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Creating a Healthy Community

During his four years at Saint Louis University,  Hile Ermias ('19, PHSJ) helped foster a healthy and supportive community all over campus, and beyond.

He helped 190 fellow students who are the first in their families to attend college or who come from communities that are underrepresented on college campuses. He supported more than 110 fellow Billikens as a resident advisor in the Village Apartments. And he served as a student leader for SLU's chapter of Chi Alpha, leading Bible study and mentoring others.

A public health major with a minor in marketing, Hile recently joined Procter and Gamble as an account manager. 

While learning about the big health questions faced by communities locally, nationally and globally in classrooms and lectures, Ermias and other public health undergrads worked to answer those questions through action. Public health students complete a minimum of 45 plus hours of service learning during their years at SLU.

Learning to Serve

"What makes studying public health so special is the fact that we are pushed to take our understanding of these subjects even further," he explained. "In public health, I have learned about the different health disparities that exist within the St. Louis community, the opioid crisis that is currently affecting the United States, and the various viral outbreaks that have occurred all over the globe. We are asked to develop and propose interventions related to these topics and are encouraged to go out into our communities and make a difference on the world around us." 

For Ermias, that meant volunteering at a local homeless shelter, working with school kids on homework. He then shared his service experience with other students and learned from theirs.

"Helping the kids while their parents were at work or busy, and helping out wherever else I could deeply impacted my understanding of the public health topics that are taught in the classroom," he said. "Public health is the ultimate service oriented major. The lessons we study in the classroom are meant to make the world a better and healthier place."

Caring for the Community

During his junior year, Hile worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for Abbott EMS, responding to 911 emergency calls and helping injured and sick patients get the care they needed. His decision to train in providing life-saving, first-response care stemmed directly from his classes in the College for Public Health and Social Justice.

"Being a public health major puts me in a position where I can impact the health and wellness of those around me," Ermias said. "Public health inspired me to make a direct impact on my community which is one of the reasons why I decided to become a certified EMT. And after working in that role for a year along with the lessons learned in classroom, I know I am capable of being of service to others."

Keeping Faith

Beyond the classroom, Ermias said retreats, opportunities to attend Masses, and even working out at the Simon Recreation Center helped him and other students clear their minds and stay grounded.

"It helps us become the best versions of ourselves," Ermias explained, noting that caring for the mind, body and spirit is central to a Jesuit education. Public health is the ultimate service oriented major. The lessons we study in the classroom are meant to make the world a better and healthier place."

His own spiritual life, he continued, has always been a big part of his life. A member of St. Mary and St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Church in St. Louis, he has served as part of the church's clergy since the fourth grade. He assists the church's priests with Masses, wedding ceremonies, holidays, baptisms and with funeral services in addition to teaching kids ages 7 to 18 about Ethiopian Orthodox Church customs.

Focusing on the Future and a Career

Ermias's studies and campus activities helped him develop the resume' and skills he  needed after graduation. The practical applications of a public health degree, he said, give him a wide range of career possibilities.

His time as a resident advisor has also helped him hone the abilities employers prize: leadership, the ability to communicate effectively, problem solving and the ability to work in a team. 

"Whether that be in the business setting, or working for a government organization, or a non-profit, or an academic setting, public health is versatile yet practical," Ermias said. "The combination of my public health coursework and my role as an RA have helped me shape a path where I know I can be successful regardless of the paths I choose to take."