School of Health Sciences

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Gilstorf

How four School of Health Sciences alumni discovered their calling and pursuit toward advanced degrees.

SHS alum Sarah Gilstorf inside a common area of the Human Health Building

Article from SHS InHealth Magazine

icon of a calendarWinter 2019 Issue of SHS InHealth

icon of a pencilBy Patrick Dunn

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Turning Points Part 4

PART 4: “The best thing I’ve ever done”

Sarah Gilstorf works to enroll homeless people in free health care services as an outreach and eligibility specialist for Community First Health Centers, a job she describes as “really fulfilling.”

When Gilstorf’s future boss first told her she ought to pursue a master’s degree, she said no. “I thought, ‘My grades aren’t as good as I want them to be. I’m working. I’m doing other things. I’m balancing home life,’” Gilstorf says. “And then I thought, ‘Well, just try it and see what happens.’”

Gilstorf did end up trying it, and she now describes her graduate studies at the School of Health Sciences as “the best thing I’ve ever done.” But she had quite different plans when she started at the school, pursuing her bachelor’s in health sciences with a concentration in nutrition and health.

In the process of completing her undergraduate studies, she learned about Healthy Pontiac, We Can!, a community coalition dedicated to advancing healthier living for Pontiac residents. Gilstorf began volunteering with Healthy Pontiac, participating in projects that ranged from studying Pontiac school children’s diets to assessing the safety of sidewalks.

The impact on her life was dramatic.

“I grew up in a really tiny town,” she says. “I didn’t work with a lot of people who were different from me. Being able to see how different individuals live, had a tremendous impact on me.”

She says a key “turning point” in this process was working with the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences chair and Healthy Pontiac, We Can! chair, Dr. Jennifer Lucarelli.

“I was really inspired by her, and how she has put herself in situations to learn about people in urban communities and how we can help improve their lives,” Gilstorf says.

Gilstorf says that the support from School of Health Sciences faculty gave her the confidence to pursue a master of public health degree at OU, and her familiarity with her instructors was a great help to her completing the program in 2017.

“It’s really cool when I run into [clients] and they say, ‘Oh, I got my own place!’” she says. “I’m so happy for them and I feel fortunate that I can be a part of it.”

Read more - Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer McCullough

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