Students and Community

Driven to Lead

School of Health Sciences undergraduate students display exemplary leadership in our school, community and world

Four people inside

Photo credit: Robert Hall

Students and Community

icon of a calendarNovember 14, 2023

icon of a pencilBy Jillian Wolf

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The School of Health Sciences (SHS) transforms students into leaders who impact the needs of all people and communities. Our students are empowered to pursue leadership early in their education and career through the efforts of supportive faculty, participation in student organizations, and distinctly engaging in the undergraduate leadership development program, ECLIPSE.

Guide and Support

Oakland University’s full tuition coverage for low-income students has allowed first-generation college student Nedi Affas to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor in a supportive, diverse environment.

Affas’ desire to help others heal began when her father passed away in Iraq. In 2013, she moved to the United States with her family. When beginning college against all odds, Affas hoped to fulfill medical school prerequisites but also learn about overall health and different aspects of care, making pre-health professional studies a perfect fit.

When Affas joined ECLIPSE, her colleagues inspired her to pursue leadership. She served on the ECLIPSE Activities Board and the Aspiring Surgeons Club board, joined the United to Heal Club and the Pre-Med Society, and co-founded Pre-Street Medicine Oakland, an organization collaborating with Street Medicine Oakland at the OU William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) to assist communities and people in need.

To Affas, leadership is about serving others. “It’s being the person others know will be there for them,” Affas explains. She reiterates how it is important to “listen to them and provide them with guidance and support.”

In May 2023, Affas graduated with a bachelor’s in health sciences with a pre-health professional studies concentration. She currently works in radiologic technology at Corewell Health, volunteers with World Medical Relief where she also hopes to intern, and plans to attend medical school. 

SHS has provided Affas with valuable leadership skills for her future. “As a health care provider, you need to be a leader before anything else,” she adds. “You need to listen, be open to other opinions, be respectful towards everyone and stay calm in stressful situations.”

Affas believes that everything is possible with hard work and dedication. She hopes to inspire immigrants, refugees, minorities and anyone facing hardships. “You can chase your dreams,” Affas emphasizes. “If you ask, you’ll find great people who are willing to help.”

Continue to Try

OU was the ideal choice for Talina Black as it is beautiful, the ideal size and a perfectly comfortable distance from her home in Monroe, MI. 

Black always knew that she wanted to work in health care and first encountered laboratory work when shadowing at a hospital. She started as a nursing major due to her love of science and hands-on, lab work but ultimately found SHS. “I didn’t know about Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences (CDS) until my second year at OU,” Black adds. “This major was perfect.”

Black, a first-generation college student, had an internal motivation to pursue leadership, and her professors helped her seek opportunities to do so. Her campus involvement included CDS Student Society, participating in Health Sciences Day and CDS Outreach Day, and assisting in the lab. Professionally, she is involved in the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS); having first served as the professional delegate, Black was recently elected to her first voting position as professional director.

Leadership, to Black, means persistence. “You’re not going to get it right the first time or maybe even the second or third time,” she adds. “Don’t let that deter you. Continue to try.”

Black graduated this spring with a bachelor’s in CDS with a specialization in medical laboratory science (MLS). At Corewell Health, she works in the highly-qualified molecular pathology department and is completing her MLS clinical internship. Black has accepted a position as an immunohematologist specializing in transfusion medicine at Corewell Health following completion of her internship and plans to maintain her involvement with ASCLS and pursue a teaching position in the future.

SHS has provided Black with exceptional preparation for the workforce. “I think Oakland is special by making sure that students experience pacing that provides the most realistic expectations imaginable,” she explains. 

Black thanks her mentors at OU, friends and family for their support as she pursues her academic and career goals.

Be Selfless

Liz Ford, originally from the Indiana/Kentucky border, had heard many excellent things about OU’s Human Movement Science programs. Upon moving to Michigan with her fiancé, she decided to become a Golden Grizzly to finish her degree. 

Ford played many sports growing up, and unfortunately had to undergo knee surgery in high school. Ultimately, the extensive physical therapy that followed inspired her passion for this field. “I fell in love with it immediately,” Ford says. “Physical therapy involves exercise science while deeply emphasizing aspects of anatomy and biology.”

Upon transferring to Oakland, Ford wanted to pursue leadership, and her advisors and professors were there to provide recommendations and support. Ford is a member of ECLIPSE, and she will be a peer mentor in the program this year. She was recently inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success, an association that recruits students from across the U.S. and helps develop leadership, communication and teamwork skills through virtual seminars with well-known professionals.

For Ford, being a leader means being selfless. “It’s putting the needs of others before yourself,” she states, “and putting the team before your personal needs.”

Ford is working towards a bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a concentration in pre-physical therapy. She will graduate in May 2024 and is planning to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) soon after.

Ford says that, although being a transfer student can be intimidating, OU welcomed her with open arms. She highly recommends the exercise science program because of the outstanding academics and character development it provides. Additionally, SHS has taught Ford about the physical therapy profession as a whole. “Apart from the obvious academic aspect,” she explains, “you learn more about the field you’re going into and what is required to be a quality health professional.”

Inspire and Guide

As the oldest child, leadership for Hanna Sandzik began by setting a positive example and caring for her siblings. After taking community college classes, OU was the natural next step for the Clawson, MI native.

Sandzik originally wanted to be a direct medical care provider but, after working as a nurse assistant, realized that health needs extend beyond this. She then found a great fit in wellness and health promotion (WHP) and the public health combined program, which enables efficient completion of both the bachelor’s in WHP and the Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees.

The strong women in Sandzik’s life, including her late grandmother and now her supportive professors, have inspired her to pursue leadership. Thus far, Sandzik’s leadership activities include interning at the Baldwin Center to provide nutrition-related services, performing a mini-needs assessment at Community First Health Centers and presenting the findings at an OU conference, and serving as student representative of the MPH program.

Sandzik identifies leadership as inspiring and guiding others. “It’s a collaborative process where one has to be honest, respectful and empowering,” she adds. “It’s the leader’s responsibility to hold oneself and others accountable.” 

Sandzik earned her bachelor’s degree in May 2023 and will complete her MPH in one more year, during which she will be the graduate assistant for Prescription for a Healthy Oakland and a teaching assistant in WHP. In the future, she hopes to work at the county, state or federal level.

Sandzik has gained a strong foundation for her future through SHS. “You’re always going to have to be a leader or someone who is led,” she explains. “You have to be comfortable in both positions, facilitate open communication and see the picture from other perspectives.”

Sandzik thanks everyone who has supported her journey. “Without my friends’ and family’s love and support, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of SHS students stepping up to lead. Visit the SHS website to discover all of the programs driving health students to become leaders.

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