Preston Public Interest Fund Recipient
We all stood and watched, our faces lined with fear, tainted with curiosity, yet filled with hope, as a desperate mother fed her urine to her convulsing child. In that moment the stereotypes about underdeveloped African countries rang true, many people had to resort to indigenous practices because the healthcare was too expensive and inaccessible. Half a decade later, I stand in my elite liberal arts college working towards the American dream with full access to healthcare. But I still wonder what happens to those Africans who never get access to a better quality of life. It is my intention to use the resources that I am fortunate enough to have to give back, to make the hope of a full life a reality for many citizens.
I grew up in a village in southern Nigeria where mental health was the unspoken enemy that troubled many. We grew accustomed to mentally disabled and neurologically disadvantaged people roaming the streets, but we always blamed the devil or their flawed holiness. Though I value the importance of religion as a coping mechanism, these assumptions ultimately stemmed from the lack of access to healthcare and scarcity of mental health specialists. I aim to complete my education here at Bowdoin and to pursue a career as a pediatric neurosurgeon, with experience and skills in public health to serve underrepresented communities in America, and with enough foundational experience support the lagging mental health facilities in Nigeria.
A funded internship grant will allow me to spend my summer learning about medicine and public health while participating in Project HealthCare. Project HealthCare is a program in the emergency department of Bellevue Hospital, New York. I chose this particular program because it exposes undergraduate students to the emergency field by providing an uncommon and intimate interaction with patients. I would also experience health care in a public hospital in the heart of New York City. Many hospitals hesitate to have undergraduate students in the frontline of medicine because of legality issues, but PHC focuses on students being fully immersed without being enrolled as a medical student. Bellevue’s values are aligned with Bowdoin’s common good, aim towards inclusivity and access to healthcare for everyone regardless of their racial and political backgrounds.
Bellevue’s psychiatric center alone caters to 40% African Americans and as black woman also hoping to go into healthcare in urban cities, I value the necessity of representation in these communities. The biggest part of my tasks during Project HealthCare is being a patient advocate. Many minorities fear hospitals because of the lack of representation and because healthcare is another institutional system that fails to highlight the intersectionalities with racial identity and accessibility to healthcare. As a black woman I am aware of these disparities and this program in particular allows me to contribute and learn about how to serve minority populations as a physician or in my case as a patient advocate this summer in one of the most diverse yet segregated cities.
From exploring healthcare on the streets in Nigeria, to exploring accessible western hospitals and medicine, I have learned the value of community and minority identity in the roles of hospitals and physicians. I believe that Project HealthCare’s goals greatly complement mine and will be extremely beneficial in pursuing a career that will move me away from an onlooker in a crowd of bright and hopeful underserved communities to a helping hand.
- Date September 22, 2017
- Tags 2017, Healthcare, Preston, Sophomore, USA