care laws. Arens said, “Advocacy can influence or help create legislation that improves the health of large populations. It helps us fulfill our mission to ‘promote health and prevent disease thousands at a time.’ ”
Not only was the summit helpful in getting students real-life experience, it also exemplified the Aims of BYU. In Arens’s view: “It’s service-oriented and definitely intellectually enlarging.” As for being spiritually strengthening, Arens said that “doing advocacy work helps us answer the call of church leaders to be involved in our community and exhibit good citizenship.”
Another public health project BYU students have been involved in for the last five years is an international study program in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Since 2006, 64 students have had the opportunity to work with Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) in a summer school program in Cabarete. These students from Health Science and other majors, mentored by faculty member Dr. Randy Page, worked as either teachers or counselors. Their goal was to teach skills to poverty-stricken youth to improve healthy living: hygiene, sanitation, healthy eating, anger management, and pregnancy and HIV prevention. These lessons are aimed at helping youth stay in school and cultivate skills they can use not only to keep themselves healthy, but to gain employment later on.
Dr. Page also supervised eight students on a research and mentoring project, “International Public Health and Adolescent Health in Thailand,” last year. Five public health students traveled to Thailand to study public health activities in the country and carry out a research project on adolescent smoking. Three other students also participated in the smoking research project analyzing data and preparing presentations and papers. This research team surveyed 2,619 high school students and eventually presented their findings in international conferences; results have been accepted in two professional journals to date. In the city of Chiang Mai, students visited the Research Institute for Health Sciences, met with Buddhist monks working on an HIV campaign, met with the Church of Christ AIDS ministry, and visited a rural community hospital, among other things. One of the students, Rebecca Ricks, said of the experience in a reflection paper, “This study trip provided me with the opportunity to learn and see public health take place in real life. I learned more in this two-week trip about public health than I have in three years of being at college. . . . These experiences have forever influenced my life.”
The list of experiences offered by the Health Science Department is lengthy. Faculty have mentored students in research projects in many other locations around the world. It is opportunities such as these that will help students gain valuable career experience and put into practice the Aims of a BYU Education.