SF State News {University Communications}

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Health education student named Galinson Scholar

Sept. 15, 2010 -- Personal experience galvanized Adrienne Wilson's dedication to helping others obtain decent health care. The health education graduate student will be honored by the California State University Board of Trustees with the 2010-11 Galinson Scholarship. The award recognizes students who exemplify exceptional public service in their community and distinguishes Wilson among this year's 23 William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustee's scholarship winners.

Photo of student Adrienne Wilson

Galinson Scholar Adrienne Wilson

The Trustees will present the $6,000 scholarship to Wilson in Long Beach on Sept. 21. The award will help Wilson complete her studies toward a master's degree in public health at SF State. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in public health after graduation.

Wilson's interest in health equity began at a young age as she witnessed her parents' struggle to find proper care both for her autistic sister and for her mother's serious illness. Her mother, who made a living as a janitor, died prematurely of pulmonary fibrosis, which Wilson believes was caused by years of working with toxic cleaning products.

"I realized then that identifying and correcting health care delivery to poor and disenfranchised communities was my life's calling," said Wilson, who originally planned to be a pediatrician. "I want to use my experience and education to improve the health outcomes of society's most vulnerable populations."

Wilson describes her childhood as "growing up poor in affluent Huntington Beach," where she was a member of one of the only African American families in the community. "Though I was a straight A student, teachers turned me away from advanced placement courses for no reason other than their lowered expectations for people who looked like me," she said. "It was difficult to develop and maintain a sense of confidence, but I was always taught to believe that I could do anything no matter what the world said or thought about me."

Wilson’s life improved when she moved to a more racially diverse community in Sacramento to live with grandparents.  While witnessing the high school graduation of her older sister, Wilson made it her goal to be one of the students at her graduation who would be lauded for their academic achievement and promising future.

Living abroad has reinforced her professional goals. In college Wilson spent a year in Brazil, where she taught science and English in poor communities known as favelas. Later, she joined the Peace Corps where she lived in Tanzania and Ethiopia to serve as an HIV/AIDS community health educator. In Ethiopia, she worked with the Clinton Foundation to support health and education programs for orphaned and vulnerable children affected by AIDS and HIV.

Today, Wilson is a teaching assistant in a health and social justice course and an intern at the University of California, San Francisco where she coordinates a project that examines women who have inherited a gene mutation linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She is also a program assistant with the Metro Academies, an SF State-based program where students learn about urban health and social justice issues.

"Adrienne is an academic superstar," said Ingrid Gonzales, lecturer of elementary education, who observed Wilson's work as a volunteer tutor preparing middle school and high school students for college through the SF State GEAR UP program.  "What makes Adrienne so exemplary is her understanding of social justice and health issues that impact struggling children and working families."

Wilson is the second SF State student to be named a Galinson Scholar since the scholarship was established three years ago. Named in honor of former CSU Board Chair Murray L. Galinson, the scholarship recognizes students who exemplify exceptional public service in their community.

-- Denize Springer


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