A long time ago, in a dorm room far, far away (well...actually not that far), an idea was hatched that with just a little determination, we could make a dream a reality. That dream was empowering students with health knowledge and inspiring them with science. At the beginning of our sophomore year, we had our first E-board meeting in Webb Tower, room 1107. With a small team of five, we began to build our club from scratch by jumping right into activities focused on our mission statement.
HSEP was founded with a simple idea: through compassion and a genuine love for the health sciences, we could change people's lives by giving them the power of knowledge and the spark of curiosity. If we used our passion for science to establish a fun and engaging platform for teaching about health and medicine, we could spread so much relevant knowledge that would allow students in the community, and on campus, to understand their bodies better and take their health into their own hands. Prior to beginning our school visits, we learned that many K-12 schools in our area lacked a solid foundation in health education. Additionally, there were topics especially important for college students, like mental health, that weren't getting the attention they deserved on campus. We realized that HSEP could be part of the solution and address these gaps by putting our own learning as pre-health students into action.
We started to visit schools near campus with the goal of using focused, enjoyable, and interactive lessons on health science topics to inspire children and leave them with practical take-aways about their own health. These quickly became incredibly successful, with both the children and HSEP team members falling in love with the experience. Each visit allowed us to reach dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of children. We immediately saw how the students picked up on how science related to their own lives, and how pursuing a career in the health field, or other STEM fields, was a possibility for them. On a broader level, we also had the opportunity to discuss the importance of pursuing a higher education with them, and how this was a fully tangible goal.
HSEP has had a strong presence on campus as well by working with our fellow Trojans to create groundbreaking and innovative events designed to bring important, but sometimes ignored, health issues to light. Slammin' Down the Stigma, a slam poetry event designed to destigmatize mental illness on campus through spoken word performances, has been one of the events we hold most dear. We were so glad to have offered a safe space for students to artistically express their experiences with mental illness. Both performers and attendees were given the opportunity to discuss mental illness in a constructive way, with the aim of determining how we as a university can fight the stigma and better meet the needs of students with these health issues. Since having the first edition of this event in Fall 2014, mental health has become a much more widely discussed topic at USC. This event has become an annual tradition. We have worked closely with the Academic Culture Assembly to make Slammin’ Down the Stigma even bigger and better as the capstone event of their Mental Health Awareness Month initiative.
We encourage and invite everyone interested in HSEP to come out to a general meeting. We are always open to new projects and ideas and constantly strive to give our members a voice and huge opportunities for leadership. After all, everything our organization has done has started from a simple idea. Our organization is highly dynamic as we've remained unafraid to experiment and expand our focus into new areas, but our mission will always be the same! If you're interested in changing lives, then HSEP is for you!
HSEP has been our family, and it was an honor to work with so many talented and driven individuals. It was a team effort that brought a simple idea from inception all the way to the fantastic organization HSEP is today, and we could not have done it without them. While we endeavored to use HSEP as a force for good that would change other people's lives, we often found that we were being changed as well. We hope that anyone, of any academic background, will find a place to share what they love in the field of health science through HSEP. Becoming part of this organization can be truly life-changing with the skills you will acquire and the friends you will make.
While we've passed on the helm to brave new captains, HSEP will always be one of the most important experiences of our lives. Every single person with whom we have worked has a special place in our hearts, because without any of you, HSEP would still be nothing more than an idea in our heads. We thank you all for serving by our side and standing behind our cause. We've seen HSEP do so much for the community and our campus, and we've seen so many HSEPers grow as learn from the nurturing experience of spreading compassion to others.
The HSEP "ship" has been built, and it has bravely sailed out of the harbor towards its destiny. Now, it is up to the intrepid crew to set sail and chase the dawning sun as it rises from the horizon. Be fearless in the face of the unknown. Have faith through each and every storm. Find a family in your fellow comrades, and celebrate the thrill of the journey!
Varun Awasthi, Founder
Ryan Emhoff, Founder