March 18, 2022 – As a nontraditional student returning to the University of Texas at San Antonio to finish her degree, Kimberly Anderson ’19 had no idea she would graduate with a new major – and a way to fuse her passions together to create a meaningful difference in San Antonio.
Anderson decided to return to the classroom to focus on a major that would put her in line for a healthcare position. She took a public health course as an elective, and her course changed almost instantly.
“What I really liked about the College for Health, Community and Policy is that it helped me understand what change I can really affect outside of just putting ‘band-aids’ on things.” Anderson said. “How I can educate people on how important policy and community are to healthcare overall. Are we spending our money making our country well, or are we just feeding this sick-care system that we have?”
As the Director of Wellness for Endeavors, a national service organization headquartered in San Antonio, Anderson takes that distinction very seriously.
Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through comprehensive, effective, and innovative services that encourage growth, allowing people to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Endeavors offers an array of services and programs supporting children, families, Veterans and those struggling with mental illness, disabilities, disasters or emergencies.
Anderson primarily serves veterans in the recently opened Endeavors Veteran Wellness Center, which provides high-quality care to all veterans and their families regardless of discharge status.
For Anderson, her mission is personal. “I’m the spouse of a veteran, so I have this unique perspective,” she said. “I have a real passion for supporting the family system of veterans and how the socio-ecological model supports the reduction of veteran suicide.”
As a public health student, Anderson interned with the Stephen A. Cohen Military Family clinic at Endeavors– the first student with that major to intern in their mental health clinic. Prior to that, the clinic primarily employed social workers and social work interns.
When the organization’s Chief of Behavioral Health, Dr. Jill Palmer, discovered her passion and perspective for veteran care, she hired Anderson and put her to work on a “special project.”
“I had no idea at the time, but after I was hired I found out that they were building the Veteran Wellness Center, and wanted me on board to assist in building the program and the model,” Anderson said.
For the last two years, Anderson has been building the wellness model for Endeavors and implementing the program. The San Antonio building opened on Veterans Day in 2021, and Anderson now oversees the building and the wellness program – all from her internship as a public health student.
“It was a little bit of luck, and a lot of really hard work and passion,” Anderson reflected. “You have to be passionate – this work is too hard to not be passionate about the population you want to serve.”
As Director, Anderson continues to bring UTSA students in to intern and employ. “The partnership and that collaboration that we have is what has built the veteran wellness center to be so unique in its perspective in the model that we’re using,” she said. “Because we really are taking multiple approaches such as social work, public health, healthcare, and fitness. With the goal of bringing them together and creating this really interdisciplinary and multi-level approach to wellness.”
That multi-level approach to wellness is what the College for Health, Community and Policy is built on. With nine disciplines that all inform each other, the College aims to improve the heath and wellbeing of San Antonio and beyond. Anderson’s public health perspective in a mostly social-work field is a perfect example of how this approach works.
“I am very, very proud of building a diverse and multidisciplinary team that work so well together,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without really leaning into the all the people around me, my family, my fellow students, my mentors, and leadership, and not being afraid to ask for help.”