For as long as he can remember, UTHSC student Louis “Nick” Saites has had a love for science, research and public service. Now, he is in a position that marries all three, and he’s being honored for pursuing those passions.
Involved in many service-oriented organizations, Saites was recently awarded the 2016 Harold Love Award for Community Service. The award, named for the late Tennessee Representative Harold Love, recognizes momentous public service by faculty, staff and students in higher education. Nominated by fellow student and president of the Graduate Student Executive Council (GSEC) Jason Workman, Saites received a $1,000 cash prize and recognition during an award ceremony April 21 at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission offices in Nashville.
A native of Lewisburg, Tennessee, he is working as a researcher in the College of Graduate Health Sciences. As a fourth-year student on the neuroscience track, Saites is studying how the sense of taste influences feeding behavior via signal processing throughout the brain’s reward system. He hopes to provide translational medicine in the field of psychiatry, helping people understand and overcome addictive behaviors. “In many ways, my current job and volunteering activities are laying the groundwork for me to pursue my true passion,” he said.
One of Saites’ community affiliations includes SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), an organization founded to help people overcome addictive behaviors. He is involved with the facilitation of several of these meetings in Memphis. He also presented on the advantages of including SMART Recovery to TN Lifeline, a state-funded initiative to increase support for group meetings and lower stigma associated with addiction.
Saites founded the Memphis Comprehensive Recovery Network, which supports the facilitators of recovery groups.
At UTHSC, Saites is active with the Graduate Student Executive Council and currently serves as the co-chair of community outreach for the Interprofessional Student Council.
“I have increased the availability of support to my community at many levels, including my fellow students,” said Saites. “SMART Recovery meetings were previously unavailable in Memphis, and the only other meetings in Tennessee occurred in Johnson City. Now, across the state, there are additional options for people to attend meetings to help them overcome addictive behaviors. A local treatment facility, La Paloma, takes advantage of this by sending their patients to the meetings I facilitate. The meetings focus more on teaching participants self-empowering tools, rather than relying on a higher power or new social networks, like 12-step meetings. By helping other facilitators start meetings and presenting on them, I help spread the option in Memphis and Tennessee. I also work to increase support options for the students of UTHSC, CGHS and the neuroscience track.”
Saites hopes that the importance of public service continues to be significant in the future. “My work with numerous student organizations, UTHSC administrators and community organizers enhances the student learning experience, which in turn, has far-reaching community effects,” Saites explained. “One example is that by restructuring GSEC and recruiting, the potential for this organization to improve the CGHS student experience has increased.”
He has witnessed how all types of community service can contribute to overall improvement. He cites, as an example, his leading a group of students running a hydration station for St. Jude Marathon, a major community event that raised more than $8.2 million for cancer research.
“I’ve seen some community impact, and I anticipate this will increase exponentially over time,” he said. “As students enter the next phase of their careers, I hope they will carry this attitude of philanthropy with them.”