New ‘RAISE’ organization aims to spread knowledge on trending health topics

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“Educating others is the important part. We decided to branch out and allow undergrads to be members in the group,” David Tobin said. 

By Andrew Wernette

A new student organization is aiming to spread knowledge on trending health topics to Oakland University students and beyond.

Named RAISE, or Raising Awareness in the Student Environment, the organization is looking to regularly hold informational events that discuss current health-related themes, such as HIV and STIs.

The group is the creation of Dr. Inaya Hajj Hussein, Assistant Professor at the OUWB School of Medicine. She previously started a similar program in Lebanon.

After second-year medical students Aishwarya Navalpakam and Sean Mackman found that they both had an interest in health issues relevant to the undergraduate community, they decided to form RAISE as co-presidents under the guidance of Hajj Hussein, the group’s adviser. It is now part of Navalpakam’s and Mackman’s Capstone project for the medical school.

“We’re serving the undergraduate population to see how educated they are about the issue,” Navalpakam said. “And this is kind of like an extension of our project to see, not only to determine what is lacking, but to help educate the students.”

RAISE is a student organization based within the medical school, as is its executive board. However, both medical students and undergraduates are free to join the group as members. In fact, this is a distinctive feature of the organization.

“We’re the only group in med school that has undergraduate members,” Mackman said.

The basic goal of the organization is to disseminate health-related information and advice throughout the whole student body. While RAISE has sparked the interest of medical and pre-medical students, the executive board also aims to attract those not aligned with the field of medicine.

“We’re the ones that have that (medical) background,” said David Tobin, the undergraduate liaison for RAISE. “Educating others is the important part. We decided to branch out and allow undergrads to be members in the group.”

RAISE held its first event Sept. 23 in O’Dowd Hall. In response to the recent movement against vaccinations, the group brought in Dr. Nicholas Gilpin of Beaumont Hospital’s Infectious Disease section to discuss vaccinations and where the debate stands now.

“He did an excellent job,” Navalpakam said.

She said that the event turned out to be more of an informal discussion on the topic rather than a lecture, which the group wants as a model for future events. Ideally, it wants to hold gatherings like this about twice every semester.

Mackman emphasized that these events were not about spewing medical jargon that would fly over most people’s heads. The goal, he said, was to communicate these themes specifically to those not in the field of medicine.

This, Tobin said, is what the executive board has to figure out.

“A lot of the challenge is getting people who are not in a science background to also understand the same things that we do,” he said.

RAISE does not want to stop at the student body, either. OUWB is setting up a system where medical students can go into classrooms at Avondale High School to teach high school students subjects like infectious diseases. Through this, the organization wants to expand their reach.

“I think the next big thing is branching out to high schoolers,” Mackman said.

Students interested in joining RAISE can email the organization at [email protected]