Close Up on JP Gopez – A Psi Beta Rising Star

Shown on left: Chapter President (2016-17) JP Gopez at American River College.

Due largely to JP’s leadership, American River College won Psi Beta’s coveted Ann Garrett Robinson College Life award.

Letter from JP:

I am an incoming junior at Stanford University, majoring in psychology or public policy and hopefully, I will be concurrently working toward a Master’s of Science in Community Health and Prevention Research (CHPR). I aim to become a graduate student with a Scholarly Concentration in Community Health in Stanford’s MD-MPH Dual Degree program with UC Berkeley, which would allow me to earn my Masters of Science in Public Health (MPH) from UC Berkeley using my undergraduate coterm credits from CHPR and earn my Medical Degree (MD) from Stanford University. In any case, I will work toward an MPH and an MD, complete the appropriate residency program for a career in public health, and become a public health officer.

My developing interest in psychology and experience as a member of Psi Beta was integral to my decision to pursue a career as a leader in the field of public health. My fascination with the subject was largely due to personal experience with mental illness, in conjunction with my observations on the subject’s nuances, where I noticed its fundamental encompassment of other disciplines, such as neurology and sociology. It was especially the biopsychosocial model, which highlighted the significance of the interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors in the sphere of health, that showed me the important and applied relationship between psychology and health. In essence, it was this “self-discovery” that amplified the subject’s resonance with me.

What initially drew me to become an active member of the Psi Beta chapter at American, River College was my search for a community of students who shared a similar passion in the subject. Looking back at my experience, not only did I find myself in this community that I had envisioned and sought, but I found myself immersed in numerous opportunities that I did not initially have available as a passive student. Through attending and coordinating psychology career panels, attending professional psychological conventions, and applying the psychology theory and concepts in discussions, I was able to develop my literacy in psychology and concurrently growing intellectually as a scholar. In my time as Vice President and as President of the chapter, I had the chance to host leadership workshops, work with and guide a team of officers, and coordinate with organizations and professionals — experiences that helped both me and fellow members whom I had worked with to develop as leaders of the community. By observing the research of our chapter’s 2013-14 National Research Project (NRP), participating in a research team to conduct and present a post hoc analysis on the 2013-14 NRP, and leading the research team for the 2015-16 NRP, I gained essential research and presentation experience that is critically needed for a career in public health. From coordinating our chapter’s collaborations with various campus and community organizations, I had the opportunity to assist young victims of human trafficking, homeless women, and their children specifically, and the homeless in general—in essence, what fostered in me was a sense of purpose in the community.

Ultimately, it was this congruence between my initially untapped passion, Psi Beta’s mission, and finding a community of like-minded individuals that helped me to discover my role in society. My interest in psychology provided me a more refined understanding of social interaction and mental health, including a perspective on how it is deeply intertwined with public health, and influenced me to aim to specialize in mental health as a public health officer. Each of the Psi Beta experiences influenced me to pursue a career as a leader in public health because I found that I would be able to do much of what I had been doing but at a much more professional level.

My experiences and newfound interests inspired me to coordinate the 2017 ARC Public Health Fair, a project that educated and provided professional resources to students—in college and in high school—and members of the community on a wide array of public health topics from mental health to physical health. The purpose of the event was to instill in the community members a perspective that promotes a refined, multidimensional approach to addressing a variety of public health issues that are intricate and intertwined. For the ARC Public Health Fair, I drafted a $2,700 grant request for the event to the ARC Foundation during Fall 2016, which was approved.

I involved the American River College honor societies, Psi Beta and Phi Theta Kappa, to co-host and work with various community organizations, departments at our college, campus student organizations, and health care professionals, among other groups, on the event. The event consisted of four 50-minute breakout sessions that each had four unique scheduled presentations by professionals and organization representatives on a variety of public health topics: PTSD and Mental Health, Human Trafficking, Homelessness, Alcoholism, Domestic Violence, Bullying and its Psychological Effects, Microaggressions, Deafness Stigma, Organ Donation, Alternative Medicine and Cannabis, Infectious Disease, Mental Health 101, Meditation and General Health, Alcoholism and Recovery, Digestive Health and Disease, and Human Trafficking (15 out of 16 scheduled presentations were delivered). The breakout sessions were divided into a 1.5-hour tabling session in which students were able to interact with organization representatives to have a more personal discussion about health and wellness related topics, while gathering resources—the tabling was available throughout the event, though 1.5 hours were designated for increased traffic. Throughout the event, stress therapy activities were provided, which included guided paper origami and coloring. The event was concluded by a keynote address by Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the Public Health Officer of Sacramento County, who gave a presentation on “What is Public Health?” to encapsulate the event’s topics.

The project won Psi Beta’s 2017 Ann Garrett Robinson College Life Award, which was for the most innovative and resourceful project that upheld Psi Beta’s mission statement.

The Ann Garrett Robinson College Life Award plaque earned by American River College.

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