Topics that may seem sensitive or taboo are no problem for Laura Faulkner. The U3 anatomy and cell biology student is a peer health educator for Healthy McGill, a student group that promotes healthy lifestyles for students on and off campus.
Healthy McGill provides resources and support to students, in addition to organizing events and campaigns revolving around five key aspects of health: sexual health, drugs and alcohol, nutrition, active living, and mental health.
“Sexual health is a sensitive topic, but also very important in one’s overall health,” Faulkner says. “Students at McGill come from such diverse background and with that comes many different ideas about what sexual health is.”
Last week, Faulkner worked on Healthy McGill’s “Get Tested Campaign,” which aimed to inform students about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), locations for testing, and why they should get tested. Faulkner’s team tabled around campus to provide information, brochures, and free condoms.
“We always ask people what they think the most common symptom of STIs are,” Faulkner says. “Usually they say bumps or a rash, but the most common symptom of STIs is actually no symptom at all.”
This February, Faulkner will also run Healthy McGill’s #selfcarechallenge campaign. Starting this week, each of Healthy McGill’s teams will have a different self-care challenge that students can complete every day. Some of the challenges include replacing a coffee with tea, or doing squats while brushing your teeth. Specific to sexual health are challenges like enjoying a bubble bath or talking to your partner about protection.
Faulkner will be tabling with information, games, and prizes to promote the campaign throughout the week. The group will also provide Valentine’s Day cards where people can write things that they like about themselves.
“We’ll be encouraging people to say ‘I love myself’ to themselves,” she says. “February is usually associated with Valentine’s Day and loving other people. It’s important to look at yourself and take care of yourself first. Valentine’s Day should appeal to everyone and not be [for those in relationships] only.”
Faulkner’s passion for helping others is also evident from her participation in the Student Life Ambassador Program. The program involves matching a McGill student with an incoming student to help them with the switch from high school to university. She communicates via email regularly with incoming students, offering advice and support.
“I wanted to use what I had learned through my own transition from high school to help new students transition smoothly. I guess I wish I had had someone who knew McGill to help me through my transition,” Faulkner says.
Graduating this spring, Faulkner aspires to pursue a degree in medical school where she can promote healthy living and work with others who are passionate about public health advocacy. Through her work, Faulkner hopes to reach out to her peers and make sexual health just as common a topic as nutrition or exercise.
“It’s a hard subject to talk about and is often met with much resistance,” she says. “But if you can speak about it without being awkward, it will get rid of the stigma around it.”
McGill Tribune: If you could live in any fantasy world, which one would you live in?
Laura Faulkner: Harry Potter seems pretty cool, if I could get to wear an invisibility cloak.
MT: What was your first job?
LF: I worked at Burger King.
MT: What would be on your ideal pizza?
LF: Just plain cheese.
MT: If you could be stuck overnight in any store, which one would you choose?
LF: Wal-Mart—there would be so much to do!
MT: If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be?
LF: I would be a blender…because I like to mix things up.