UniHealth Peer Health Educator Fellows Prepare to Boost Campus Health Services

July 26, 2023

Peer Health CohortWhittier College’s 2023 UniHealth Peer Health Educator Fellows are hard at work learning what it takes to become a health care professional — and to provide critical advice to their fellow students.

This summer’s cohort is building upon the foundation of the inaugural group to serve the Whittier College community and promote equitable access to care.

The fellows' eight-week summer training includes attending a variety of lectures, mentoring moments and studying the eight dimensions of wellness. During the last four weeks of the fellowship, they will also be shadowing community organizations relating to health and wellness, one of which is Kaiser Permanente. After completion, the fellows will serve as peer health educators for 10 hours a week during the academic year.

Dr. Rebecca Eberle-Romberger, psychologist, director of the Whittier College Student Counseling Center and program lead, hopes that all students will utilize the service and engage with the peer health educators who can then direct them to various campus resources.

“The demand for mental health treatment on campuses was increasing exponentially, even prior to the pandemic,” Eberle-Romberger said. “Counseling centers couldn't keep up with the demand and research indicates about 70% of students will seek consultation or advice from a peer, if they have a concern or problem, before going to a professional or even a parent.”

New this year, two of the peer health educators will also serve as residential advisors. This will better equip them to handle issues in residential halls. The program is also expanding its scope by taking an holistic approach to wellness that incorporates environmental and spiritual facets of well-being into the curriculum.

“We've learned about Judaism and Hinduism as it relates to the environment and gardening. Later this month, we'll be taking a trip to The Huntington with one of our professors to learn more about the Japanese and Chinese gardens,” Eberle-Romberger said. “This will help us in planning the new Poet Peace garden on campus.”

Peer health educators are located in Johnson Hall on the first floor next to the kitchen. When school begins, students can either drop by or schedule an appointment on Monday through Friday. The UniHealth Undergraduate Peer Health Educator Fellowship application for the fall semester cycle is due on November 1, 2023, while the spring semester application is due on March 1, 2024.

Meet the 2023 UniHealth Peer Health Educators

Anh TranAnh Tran

Anh Tran is a third-year student majoring in biology. On campus, Tran works as an art therapy mentor and is the president of the Asian Student Association. Her career goal as a physician’s assistant aligns with her wishes to be able to deliver quality, affordable care for the mental and physical health of underrepresented communities in the program. When Tran is not in class, you can find her crocheting or volunteering at the Cardiac Care Center for PIH Hospital.

Elsie JohnsonElsie Johnson

Elsie Johnson is a third-year student majoring in psychology and minoring in gender studies and child development in hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher. Johnson is part of the Psychology Honors Society as well as the Team Awareness Combatting Overdoses program on campus and loves her work at the Gender Equity Center. Outside of school and work, Elsie loves to crochet, read and care for her many plants.

Emily PerezEmily Perez-Medina

Emily Perez-Medina is a second-year biology major. She is a member of Whittier College’s Student Worker Alliance, Pre-Health Club, Red Cross Club and Women in STEM Club, and she is involved with the Center for Advising & Academic Success. Perez-Medina’s main goal as a peer health educator is to help create comforting environments to build community among those who otherwise feel ostracized or outcast. She intends to pursue a career in forensics. A co-manager of KPOET Radio, Perez-Medina loves to listen to music and draw in her free time.

Ha My M. PhamHa My M. Pham

Junior Ha My M. Pham is an international student from Vietnam majoring in economics with a concentration in international economics. M. Pham is passionate about linguistics and is also minoring in Chinese, aiming to acquire her fluency certificate in 2024. She is also an economics tutor at the Center for Advising & Academic Success. She loves to invest her time in visual arts, culinary arts and learning more about personal development.

Ian RanchesIan Ranches

Ian Ranches is a second-year student majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. With these degrees, Ranches has plans on becoming a general practitioner. Ranches is a part of the Red Cross Club as well as the Pre-Med Club and he hopes to follow in his mother's footsteps by making a positive impact on those he treats in the medical field. In his free time, Ranches enjoys spending time with friends, going fishing and watching YouTube and Netflix.

Sion ChaeSion Chae

Sion Chae is an international student from South Korea and a third-year kinesiology major working toward becoming a strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist. This is his second year as a peer health educator. As an educator, Chae hopes to promote health through events focusing on physical wellness. His hobbies include karaoke, going to the gym and listening to music.

Sonali Ortiz-CasillasSonali Ortiz-Casillas

A junior psychology major, Sonali Ortiz-Casillas aspires to become a clinical psychiatrist after college. She has served as the secretary for the first-year class council, been an active member of the Wild Women Club and worked at the KPOET radio station. As a peer health educator, she hopes to bridge the gap between resources on campus and the student body by creating programs surrounding emotional well-being. Outside work, Ortiz-Casillas enjoys drawing, listening to music and spending time with her friends.