Israel Mendez is a senior public health major with a concentration in community health at East Carolina University. He grew up in Morganton and is the oldest of 10 children. At 22, he is the first in his family to attend college.
“The reason I came to ECU is because of PA (physician assistant studies) school,” he said. “ECU is big on health care.”
Mendez said he eventually wants to open his own clinic because there’s only one clinic in his hometown and it isn’t free.
“People have to resort to the emergency room and that’s not what it’s there for,” he said.
Mendez has traveled to Nicaragua through Every Nation Campus ministry to provide free health care for those that didn’t have the opportunity.
His first 10-day trip was in 2016, when he used social media to raise $2,250 in eight days to pay for his trip. He returned last summer and was asked to be clinic manager because of his bilingual and organizational skills, as well as his background as a certified nursing assistant.
“I could speak Spanish and understand medicine,” he said.
Mendez said the clinic opened at 9 a.m. but people started lining up at 5 a.m. The clinic providers treated a variety of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, malnourishment, infected wounds and depression.
“People don’t know they’re diabetic and they don’t know how to manage it,” he said.
He also has worked as a part-time CNA in Pitt County since his freshman year. He works three days a week with special needs patients at Pinnacle Home Care.
Mendez spends 15 hours a week as a research assistant with Dr. Joseph Lee, assistant professor of health education and promotion in the College of Health and Human Performance. Mendez is assisting with two projects: one focused on health disparities and another assessing farmworker health and access to medical information.
Mendez also volunteers at the Pitt County Care Clinic and also participates in Sigma Nu fraternity’s community service with St. Jude’s Hospital, food drives and other projects. He also works as an ECU Ambassador.
Mendez was recently accepted to and will attend ECU’s Physician Assistant Studies program after graduation in May.
“You make time for the things that you love,” Mendez said. “You stay busy. It’s good stress.”
What advice do you have for other students?: Get involved with things you are passionate about! Also, find “your people” because everyone needs a family away from family. Lastly, find your purpose and what drives you in life.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?: Some of the trees on the ECU Mall have outlets.
Your words to live by: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
College: Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance
Major: Public health studies with a concentration in community health
Hometown: Morganton, NC
Hobbies/interests: Hiking, Netflix, medicine and travelling
Clubs and Organizations: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Every Nation Campus Ministry and President of the Pre-PA Club
Favorite hangout: The pool, beach or movie theatre
Favorite place on campus: Cadaver lab in Flanagan
Favorite place to eat: Super Mercado El Rancho
Favorite class: Human Physiology and Anatomy
Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Joseph G. L. Lee
Favorite TV show: “Shameless” and “Grey’s Anatomy”
Favorite band/musician: “Hillsong”
Favorite movie: “Chicken Run”
Dream job: Physician Assistant in family medicine
The one thing you cannot live without: My relationship with Jesus Christ
Role model: Devon Patterson, director of Every Nation Campus Ministry