Student Spotlight: Meet Jess Murrah

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Jess Murrah, Student Spotlight, September 2017, College of Social Work
Jess Murrah, Class of 2018

Hi! I’m Jess Murrah. I’m originally from Miami, Florida, though I have been in Lexington for about seven years now. I am a dual-degree student (psychology and social work) and in my senior year of both programs. I will graduate with honors in both of my degrees in May 2018.

What are your career goals?
My dream career is working with LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly those living with HIV/AIDS.

What projects are you currently involved in?
I am currently involved in the University of Kentucky HIV-focused Inter-Professional Education (IPE) program as part of the inaugural group as the only undergraduate student and the only student from the UK College of Social Work. The IPE program is a graduate-level program that was created in 2016 to prepare future professionals in the delivery of quality health care to Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH). The Kentucky AIDS Education Training Center (KY AETC), located at the University of Kentucky, is a partner of the Southeast AIDS Education and Training Center (SE AETC) at Vanderbilt University.

I am part of a team of nine students; the remaining students are from the medical, pharmacy, and physician’s assistant programs. I shadow providers in the Kentucky Clinic and in the main UK hospital, gaining hands-on experience in the care of PLWH and those at risk for HIV. I also attend seminars focused on advanced education that is HIV-specific, have access to individual learning modules and multiple online- and on-site educational opportunities outside of the seminars mentioned above, and work collaboratively on a culminating project that will be delivered at the end of the program. The HIV IPE program began at the start of the spring semester and finishes in April of next year.

How does this experience tie into social work?
HIV is a complex disease, as is its management. Through being a part of the HIV IPE program, I am gaining an in-depth understanding of its management by a team of professionals in both the mental and physical health fields that are always focused on the patients’ needs and desires. The social workers within the program are strong, vocal advocates for the patients–both within the program and with outside entities. They also embody the flexibility that is required for ensuring the patients’ needs are met; every bit of care is patient-centered and holistic, which is  perfectly in line with core social work values.

What advice would you give to future students?
Work hard and take your education seriously. Ask questions if you don’t understand a concept; keep asking until you understand–and don’t be afraid to email your professors or utilize their office hours! Grades are important, but so is self-care. Make sure you are taking time away from the books, papers, and deadlines to decompress and have a little fun so that you don’t burn out! While it seems counter-intuitive, taking a little time for myself (without overdoing it) every week actually improved my retention of the material I’m studying.