Forest entered Vanderbilt University and the Ingram Scholarship Program eager to engage his passions for healthcare, refugees and youth development. Drawing on his high school leadership experiences with the YMCA, and social entrepreneurial experiences from Operation 5, and organization he founded under the YMCA’s umbrella to support impoverished children in the Republic of Georgia, Forest believed that improved healthcare and education could contribute significantly to breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. He began teaching science lessons at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and Edgehill Middle School through Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS) and soon joined Project: Bridges, a student organization that paired him with a Congolese Refugee family that had recently resettled in Nashville. The latter experience sparked an interest in Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE), one of Nashville’s largest refugee-resettlement organizations, where he would serve for three years. He became a Health Navigator Intern under the Nashville Refugee Health Initiative at the organization, where he created a health and wellness curriculum to help encourage refugees to lead healthy lifestyles. He also visited families each week to perform health screenings, educate members about relevant health topics such as hypertension and diabetes, and refer them to healthcare resources in their area.
During his junior year, Forest began transitioning his community engagement to better apply neuroscience and public health. After studying the medical and social implications of mental disorders, he became particularly interested in schizophrenia, a major psychiatric disorder that usually appears in early adulthood. He spent his summer project working at a psychiatric clinic at Ludwig Maximillians Universität in Munich, Germany, where he learned how they use exercise therapy to improve treatment compliance and patient outcomes among their schizophrenia patients. During his senior year, he plans to apply his training to help launch an exercise therapy program at The Park Center, a non-profit psychiatric resource center. He hopes that his small contribution to the Park Center’s work will help rebuild lives ravaged by schizophrenia, and increase the treatment options available to Nashville’s mentally ill residents.
On campus, Forest is the President of the African Student Union, and frequently sits on panels at student events where he helps to facilitate campus dialogues on social challenges, current events, culture and community engagement. He is also a research assistant at the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, where he studies the neurological basis of multisensory integration, which has significant implications for the treatment of neuro-developmental disorders such as dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder.