YSPH’s Ashton Gores brings foot care, and shoes, to those living in poverty
When she was 20 years old, Ashton Gores lost both her father and brother within six months of each other to heart disease. The impact of this fueled her determination to help others even more, and she started applying to medical schools. But, she took a detour — through the Yale School of Public Health.
“I’m not so much academic driven as I am passionate,” says Gores. “That’s the cool thing about Yale, they embrace dreamers and passion. Yale empowers you and tells you that you can do what you want and to follow your aspirations.”
While she still has plans to go to medical school in the fall, Gores says enrolling in the M.P.H. program was the best decision of her life. The emphasis Yale faculty put on what it means to be a public health practitioner and the importance empathy plays in that will tremendously contribute to her becoming a better, more compassionate physician, she says.
Gores is a native of Oklahoma, and she says her move to New Haven led to her explore opportunities to help “answer the cries” from the community for Yale to give back. She became the special projects coordinator for the Neighborhood Health Project, a free hypertension and glucose screening clinic. Through her work at the clinic, she became painfully aware of the everyday needs — including shoes and socks — not being met for so many people in New Haven.
“You can’t wait for opportunities, if you want them you have to make them happen,” says Gores. Determined to help, she emailed Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten Vermund. “He told me about a Soles4Souls program he was involved with in Nashville. That gave me the idea for PAWS.” PAWS is Poverty Alleviation through Washing Soles, a program she started to provide foot care to those in need in the community.
Gores contacted Soles4Souls, along with other local groups, and Yale staff, students, and faculty. She was able to secure enough donations and volunteers to host an event last November.
“With 25 volunteers, we washed 90 people’s feet and gave away about 200 pairs of socks and shoes,” says Gores. She is currently holding a gofundme campaign, with the goal of raising $10,000 so she can officially register to be a non-profit.
Asked if she’d like to see PAWS become a nationwide program, she replied: “Never say never.”
Although her volunteer work keeps her busy, Gores also finds time to volunteer as an athletic mentor at Yale and to play her ukulele.