Students at College of Charleston volunteer as a service component of their pre-health club, AED.
CHARLESTON CARES: We recently spoke with Kirsten Snyder, a molecular biology major at the College of Charleston, part time EMT, and newly elected president of C of C’s pre-health club, Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED). This year, the club has engaged in an effective outreach campaign to spread the word to area hospitality workers about the free health care available to them at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, a part of the Clinic’s new Hospitality Inclusion Project (HIP).
What is AED and the mission of the club?
AED is a national honor society for pre-health students. The two primary missions of the club are community service, particularly in ways that pertain to human health, and mentorship. For community service, we will host our own events, like trash pickups and food drives, and will also partner with other organizations like BIFMC to make an impact on the community in the broadest way possible. For mentorship we aim to help students be as knowledgeable and prepared as possible for a career in healthcare through peer mentorship and through the facilitation of relationships between students and medical professionals in their preferred field.
How many people are involved with AED? What are future goals/occupations for those who are in your organization?
We currently have 89 members, about half of which are full members. To be a full member students must have completed 45 hours of coursework at CofC and have a minimum GPA of 3.2. Full members are officially recognized by the national chapter, whereas the other alternative is to be an associate member, which has no GPA or credit hour requirements, but is not nationally recognized. Members of our club are interested in a plethora of future healthcare careers. The most popular fields are Physicians Assistant (PA) and Medical Doctor (MD), but we also have a lot of students interested in becoming dentists, nurses, perfusionists, nurse practitioners, or obtaining their medical degree in osteopathic medicine at DO school.
How did you learn about Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, and why did you decide to select this nonprofit as an organization to support?
About two years ago, the executive board of AED wanted to find a healthcare related organization within the community that we could use as our club’s philanthropy. They found BIFMC online and loved the mission, and got in contact with volunteer, Cynthia Cronk, about how we could get involved. When I became the Service Chair for the club and met with Cynthia to plan out how AED could really help the Clinic, I was amazed by everything BIFMC was doing for patients! The amount of different medical services provided – free of charge – is just fantastic, and I am so impressed by how the clinic is predominantly volunteer-based. Meeting with Cynthia and touring the clinic really solidified for me that we needed to do as much as possible with AED to help out.
In what ways do you fundraise to support nonprofits like us? What would you like others to know about your organization/program?
We host a number of different fundraising events throughout the year. Our most common fundraisers are Instagram challenges, where we advertise that we are raising money for BIFMC on our club’s social media page, and ask members to donate small sums to our cause and share our fundraiser on their social media as well. We have also hosted bake sales, where members buy or make baked goods and then we sell them to students and faculty on campus, donating all of the proceeds to BIFMC. The third way we fundraise is through percent nights, where we coordinate with a local business downtown on a designated night of the week, and for a window of time on that day, a percentage of every purchase made is donated to our club, and then we donate whatever we receive to BIFMC. I would love to encourage anyone interested in getting involved with AED to do so! It is an awesome club that has given me so many opportunities to help out in my community, and I have had so many awesome opportunities to prepare for my future career in medicine through the club.
You have been particularly helpful with outreach efforts for our Hospitality Inclusion Project. Were you surprised to learn that so many in the hospitality industry lack access to health care? Why does helping this population interest you most?
I was surprised to find out that so few employers are able to offer health benefits to their employees. Working in hospitality can be grueling manual labor, and to find out how limited their access to healthcare is despite this is upsetting – and is the reason why AED was so eager to help out with HIP. As students at CofC, most of us live downtown and frequent the restaurants and stores very often, so to be able to help these people that we encounter so frequently is very important to us.
Can you tell me a little bit about your outreach methods and the general reception you have had from hospitality workers?
Going into our first outreach event, we were a little dubious about how well we would be received, but actually ended up having a lot of success! For our outreach events, we have members split into small groups and go door to door on the popular streets of downtown Charleston. We go into every store that will let us inside and give a brief explanation of the services offered by BIFMC and ask if we can leave some flyers for the employees to leave in the break room for their coworkers and hang up on bulletin boards, if they have them, for their customers to see. This way, we are hopefully able to reach any employees that might not be at work at the time, and can spread the word to any customer who might also benefit from the services offered by the clinic. In our outreach events this past school year, we were not turned away by a single store, which is a huge accomplishment, and we were well received by every business we entered. Being able to raise awareness about the clinic and hopefully bring healthcare to a population that really needs it has been an awesome experience, and I have loved being able to bring AED and BIFMC together this past year.
A tremendous THANK YOU to our AED volunteers! Interested in helping out? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!