2021 PhD Student Organizes Blood Drive - University of Houston
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PhD Student Organizes Blood Drive


September 1, 2021

(HOUSTON, TX) - PhD student André Marcel Harris (MSW '21) recently organized a GCSW Blood Drive to help bring awareness of blood diseases during Sickle Cell Awareness Month. 

He is the 2021 recipient of the Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation

Students named to receive this scholarship must "demonstrate an interest in working in African American communities and mental health."


Name: André Marcel Harris


You're a very vocal advocate for those diagnosed with sickle cell disease. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and the GCSW is hosting a blood drive to raise awareness. How did this event come together, and what role did you play in its coming together?

I approached the administration of the GCSW because I wanted to bring awareness about Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) to social workers. I believe that social workers could be more present in the social work community. I also wanted to have a meaningful event for Sickle Cell Awareness Month. After talking to Dean Dettlaff and Dr. Mollhagen, I was given the green light to coordinate with the GCSW and American Red Cross to host the event. 

We know that you recently went to the state capitol to advocate for a statewide sickle cell registry. Are there any updates on how that is going?

Yes, as part of my MSW internship, I worked in the office of State Representative Jarvis Johnson, who has been a staunch advocate for SCD in the past few legislative sessions. He filed a bill that I was responsible for that would have created a Statewide Registry. Fortunately, the bill passed the House chamber but died in the Senate chamber. So, therefore, there's nothing much else to look forward to with that bill except to refile it next session possibly. 

We also heard that you were named a recipient of the Verne Lamarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship. Congrats! The scholarship is awarded to those who demonstrate an interest in working in African American communities and mental health. You have an excellent track record of working online with Black Men in Social Work and political advocacy for sickle cell. How will this scholarship help to advance your career goals during your PhD education and beyond?

Thank you. This scholarship is one of my most prized academic accomplishments. My passion for health and mental health access for Black men and the sickle cell communities and this scholarship will provide me increased access and resources to be an effective student and researcher of these pressing issues. I am excited to get connected to NASW and my scholarship cohort soon! 

What makes you most excited about continuing your social work education in the GCSW's PhD program?

I am most excited about gaining skills and knowledge on conducting research and using those skills to examine and investigate issues that often go ignored in the research community.  

How has the GCSW prepared you for your work in political, social, and public health advocacy?

GCSW has been a fantastic addition to my academic tenure. In my MSW courses, I learned more about what I was passionate about macro-level social work. In my BSW program, I always knew that I wanted to get more exposure to macro and non-clinical social work; however, there's only a limited amount that you get in that area at the generalist level. During my time at GCSW, I have been exposed to and allowed to flourish in macro/political social work through internship and classroom opportunities. Many of the assignments I completed during my MSW were used for public health advocacy on several boards and committees that I sit on to advance the conversation on health equity and social determinants, specifically for rare and sickle cell disease.