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BBH 390B: Global Health Minor Fieldwork
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Leah Bader

Paterno Fellow
Major: Anthropology
Minor: Global Health
Hometown: Easton

How did you learn about this opportunity?

The Global Health Minor is an extremely competitive minor at Penn State University Park that students are only able to apply to during their sophomore year. Every year the minor holds several information sessions in the fall to recruit and publicize the minor for the application process in the spring. Two years ago, I attended one of these information sessions after hearing about the minor from an upperclassman. After attending this session and meeting with the then director of the minor, Dr. Klippel, I decided to apply to the minor, which requires 6 weeks of international fieldwork - my abroad experience.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience took place in Mbour, Senegal. Located on the coast, my home for six weeks was directly on the beachfront making for relaxing afternoons and nights after work. The minor has a partnership with the local hospital that allows students to shadow the doctors and medical students on rotations there. Most days, I chose to work in the emergency department, shadowing one of the two doctors there. When we weren't in the hospital, we were out in communities conducting screening days. The aim of these screening days was to take people's vital signs, mainly blood pressure and blood glucose to reveal hypertension and diabetes in populations that do not have regular access to healthcare. Our group also conducted a hygiene project in the emergency department to speak with doctors and nurses in the hospital and brainstorm solutions to the lack of resources and sub-standard conditions.

How did this experience impact you academically?

While I have both studied public health and conducted research before, this experience combined all areas of academic interest into one.

While I have both studied public health and conducted research before, this experience combined all areas of academic interest into one. Not only was I able to observed the clinical side of healthcare and learn about the challenges healthcare professionals face when treating low-income populations, but I was also able to conduct a public health project with my group that lead to fruitful discussion and could lead to real solutions that would improve the sanitation in the hospital. Being present for the screening days was also informative, because even though I could not help with the clinical work (taking vitals), I was able to observe the organizational and logistical work it takes to implement a small intervention, like our makeshift pop-up clinic, in rural areas.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

After my upcoming graduation in December, I hope to attend graduate school. While I am particularly interested in working in the field of public health as have been for the past three years of my college career, this experience and the people I worked with during it helped me narrow down the degree programs and the schools I am going to apply to this fall. The guidance of my professors, Dr. BeLue and Dr. Naughton, helped me greatly. The perspective I gained during my time working in Mbour hospital also helped point me towards a more holistic, Liberal Arts minded degree in medical anthropology, rather than a straight public health degree.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would strongly recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. Liberal Arts students tend to get pigeon-holed and stereotyped into a few majors, but there are those us that are interested in working in the health field. There are other opportunities for health careers besides being a clinician and this is often lost on people. I would encourage any Liberal Arts students interested in healthcare administration, medicine, or the disparities in the health sector, especially in an international or global sense to apply to this major and experience this fieldwork.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

While the Paterno Fellows Program did not have a direct impact on this experience, the program did encourage me to reach out to different programs on campus in order to find the best one for me. My global health minor satisfies the extended minor requirement for Paterno Fellows and I must admit, that was one of the main draws to the minor initially. Now I am grateful I chose this minor for my requirement because of the amazing experience I was able to have.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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