Campus Champions of Change Challenge Honors EMPOWER Project

From left to right: At the White House: Ruti Margalit, MD; Christine Hauschel; Sarah Jones; and Tessa Commers.

Public Health in the National News – A delegation from UNMC’s EMPOWER project was among 15 student groups honored by President Barack Obama on March 15 at the White House.

EMPOWER was established in 2008 as a partnership with the Women’s Center for Advancement and the Service-Learning Academy of the UNMC College of Public Health (COPH). The program is run by an interprofessional student board.

The UNMC project was among the national finalists in the White House’s 2012 Campus Champions of Change Challenge, which highlighted US student leaders engaged in extraordinary projects.

“The visit solidified our commitment to continue and engage with our community and assist our students in engaging and taking a leadership role in projects that address some of the most pressing issues in our city,” said Ruti Margalit, MD, director of the Service-Learning Academy and an associate professor in the COPH. Christine Hauschel, a student in the COPH Master of Public Health Program, said that she “felt honored to be included as a part of such an ambitious, motivated and talented group and left with incredible insight and inspiration to move EMPOWER to the next level.” Tessa Commers, a third-year medical student at UNMC, said that being part of the Campus Champions of Change Challenge “gives me courage to pursue passions that may seem unconventional because I now know, somewhere, that others are also fighting a similar fight.” And Sara Jones, also a third-year medical student, said that the sentiments expressed at the White House event were “refreshing and challenging, and left me wondering how I can measure success beyond myself.”

EMPOWER works to address health disparities of women affected by domestic violence while exposing students from all health professions to the relevant issues. The project’s mission is to provide education and health-based screenings to empower women through the knowledge of their personal health. Victims of domestic violence have been shown to endure medical problems at a greater frequency than the general population, and have an increased incidence of depression. Female victims also have increased rates of sexually transmitted infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation, among others. The organization strives to address these needs by providing health education workshops, medical screenings, and women’s clinical services in an effort to promote awareness of and autonomy over healthcare issues.

The GroundBreaker thanks Kalani Simpson, UNMC Department of Public Relations, and Sue Nardie, UNMC COPH, for their contributions to this article.