At the beginning of each fall semester, the GCSW has what they call foundation days- the first two days of class for incoming students. During this time, all of the faculty members come together to introduce themselves and the profession. This event is reassuring and soothes the nerves for the new students. Last semester, I had the opportunity to attend my foundation days. One of the most memorable moments was when the Dean of the college, Dr. Colby, spoke. He is known to all students to be personable, funny, and a good storyteller. But one thing he said stuck: “If you have a few hours, go sit in the Emergency Room at Ben Taub Hospital and look around”. Ever since that day, if I saw or heard Ben Taub, I would think about visiting. What is there to see? Why is it so interesting? I needed to find out.
This was my first visit to the hospital, and I didn’t want to be overwhelmed. I chose to go on a weekday morning to observe a “normal day” for the ER. My first thought upon walking in was how clean and organized everything seemed. Everyone seemed to know where they were going, even when parking garages were involved. The emergency room check in line is run similar to airport security- IDs out, patients only please. Most patients were thoroughly prepared for the day and brought large bags of food, medicine, and things to keep them occupied. They were in for the long run, and they knew it.
Growing up in Houston, I knew to expect a diverse crowd, but not like this. Many types of people were waiting- sleeping homeless, mentally ill, substance abusers, young, old, middle-aged, physically disabled, people with various health problems, black, white, Hispanic, some Spanish-speaking only. Some seek refuge from the street; most need a simple doctor’s visit. A woman knits an almost complete blanket. A man changes his socks in the corner. A woman laughs to herself. A man snores loudly. Everyone seems to be watching everyone else.
As I was sitting here, I couldn’t help but think we are fortunate, as Houstonians and social work students. Ben Taub Hospital may have long wait times: notoriously a few hours up to half a day. But it runs smoothly and provides adequate health care. There is always room for improvement. The UH GCSW prepares aspiring social workers to address these needs. GCSW partners with agencies all over the Houston area to provide incredible internships. Students choose from hospitals in the Medical Center, non-profits, counseling centers, health clinics, and others.
What I absolutely love about social work is its encompassing nature. Social work involves helping ALL people. We don’t just treat mental disorders or health problems. I have never heard someone from another profession say “I want to work with the homeless,” or “I want to help people cope with physical disabilities”. Dean Colby and other faculty members encourage critical thinking and activism. Every professor at GCSW has a different passion, and students benefit from it. The classes that are offered prepare students to help people with diverse issues, much like the patients at Ben Taub. In turn, students grow a passion of their own.