Written by Zoe Engels, Blog Contributor
Did you know that every SODA chapter has a chapter advisor? These faculty members on high school or college campuses play a central role in supporting our chapter members as they plan events, table on campus, and pursue their passions for organ donation advocacy and education.
In a previous blog post, we told you about Mya Wells, the founding President of SODA at Chelsea High School, which became the first SODA chapter in the state of Alabama in Spring 2021. Mya first learned about the importance of organ donation registration from her Healthcare Academy classes. Today, we’re introducing you to her Healthcare Academy Instructor and the Chapter Advisor of SODA at Chelsea High School, Andrea Maddox, BSN, RN! Check out our Q&A with Andrea below.
Read our blog post about Mya Wells and SODA at Chelsea High School here.
Tell us about yourself!
I currently serve as the Healthcare Academy Instructor at Chelsea High School where I teach entry-level healthcare skills and credentials and facilitate career exploration with an emphasis on surgical services careers, such as Surgical Technology. I am a former operating room nurse at UAB Hospital with experience on the vascular, trauma/burns, and abdominal organ transplant teams, and I enjoy sharing my real-world healthcare industry experiences with my students and helping them connect their interests and passions to their future careers. I also have the privilege of advising our school's Student Organ Donation Advocates, HOSA-Future Health Professionals, and National Technical Honor Society chapters and serving as an advisor on Alabama HOSA's Executive Committee. I am married to my high school sweetheart, Jonathan, who is a Civil Engineer with an electric utility, and we are parents to our identical twin sons, Andrew & Nathan (9), and our daughter, Hannah (7). Jonathan and I are both proud graduates of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Go Blazers!
How did you first hear about SODA, and what inspired you to get involved as a chapter advisor at Chelsea High School?
My previous work on the abdominal organ transplant team gave me the unique opportunity to see firsthand how miraculous the organ donation and transplantation process is, beginning with the selfless and courageous act of donors and donor families saying “yes” to organ donation. From the first day of stepping foot into my classroom as a Health Science Career and Technical Education teacher, I started sharing this knowledge and these experiences with my students through my lessons, and I watched their fascination with the topic grow. Later on, when the opportunity came about for teachers to help start weekly student clubs during a structured lunch hour at our school called “Halftime,” I knew I wanted to facilitate something meaningful that encouraged service learning. One night shortly thereafter, I searched the internet to see if organ donation advocacy groups existed that high school students could participate in. That is when I discovered SODA! I learned everything I could about the organization, and then I came back to my classroom to share this newfound information with my students. From there, a group of students expressed interest in starting a SODA chapter. With my help, these students worked together to charter the Chelsea High School chapter of Student Organ Donation Advocates, which was the first SODA chapter in the state of Alabama! I have gladly served as our school's SODA Chapter Advisor ever since.
Why do you think that organ donation advocacy and education is so important?
Organ donation advocacy and education empowers individuals to play a vital role in helping to alleviate the critical shortage of viable organs available so that transplant waiting list times can be decreased for those desperately awaiting a second chance at life. Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions still exist surrounding organ, eye, and tissue donation, which greatly hinders these efforts. Therefore, it is crucial that individuals are equipped with the knowledge to not only make informed decisions for themselves but to properly educate others to make informed decisions as well. It is also incredibly important to educate registered organ, eye, and tissue donors about the importance of making their decision known to their loved ones so that their wish to donate may be honored through their family members' consent, should the situation arise.
Can you tell us what it’s like to be a SODA chapter advisor? What might your typical day as a chapter advisor look like?
Being a SODA chapter advisor is exciting! I help brainstorm and prepare organ donation topics to discuss at chapter meetings, which helps ensure chapter members acquire the knowledge and gain the confidence needed to engage, educate, and advocate among their peers. I also help chapter members plan and execute organ donation registration and education events, and I provide oversight and help troubleshoot any challenges that may arise. In addition, I serve as a liaison connecting SODA chapter members to school administrators as needed, and I facilitate relations between our chapter and our local Organ Procurement Organization partner, Legacy of Hope.
What has been your favorite part and/or the most rewarding part about being a chapter advisor? What is it like working with SODA chapter members?
Working with SODA chapter members is very fun and incredibly rewarding. Our chapter members are eager to learn, serve, and share their knowledge with their peers. I gain immense satisfaction from helping to equip our SODA chapter members with life-saving knowledge and advocacy skills that will help them make a tangible difference in the world during their educational years and throughout their lifetimes.
When thinking about SODA at Chelsea High School’s advocacy and education events thus far, does a personal favorite come to mind? Can you tell us about it?
One of my personal favorites that comes to mind was a totally organic, impromptu opportunity for education and advocacy that unexpectedly arose between our OPO partner, Legacy of Hope, and our SODA chapter members who were attending the Alabama HOSA-Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference this past February. During the vendor fair portion of the conference, our SODA chapter members were excited to learn that Legacy of Hope's Multicultural Educator, Dr. LaToya Bishop, was hosting an organ donation registration tabling event. When they dropped by Legacy of Hope's table to visit, SODA at Chelsea High School members naturally jumped in and joined Dr. Bishop in encouraging HOSA students at the vendor fair to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors. They also shared about our SODA chapter, and encouraged HOSA students to start a chapter of their own at their school. Because of this, our SODA chapter is now making plans to formally join Dr. Bishop and Legacy of Hope at Alabama HOSA's next State Leadership Conference vendor fair to advocate for organ, eye, and tissue donation registration and to help recruit new SODA chapters to our state!
Looking toward the chapter’s future and plans, what are you most excited about?
I look forward to our SODA chapter seeking new opportunities to engage the Chelsea community both within and beyond the walls of our school. I can't wait to see what's in store this school year as chapter members lead out with fresh, innovative ideas for reaching their peers and fellow citizens with the message to “Donate Life.”
Is there anything else that you’d like to add that perhaps we didn’t cover above?
One doesn't need to possess a healthcare degree or license to serve as a SODA chapter advisor. Any faculty or staff member who desires to see students grow as servant leaders, and possesses a love for learning and advocacy themselves, can serve in this role. SODA National and your local OPO partner will provide all the tools, training, and support you and your students need to effectively maintain a chapter and host successful events. Go for it, and great things will happen!
To find out if your campus has a SODA chapter, start a SODA chapter, or host a one-off event, visit sodanational.org/students.