As a lecturer at KU, I meet so many incredible young people who are working to make a difference in the LGBTQA community. This month I am excited to introduce my dear friend, University of Kansas School of Pharmacy student Bill Wilson. He is active in student government, fraternity life and tutoring and is also a volunteer at the Douglas County AIDS Project in Lawrence. Wilson aspires to make a difference in infectious diseases.
1. You are in the School of Pharmacy at KU. Have you always wanted to be a pharmacist, or was it a recent decision?
Since I was little, I have always had a fascination with medicine. I can remember tugging at my mother’s shirt, my head aching and nose running, as she spoke to a pharmacist friend on the phone. It was fascinating to me that the woman she was speaking to on the phone knew what these long words on the side of the DayQuil box meant. In high school, I thought that I would go into the medical field, despite my father’s desperate attempts to bring me into the business world. The fall of my senior year of high school, I started working at CVS pharmacy as a pharmacy technician, thinking to myself, “This will look great on a med school résumé!” Little did I know that I would fall in love with the pharmacy profession. That is the defining moment of when I knew I wanted to become a pharmacist.
2. Do you know what area you would like to specialize in?
The area that intrigues me the most is infectious disease. With only one semester of infectious disease lectures under my belt, I know that is where my passion lies. To be even more specific, I would like to focus my specialty on HIV/AIDS patients. The HIV virus itself interests me, along with the accompanying medications. Another reason I want to work directly with HIV/AIDS patients is because I am fearless in bringing the utmost respect and attention to these patients that they so rightfully deserve. After reading And the Band Played On, the magnitude of how much fear and stigma comes with HIV/AIDS overwhelmed me. This drove my passion on to devote my career in taking care of these patients.
3. How did you come to volunteer for Douglas County AIDS Project (DCAP) in Lawrence?
Growing up, I attended Catholic schooling for 12 years. One of the requirements of attending my school was to have a certain amount of community service hours every semester. When I began attending KU, that requirement dissolved, and I no longer “needed” to do the community service. After a year or two at KU, I had a sense that I was missing something in my life … volunteering. I heard about DCAP and I knew that it had a major contribution to the HIV/AIDS community that I so badly wanted to serve. I visited the DCAP office to have a free HIV test done, and afterward I asked the prevention coordinator if they ever needed any volunteers. A giant smile appeared on her face, and she handed me the volunteer form. I was officially a DCAP volunteer.
4. What has been your most valuable experience to date at DCAP?
The great thing about DCAP is that every day is different. Some days I go into the office and label condoms for two hours, or I might table on campus to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. All in all, it has been an amazing experience in itself. Every day that I go into the office or participate in a DCAP event, I feel a sense of value in the work that I am doing. I cannot pinpoint one day or event that has been better than the other, which is why I love volunteering at DCAP.
5. You are an openly gay member of a traditional fraternity at KU. What has that experience been like for you?
Day one. Day one is when I came out to my fraternity. No one seemed to have a problem with me being gay. Actually, if one of the fraternity members had a problem with it, he was the odd man out. Of course, it took some time for a few members to warm up to me, but I expected that. In the end, I could not have asked for a better group of guys to support and accept who I am.
6. Do you think that you have changed your fraternity brothers’ perception of gay men?
I know for a fact that I have impacted the lives and perceptions of my brothers. Several times, I have had one of my brothers come up to me and say, verbatim, “Bill, you have shattered the stereotype. Thank you for being you.” It is unbelievably heartwarming to hear such words come from the very same people I thought would reject me on day one.
7. As a 21-year old gay man, do you consider yourself an activist? Explain.
It is hard for me to believe that I am an activist, because when I think of an activist I think of someone that is a publicly known figure, doing extraordinary things. However, I am reminded by my friends and family that being myself and not being afraid to be myself is a form of activism. It is no secret that it is difficult coming out and being proud of who you are. Over the past few years, I have developed a sense of confidence with being a gay man, and now I look for events to participate in so that I can become more of an activist.
8. What advice do you have for other gay men your age?
Get involved! I cannot say it enough! Get involved! There are so many clubs and organizations that need volunteers, and what a great networking opportunity volunteering is. You never know whom you are going to meet or what you are going to experience when you volunteer, and that is the beauty of it. I do not regret one moment of my past experiences with volunteering, because I have met so many fun and interesting people, as well as gained experience matched by no other in my life.
9. You are incredibly active in student and professional life. What do you like to do for fun (Keep it clean, Bill!)?
Although I truly love school and every aspect of it, I do venture out to have some fun every now and then. My friends and family are my life. There have been many times when my friends or family and I would go out for dinner, and we would be there for hours chatting about this or that. When I have time to myself, I really enjoy running or any other type of exercise. I have also started watching documentaries, which I think is becoming my new hobby. I love any opportunity to explore and learn.
10. If you could be any ice cream, what would you be and why?
To start, I would like to be a flavor of fro-yo instead because I am a health nut. The flavor of choice would be coffee because I am a highly energetic individual!

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