Tuesday, July 17

Ghana: McNair Scholar Across the Pond

Hello Fellow Scholars!

I wanted to take a break today from writing on my own blog, and give you all a little sharing of my experiences and how they seem to be relating to what I want to do with my life after CMU.

This is Kojo - Which means born on Monday
So, to give some background I'll start with why I signed up for a trip to Ghana in the first place. As a student, I study biomedical science, which is pretty much as bench laboratory science as you can get. I have spent many hours (including my McNair summer research) working in a lab with fruit flies and test tubes, and lots of small calculations and figuring. That research was fine and dandy, but I guess deep down I really wanted to do something more with people. I have spent a long time focusing on Global Health in my spare time, which has really consumed my interested and steered my individual research from my bench-science focus to really a broader healthcare-focused work. I've been searching for months on where I want to put myself as a scholar in the future. Its simply been a toss up between medicine and graduate school, and through McNair I was guided toward combining the two. My MCAT got the best of me, and took that off the table, at least as an immediate applicant, so it was time to turn a cheek. That time came just as I was leaving for this trip.

These children were just on the street, and they loved us.
This trip focuses on International Nutrition. Nutrition is not even close to my major, but is pivotal when discussing global health, and therefore lies within my interests. I met the professor for this trip, Dr. Francis Tayie, and we spoke about my interests. He was excited that I was willing to go on the trip, even if it did not count toward my major. He was pumped about my enthusiasm. Anyway, at first it was not necessarily going to happen since there were financial difficulties and a lot to plan beforehand, but my Will provided and here I am.

This little boy's name is John! 
This trip for me has been an experience of a lifetime.  I have gained so much knowledge in Ghanaian culture it is ridiculous. I have also gained an important insight into the public health situations here, and it really makes you think about developing nations around the world, and how their healthcare systems are so different from our own.

I recently published a post on my own blog about the comparison between Ghanaian hospital care and US hospital care, so I will not restate it all, but I will give some highlights:

The statue is Cecily Williams, she pretty much invented
nutrition medicine for undernourished children.
Ghanaian hospitals are set up on a cash and carry system, meaning that a patient must pay separately and that day for every aspect of their treatment, from medicines (even those used in wards for overnight stays) to labs (yes, even getting simple blood draws), even down to the cost of checkin, which by the way is 7 GHC (about $3.50 USD) at the hospital I was checked into for a mild case of malaria. Don't worry, I'm fine, malaria isn't really that bad, but it will be something I can look forward to sharing my experience with!

The Whole group and the teachers at Bright Lillies
preschool in Accra, Ghana
Anyway, the experience of looking at the conditions of the hospitals here, both the one I went to for my own health called Lapaz, and the one I went to for our class called Princess Marie Louise Children's Hospital, have opened my eyes to show me even more why a career in public health, focusing on global perspectives is one I should pursue. I am excited to continue my trip and then really reflect upon these experiences in choosing where and how to apply this fall.

I hope everyone is having a great summer, and I hope you all take advantage of the McNair program. Things can change rapidly before, during, and after, but overall, you have the world at your feet and amazing people to teach you how to walk. Enjoy it, and let's keep in touch! 

Living for now,
Justin Mendoza
McNair Scholars 2011

1 comment:

  1. Justin - you are FABULOUS! Love that you had this amazing experience this summer. I believe it is a real turning point for you. I look forward to our continuing sessions that will help tease this vision out!


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