Dear Members and Supporters of H-STAT,
Since its inception in 2001, H-STAT has united health students across the state to improve the health of all Georgians. While this past year has brought with it unprecedented challenges to the health and wellbeing of Georgians, particularly the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and rampant racism throughout our society and institutions, I have been proud of the tremendous work that H-STAT’s members have done to face these challenges.
While much of our work was forced into a virtual format, our initiatives were no less impactful in improving the lives of Georgians. With our Street Medicine program sidelined, its program directors quickly redirected to providing mutual aid and hygiene kits to unsheltered individuals. Other members organized mass COVID-19 testing events for Atlanta’s unsheltered population in partnership with the CDC and MercyCare. Still others pivoted to providing proactive outreach calls to check with some of Grady Health System and Clarkston’s most vulnerable patients in regards to their increased social needs during the pandemic. Our advocacy also virtually reached the Gold Dome, as we lobbied robust COVID-19 public health response funding and mitigation measures as well as met with legislators regarding various measures to cap out-of-pocket costs for Georgians struggling to make ends meet.Over the past year, H-STAT members have also recommitted to one of our founding key core values: Justice. If the events of the past year have taught us anything, it’s that we live in a distinctly unequal society, plagued by structures and institutions whose policies and design are rooted in racism and the legacies of slavery and Jim Crowe. Horrified by the ongoing police brutality, particularly in the wake of the unjust murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, Atlanta-based H-STAT members along with students from Emory and Morehouse Schools of Medicine co-organized the Atlanta Health Students Against Racism movement, that marched from Grady Memorial Hospital throughout downtown Atlanta to demand justice. These efforts continued throughout the year, and remind us to center our advocacy in restorative justice – because our communities can only be as healthy as the most marginalized among us.
Serving as the President of H-STAT over the past year has been one of the great honors of my graduate school career. I have been so inspired by the ingenuity and passion that has driven H-STAT’s members to constantly expand our impact and our advocacy, and I am confident that our impact will only continue to grow. I cannot wait to see where we go next.
Stephen Gurley, President, Health Students Taking Action Together, Inc.