Good Company

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Student creates not-for-profit, earns humanitarian award

By Anthony Giornalista

When Aaron Tabor was 8 years old, he put his heart and soul into a program called Operation Christmas Child, stuffing gifts and letters into shoeboxes for underprivileged children around the world. Now a fourth-year medical student at Rush University, Tabor’s vigor for international humanitarianism is only getting stronger.

Tabor’s medical mission work abroad, which includes hatching the not-for-profit organization Make a Change International, has earned him a 2015 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service. It’s the result of dedicating personal time to community service, and improving the health and lives of underserved population both locally and internationally.

His award will be presented May 6 as part of Rush’s Community Health Improvement Week (May 4-7), which is a series of presentations and discussions about how Rush works with the community to address health issues and disparities.

“I hope this draws attention not to me but to all of the work going on around the world,” says Tabor, who recently returned from a one-month global health trip to the Republic of Congo. “I was in Africa for a month, but there are people who have been there for years. Hopefully this inspires more health care professionals to meet the needs that exist abroad.”

Helping in developing countries

The Republic of Congo has a lack of basic health care resources that eclipses even the rough conditions found in some areas of the Caribbean, where Tabor also has done some global health work. His goal is to practice medical mission work abroad full-time after completing his residency in emergency medicine, which he’ll begin next year at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Tabor will also be busy running Make a Change International, the organization he started less than a year ago to provide opportunities and support for health professionals and graduate students who want to bring health care to developing countries. Through fundraisers and individual donations, Make a Change International helped fund global health trips for 11 fourth-year Rush Medical College students this past year.

“There are a lot of students who want to participate in global health service trips,” Tabor says. “One of the things that holds people back is money. It’s expensive. I want to help provide opportunities for students who want them.”

Tabor’s efforts aren’t limited to international opportunities. He has been involved with several Rush Community Service Initiatives Program (RCSIP) services, including Franciscan Outreach — one of the largest homeless shelters in the Chicago area — as well as health fairs through RU Caring.

A tradition of community service

Rush’s long history of strong community service programs has helped students like Tabor reach underserved populations. Last year, 66 percent of all Rush students surveyed said community engagement opportunities played a role in their decision to study there, and that number rises to 82 percent for Rush Medical College students.

“Rush has a strong track record in the community, but we’re now making even smarter decisions to create lasting community efforts and to build on our reputation,” says Marilyn Wideman, DNP, RN-BC, associate vice president of community health care practice. “Proposals for community service programs must be focused on one or more priorities in Rush’s Community Health Needs Assessment.”

The community programs at Rush provide students with the opportunity to help. Many students take advantage of them. Some go the extra mile.

“One of the most basic of human needs is health care,” Tabor says. “When people are sick, it’s impossible for them to see beyond anything else. For me, caring for these people is the ultimate way to show people love.”