HEAL at FIU shows “patients” and support for aspiring healthcare professionals

HEAL kick-starts the fall semester with a general body meeting | Photo Courtesy of Erick Vounzi

Natalie Gutierrez | Staff Writer

Future doctors make their mark at FIU with HEAL.

Health Education for Aspiring Leaders, or HEAL is a non-profit, student-led organization whose purpose is to build a community of budding doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. 

Erick Vounzi is a junior psychology major and president of the club. He is intentional about using his platform. 

“Being president is very important to me because I can put the club in the direction I want it to go in. I want to be able to give opportunities that I couldn’t find. I’m in a position to help others improve their applications,” said Vounzi. 

Aware of the overbearing information given to students, Vounzi reflects on the difficulty of searching for shadowing, internship, and research opportunities.

“It’s hard to find opportunities and activities by yourself. The Internet is big, so you don’t always know where to start,” said Vounzi. 

Vice president Sebastian Vanegas is a junior and biomedical engineering major. To him, a solid 

support network can have a positive effect on a student’s pre-medical journey.

“A club like this is important generally. People in pre-med want to have a group that can support them,” said Vanegas. 

The club offers engaging experiences with both career-focused and social events.  

Last spring, HEAL hosted an online workshop to equip members with knowledge about job shadowing searches, professional attire and behavior. 

The club also believes that even the most ambitious students must aim for a healthy school-life balance. At “Painting with a Twist”, members got to listen to music, paint, and interact with like-minded students. 

“These events help you get out of the focused college life. You can socialize, build community, and talk to those of different specialties. Overall, you can bond with others,” said Vanegas. 

“These activities help you relax and put school to the side for a little bit. It allows you to focus on other people and yourself,” said Vounzi. 

Vounzi and Vanegas are aware of the increasingly competitive nature of medical school applications. Students on the pre-medical track are under the constant stresses of studying, preparing for the MCAT, and perfecting their resumes.

“Specifically in pre-med, there is shadowing, direct patient care, and the pressure to get straight As and maintain a high GPA. You also have to keep up with professors and doctors who can write you recommendations. The stress levels are really high,” said Vanegas.

As far as upcoming events, HEAL members will participate in “STEM Saturday.” They will conduct science experiments with elementary school students. This event will take place on Oct. 14 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. 

“It’s good to help the next generation and give them exposure. It is also an opportunity to pave the way for whatever they want to become, even if they do not want to become scientists,” said Vounzi. 

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