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Student Association for Public Health (SAPH) Provides Students With Professional Advice and Sense of Community

by Jenesca William
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SAPH students network at a professional development event.

The Student Association of Public Health, SAPH, is a graduate student organization for students pursuing a Master of Public Health at Saint Louis University. The organization has over 35 active members of first- and second-year M.P.H. students encompassing all different concentrations. 

Through committees, SAPH plans and tailors events for graduate students to enhance their experiences from the classroom and focus on the four pillars of professional development, social engagement, service and student advocacy. The organization organizes and coordinates social and service events, professional development series, and avenues to cultivate personal interactions outside of class with faculty through the “Fireside Chat'' series where students and faculty have the opportunity to get to know one another better in a casual environment outside the classroom. 

Joining the SAPH Executive Board as a first-year MPH student has truly changed my experience at SLU for the better. It has provided me with a community of students who not only work hard and are there for professional advice, but who are also interested in having fun and getting to know each other.” 

Madeline Burkholder, First-year MPH (Global Health & Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness)

As with other organizations during this pandemic, SAPH has had to pivot their programming while continuing to create opportunities for students to network and build professional contacts as well as maintain meaningful social interactions with one another.  The executive board and committees have had to be innovative in order to provide the same experience but in unique ways while also maintaining and upholding public health guidelines.

By using virtual spaces, SAPH has hosted monthly meetings and social events- such as “Among Us” game night and “Lunch n’ Learns” as well as Professional development series.  With in-person career fairs being impossible this year, and in an effort to get out of the Zoom box, SAPH provided an interactive virtual networking night that used video game-like software to connect with employers and preceptors for professional opportunities. 

Being a graduate student organization for public health students, SAPH plays a role in directly responding to the pandemic. 

SAPH creates opportunities for students to lead, broaden their social and professional networks, and contribute to work that makes an impact. Whether it is through volunteer efforts such as coordinating the Flu shot clinics, leading projects for SLU’s Public Health Ambassadors, or creating lasting relationships with their peers and public health professionals in the community, SAPH members are deeply invested and engaged in the health of Saint Louis University and the greater-St. Louis region."

Eddie Ignaczak (MPH ‘21- Health Management and Policy & Epidemiology & President of SAPH) 

SAPH members have been working with the University and the Student Outbreak Response Team (SORT), another graduate student organization, which led to the creation of the Public Health Ambassador program. In its first year, the program and the committees have been responsible for creating educational materials, presenting learning opportunities about public health measures to undergrad students, and along with SORT, conducting audits of personal protective equipment resources and public health practices throughout campus. Members have also volunteered for various public health programs on-campus in response to the pandemic. These include creating awareness of the flu shot and aid with the administrative tasks during the Flu shot clinic in the fall and with asymptomatic testing.

SAPH was a great organization to be part of due to the speakers and trainings we had on what comes after you have your MPH. It was very orientated on giving members skills they could use to find a job. I also liked the philanthropy part of it. As someone who moved to STL for my MPH this gave me more access to organizations to volunteer with.” 

Ashley Underwood, MPH (‘20) Program Coordinator for the PrEP Program at WashU

College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States.

Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.