Introducing the Wake Forest University School of Medicine SSDP chapter

Lindsey Galbo ‘19 and Aaron Tryhus ‘19, founders of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine SSDP chapter

Join us in welcoming Lindsey Galbo ‘19, Aaron Tryhus ‘19, and the rest of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine SSDP chapter. Lindsey and Aaron are the co-founders of the chapter, and I had the pleasure of interviewing them about their experience getting started.

How did you hear about SSDP?

Lindsey: My best friend from Pittsburgh is involved with DanceSafe and knows several people in SSDP. He had been telling me that I should start a chapter, but I wasn’t really giving it much thought. Once I actually took the time to read about SSDP, I realized it was possible and would be extremely beneficial to my community.

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?

Aaron: In 2018, I started my Ph.D. in Pharmacology with my main area of interest being Substance Use Disorder, particularly Cocaine Use Disorder. Seeing the impact that drugs have on an individual has helped me fully realize that people who use drugs are one of the most stigmatized groups in our society. This stigma only inflates the problem of drug use. Between my interest in drug use and my strong political values, I see SSDP as a gateway into a career in drug policy.

Lindsey: I also do pharmacology research at Wake, specifically Alcohol Use Disorder, and recently I’ve found an interest in the implications of our research on policy and harm reduction. When I started looking into SSDP I realized that there are no student groups or even classes at Wake Forest that provide the same opportunities SSDP would provide. I thought starting a chapter would attract a lot of students because Wake Forest is a very prominent substance use disorder research hub.

What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.

Aaron: I’ve had some students tell me SSDP is the first campus group that they are excited to be involved in. The graduate and medical schools don’t have much contact, so it was incredible seeing the turnout and interest from both schools right off the bat. Our faculty advisor volunteered to be the advisor before we even asked him and already has a list of contacts for us to help us connect with representatives higher up in the hospital and government!

What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?

Aaron: Finding the right pace can be difficult. With grad students and med students being busy, we don’t want to take things too fast and exclude members’ input but we still want to be as active as possible.

Lindsey: Getting people to come to our meetings has been difficult – but we also started our chapter right before finals and the holidays. I’m excited to explore how to increase participation in our meetings so we can get more people to show up and get excited about getting involved.

What is the most rewarding part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?

Aaron: Drug policy has long been an interest of mine and being able to start a group of so many students with common goals is incredible. I helped to found a small drug policy youth coalition in high school but was not as well educated back then. SSDP has been a way to extend my interest and goals now that I am politically informed and drug educated.

Lindsey: Honestly, the number of doors SSDP has already opened has been super rewarding. I’m meeting more like-minded students, having meaningful conversations, I’m building relationships with incredible faculty I may not have before, and after some time we’re going to definitely be able to forge new relationships with important figures and organizations in Winston Salem.

What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/SSDP/drug policy right now?

Aaron: I think getting the community involved will be a great experience. It seems like science is so secretive and I’m sure a great number of people in the community have no idea about all the Substance Use Disorder research that goes on at Wake Forest. Being able to spread awareness of drug policy to the community and acting as a credible source for drug knowledge is a main career goal of mine that I will be getting to act out before I even graduate.

Lindsey: I’m really excited to see what changes we can make on campus in regards to our substance use policies, and also providing a lot of drug education material/events that to my knowledge don’t exist at all. I also am very excited to get involved at the state level. We’re very close to Raleigh so it would be easy for us to get involved.

What is your vision for Wake Forest? Where do you see your chapter in a year? In 4 or 5 years?

Aaron: I want to make a group that stays strong throughout the years. I think we have a great source of motivated thinkers through the graduate and medical school. I hope to make a group that can create a lasting impact on the school and can extend that reach to the greater community.

Lindsey: I really want us to make a meaningful impact, for Wake Forest to be proud and thankful that we helped better their campus policies. I also think that our chapter is going to do some incredible work in the local community, especially considering we have the Twin City Harm Reduction Coalition stationed here.