a group of doctors in masks and white coats look at the camera

Title:Undergraduate study abroad provides new perspectives on health

Author: By Heather Wilpone-Welborn
Date Published: December 1, 2022

This spring, a small group of Georgetown University undergraduates had the rare opportunity to study Chagas disease, a potentially life-threatening illness endemic in Latin America.

Taking part in a required study abroad practicum for global health majors at the School of Health, the students conducted field research centered around Chiapas, Mexico.

“We visited different rural communities with a research team, including public health experts, doctors, and chemists,” says Daniela Morales (H’22). “We had never seen that level of poverty before.”

Morales examined how the risk factors for Chagas are changing as humans—along with triatomine insects that transmit the disease—migrate from rural to urban centers. She is now pursuing graduate work on infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The global health practicum is just one of the varied study abroad opportunities Georgetown offers undergraduates interested in health careers.

The Translational Health Science Internship, for example, provides a “bench to bedside” approach to the study of respiratory diseases in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“One day started with a lecture by a pulmonologist, followed by looking at affected lung tissue in the lab,” says Sofia Triplett (H’24), one of this summer’s interns. “Then we saw patients in the hospital who were experiencing what we just saw in the lab.”

“The internship is in good alignment with the mission of the School of Health, which has experiential learning at its core,” said Pablo Irusta, Ph.D., chair of the school’s human science department and director of the program.

people walk through a row of trees
Field research near Chiapas, Mexico / Photo: Daniela Morales

In the tradition of cura personalis, undergraduates also have the opportunity to experience the spiritual aspects of health care as part of Georgetown’s Lourdes Magis Immersion Program.

In late May 2022, 13 students from the School of Nursing traveled to Lourdes, France, to care for the thousands of pilgrims who travel annually to the site seeking a healing experience.

“I didn’t really know what I was going to take away from the 10 days, but I found that I was reminded of the reasons I was pursuing nursing in the first place,” says Kimberly Jolie (N’23). “Assisting someone through vulnerability and pain is the true gift of providing care.”

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