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Arnold School of Public Health


USC student body president Taylor Wright makes an impact by combining public health and leadership experiences

November 27, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

“I wanted a big school with a lot of opportunities but still a feeling of home, and that’s what I’ve found here,” says public health senior Taylor Wright, who also happens to be USC’s student body president.

It helped that the Goose Creek, South Carolina, native’s mother and several other family members were Gamecock alumni. Carolina was the only school to which Wright applied and toured, and he always knew it was where he wanted to be.

I wanted a big school with a lot of opportunities but still a feeling of home, and that’s what I’ve found here.

-Taylor Wright, public health senior and USC student body president

Originally envisioning a career in clinical medicine, Wright discovered public health through one of the Arnold School’s information sessions and immediately knew it was for him. “I love that the focus is more on community health and preventative healthcare,” the Honors College student explains.

Wright’s interactions with his advisor, clinical associate professor Kara Montgomery, further fueled his passion for the field through her support and feedback. “She was also my first professor in a public health class and helped me to really love this area of healthcare,” he says. “Dr. Corwin and Dean Chandler have been great supporters as well.”

During his program, Wright has shadowed healthcare professionals in various settings and interned at sports medicine and consulting firms. As deputy director of USC/Columbia Flood Relief efforts, he coordinated with the office of the mayor, Red Cross, United Way, the USC Alumni Association and other groups to organize flood relief volunteer efforts, including the orchestration of more than 1,300 volunteers across 40 sites around Columbia for more than 5,000 hours of service.  

Serving as chief of staff for Project Lead the Way, Wright coordinated the second largest voter registration and education campaign on a college campus—registering nearly 6,000 students and facilitating a six-part forum series—in 2016. The University and Presidential Ambassador also led more than 50 campus tours for prospective students, their families and other visitors. As a sophomore, Wright was selected to attend the Public Policy and Leadership Conference at Harvard University.

Inspired by these experiences, Wright founded a health-focused campus organization in November 2016. Carolina Health Outreach helps provides leadership opportunities in the healthcare field for students while improving the health of South Carolinians.

Through Carolina Health Outreach, Wright and other undergraduate students worked with Palmetto Health Stroke Center director Anil Yallapragada on the Holy Strokes project, where churches serve as ground zero to improve health in communities. Holy Strokes sparked Wright’s interest in partnering with places of worship to improve community health and led to related projects through Carolina Health Outreach. As executive director, Wright directed a team of 80 students in healthcare projects, such as statehouse lobbying and health screenings and health forums in churches across multiple counties.

It doesn’t matter if you want to become a physician, businessperson, politician, lawyer, or anything in between, a public health degree can help you get there.

-Taylor Wright, public health senior and USC student body president

Establishing a health leadership organization was a natural fit for the business minor, who found his voice through student government during high school. Wright has been involved in student government at UofSC since he joined freshman council, and last year, he was elected student body president—the second public health student in a row to win such an election.

“I’ve had the ability to provide student input in spaces that traditionally haven’t had many students in them and do my part in continuing to move this great university forward,” Wright says of his role as president. “The skills I exercise everyday as president—problem solving, team work, communication, listening, empathy, and more—all relate very well to the world of public health, and I know they will be useful in my future career.”

Wright is still determining what shape that career will take after he graduates in May of next year. He’s exploring the various options public health offers, such as  administration and policy, with the goal of continuing his public health education.  

“I always advise students who have a passion for healthcare to look into public health. It doesn’t matter if you want to become a physician, businessperson, politician, lawyer, or anything in between, a public health degree can help you get there,” says Wright. “We have the opportunity to learn many aspects of healthcare that will be important across careers, and it is extremely beneficial.”


Related:

Senior Ross Lordo uses public health program and experience as student body president to prep for career in health