Interning with AS- Health Equity & Literacy
By: Varshaa Alexis
“There is no human endeavor that is outside the realm of public health”.
As a public health major, we learn about the diverse factors that influence a person and their communities’ health. From language and literacy skills to safe housing, these factors contribute to health disparities and inequities. The idea of public health is complex because it requires us to think outside of ourselves and our own lives, and work towards a collective benefit. Healthcare must be the bridge between medicine and social work in order to truly change the outcome of health in both America and globally. Austin Smiles shows an efficient and attainable effort towards this by creating programming that works towards the social and emotional support of patients and their families, here and abroad.
While interning with Austin Smiles, I engaged in promoting health services in Central Texas and Latin American communities by supporting surgical and post-surgical care for children born with cleft lip and/or palate. Some skills and experiences I worked towards were nonprofit event preparation, grant writing, fundraising, and working with medical inventory. In event preparation, I assisted in contacting local businesses and organizations for auction donation items with regards to our mission and cause for our annual Wish Upon A Smile event. It was inspiring to see just how many businesses care for causes like ours and how widespread the community impact is. In addition, I have worked to find and write grants to support our initiatives as an organization. Grants are important for funding our medical care kits for surgeries and care. In fundraising, my personal fundraiser taught me how to effectively advocate for our cause and improve my communication skills. Working with medical inventory also showed me just how many items we are so generously given and how important the roles of each item are. These are all invaluable skills and experiences that I look forward to utilizing as I continue my path in studies and working in the field of public health.
This experience has truly deepened my passion to work towards health equity and health literacy because it showed me how truly attainable our goals as an organization are. $250 to fully fund a surgery that changes these kids’ lives; in reaching out to friends and family and seeing an overwhelming response, I began to really understand just how attainable this program was – how attainable it was to make programs and services available and accessible to everyone and making sure these people knew their options. It was also inspiring to see an amazing display of humanity; the passion of those at Austin Smiles genuinely showed me their humanity and selfless desire to work for the betterment of others – traits I wish to express, with the knowledge I have gained, in order to further my endeavors in the realm of public health.
Varshaa Alexis, Global Public Health Intern Summer 2022
The University of Texas at Austin