Caleb Preston/The Paisano
The Public Health Society has been a part of campus since 2016. The coordinator of membership outreach is John Quiroz, a junior at UTSA and public health major. Quiroz had the opportunity to explain PHS’s mission, the events the organization has planned and how students can get involved.
Quiroz first got involved with PHS because he wanted to gain more experience in the medical community, make connections and meet other like-minded people who are interested in serving the community and raising awareness for physical and mental health. You do not have to be a public health major to be a part of PHS; many of their members are biology or medical humanities majors and they currently have 147 students enrolled.
“We have general meetings and also socials to connect with each other,” Quiroz said. “We now have mental health meetings which are part of our ‘healthy minds, healthy lives’ campaign, where we are trying to fight the stigma over mental health and counseling. It is like an emotional check-in on our members to make sure they are doing ok.”
The PHS is committed to promoting and protecting the health of its community and educating its people about health, while creating a healthy environment for current and future generations. PHS is also focused on preventing diseases by understanding the roots or origin causing people to get sick, from a personal situation to a mental state. The organization’s main purpose is to fight against health disparities or circumstances preventing people in the community from having a healthy life e.g.: economic stability, cultural barriers, health care system, environment, food, discrimination, stigmas, among others. They believe that fighting against health disparities will bring the community closer to health equity. The PHS strongly believes in a ‘healthy minds, healthy lives’ approach, and they are dedicated to developing educated, informed, caring and giving students who are willing to give back to the community.
Each month PHS has a theme. In the month of September their theme is mental health and in October it will be women’s health. One of the past outreaches PHS participated in was in partnership with SEE International: Surgical Eye Expeditions International. SEE dedicates themselves to volunteering with the blind and low vision communities, conducting restorative eye surgery on those who are lower-income and a part of the refugee community.
PHS also partners with UT Health San Antonio, helping students learn what programs and jobs they can apply for which are relevant to their future careers. The organization mainly focuses on university and community-based projects, such as food banks and they teach “cultural competence,” by going into deaf communities, Latinx and homeless communities. They focus on going into underprivileged and minority communities that may not get the health care and education they need, to teach them and provide opportunities for them to learn about health awareness.
There are many benefits to joining PHS, some of which include the opportunity for personal growth with people who have similar interests; to be able to learn about health disparities, public health and mental health and work towards health equity; to meet real-life health professionals and be able to ask questions; hear from real-life experiences and receive advice from professionals; get the opportunity to grow leadership skills by applying for officer positions; make an impact in your community; get involved and earn involvement hours and the opportunity to celebrate your own commitment at the end of the semester with the organization’s induction ceremony.
For students interested in joining the Public Health Society, some of their upcoming events include one of their first general meetings on Sep 29 and their mental health social Sep 30 at 6 pm. Students can request to join these events via RowdyLink. There are specific requirements to becoming a member: per semester, you must accumulate six volunteer hours, four general meetings, two fundraising events and two social events. PHS also has additional benefits for their members which include a graduation ceremony for graduating members.
For students going into the medical field or the public health sector, Public Health Society is a great first step towards gaining experience and understanding about the field. In addition, the Public Health Society is dedicated to taking care of the health and wellbeing of their members. Students can also follow their Instagram and Twitter handles @utsa_phs to stay updated for events and to get involved.