Alan Ortiz ’17 Hands on Experience


alan ortiz 2           Working for Erik Ness ’94 has been a hands on learning experience. Since the day I started at Commodity Transportation Services in Phoenix, Arizona, I have learned an array of things. During these last three weeks, I have gained experience in dealing with insurance issues between firms, made a near infinite amount of phone calls to carriers across the nation, and successfully managed to stay employed.  This internship turned out to be nothing like I expected. Since day one I was handed significant responsibilities and I was trusted to assist the dispatchers in our office to ensure that loads, some worth up to $50,000, did not have difficulties. At first, this was an overwhelming task, because I had never done anything like this in my life. However, with the help of the staff at CTS, I was able to get the hang of the job fairly quickly.

The staff here at CTS has been extremely gracious and patient with me over these first few weeks. They are always willing to help and I learn new things from them every single day. They are a great team, and I feel privileged to be able to work at an office where everyone trusts each other and are always willing to help with anything. The office is always busy. We are constantly answering phone calls and trying to make sure that every order is perfect. On average, I make approximately one hundred calls each day split between speaking to brokers, truckers, insurance companies, and many different distribution centers serving Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs across the nation. I have also made many appointments so that truckers can both pick up and deliver their produce loads. This is often extremely challenging, because the people on the other side of the phone are sometimes unwilling to help, but we manage to get everything done.

alan ortizThe three weeks that I have worked here have shown me that I like the freight brokerage business and that I could see myself potentially pursuing a career as a broker. Everything is a possibility, but I feel that this is something that I can do for a few years after college. My plan is to eventually get an MBA, and I feel that everything I am learning in this internship would potentially help me to do so. I would like to thank everyone here at Commodity Transportation Services, as well the Small Business Internship Fund, for making this experience possible.

Looking Beyond Belize’s Beaches

Luke Wren ’14 – This week has been full of experiments. My research associate Sanjeev and I have conducted five separate experiments this past week and now only have a few mortality assessments this week. Although I won’t bore anyone with raw data…we have looked at how insecticide-treated bednets affect the triatomine bug (the vector for the parasite that causes Chagas disease) versus a non-treated bednet, and we have done the same with insecticide paint and IRS (indoor residual spraying). We had workers of the vector control department of the Ministry of Health (MOH) come and spray small pieces of wood and cement block, since these are commonly used housing materials that are usually sprayed with IRS here in Belize.
One of the most important things I have learned from my time in the lab at Wabash until now is reducing variables, or at least controlling the ones you can. For example,  setting up the IRS experiment having the MOH personnel mix the chemical, and spray it using their own sprayer and technique, reduces/controls for variables like operator application (vs. if I were to mix the chemical and spray it myself). Having simple things like this makes for higher quality data.
My stay here so far has involved much more than being bent over a lab bench. I have seen most of Orange Walk, been fishing, and cooked a variety of meals. It gets dark here very early and very quickly, so outside nighttime plans must be accompanied with headlamps and flashlights.
Although this is a fairly quick and concise update, I wanted to share my thoughts on Belizean towns — specifically Orange Walk. I think my favorite part of a small Central American town such as this is all the small shops, restaurants, and market places. I think as an American I have always cherished the convenience of a supermarket like Wal-Mart or Target, but I think we have turned grocery shopping into a timed event rather then a community engaging experience. This isn’t to say we have to have a kum ba ya moment every time we are picking up potatoes, but we should slow down and try to embrace a social gathering place such as a market. Shops here can vary from the size of a room to a two-story building with many aisles. Nearly all stores here have an openness about them — many of them without doors per se — that you can walk into.  I will miss the smallness of the streets here, but I hope I can keep a different mindset when I am shopping in the states.

Jawed ’17 Doing Research in Uganda

Bilal Jawed ’17 – This summer I will serve as a research assistant in Kampala, Uganda from mid-May to mid-August. I will assist in a clinical drug trial for treatment of Cryptococcal Meningitis in patients with HIV. I would like to extend a deep thank you to Dr. David Boulware and the entire team in Uganda for making this opportunity possible.
I sit here in the Indianapolis International Airport, gate A6, en route to Detroit. Everything seems so much larger in the moments before takeoff: the length of the trip (almost three months), the work to be done (HIV research), my suitcase (barely under the 50 lbs. limit), and even the trip. From Detroit I will fly overnight to Amsterdam, followed a quick stop in Rwanda, and finally after almost a 48 hours later, I hope to arrive in Entebbe. That doesn’t include layovers, baggage claims, customs, security, and jet lag. My absolute final destination will be Joseph, my transportation from Entebbe to Kampala where I will be living. Please be there Joseph, please.
Over the past few weeks, I have been hearing many of variations of the phrase “life changing”. Some examples include “find your calling”, “confirmation”, “changed man”, and my favorite, “come back with a moustache”. Personally, this has been the most daunting part of my experience thus far. Not the preparations, not the long journey ahead, not living in a foreign country for a summer, and not even the tsetse flies (thanks for the heads up Dr. Ingram); but the idea of being changed. As I board this flight to Detroit, I will certainly have great expectations but also cautious ones. I will try my best not to expect to be changed but instead I hope to keep an open and active mind, learn, and just hold on for the ride.

Beyond Belize’s Beaches: A Wally’s attempt to peer into the world of global health

Warm wishes from Belize!

My name is Luke Wren and I graduated from Wabash last May as part of the class of 2014. I am currently typing this on a sunny cement balcony in the northern part of Belize, in a small town called Orange Walk. When many people hear “Belize” they see visions of vast oceanside, images of colorful fish shimmering in the water, or a coconut tree shedding its hard-shelled goodness. However, Belize is much more then simply a great place to vacation or prime real estate for wealthy expats. Belize is a culturally unique place with numerous ethnic groups, and even more small villages full of Belizean culture.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.01.06 PMBelize, formally British Honduras, is the youngest country in the western Hemisphere. Although young, Belize has a very rich history and one that dates back for millennia. At one point millions of Mayans lived throughout much of Central America, including Belize.  Mayans form civilized city-states and were much more then simple hut-living indigenous people. They had routes of trade, fought wars, built temples, and created some of the most beautiful monuments (now ruins) in Belize.

Belize is full of wildlife, rivers, caves, mountains, beaches, and cayes. Although rich in biodiversity there are still over 300,000 humans that call Belize home. It is for these Belizeans, especially the impoverished ones among them, that I am here. I am currently in the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Global Health Program, which is a part of the Eck Institute for Global Health. After completing two semesters of classes, I now have the opportunity to complete my capstone project focused on global health.

What drew me into global health? Primarily it was Wabash’s own Dr. Eric Wetzel. Dr. Wetzel provided me the opportunity, along with many of my peers to travel to Peru in the summer of 2012 for two weeks. During this immersion trip we worked alongside doctors, medical students, and veterinary students and helped with conducting local community health clinics. This experience opened my eyes to what medicine the majority of those on Earth have. Most people do not have access to full care hospitals, sanitary environments in which to give birth, or even a “standard” clinical setting to give birth. Many births are done at home or at local health centers. This educational experience did what Dr. Wetzel says our education should do…it disturbed me.

Being disturbed in an educational setting is what takes knowledge and changes it into action. You can read a book about malaria or watch a documentary or series of YouTube videos, but without seeing how Malaria affects people with your own eyes it keeps the information in 2-dimensional space, and thus is very hard to fully understand. Being disturbed by something changes something within and that can be bad at times, but in this case it was positive.

Travelling to Peru, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, touching things that Peruvians touch, walking where Peruvians walk, took my education to a different level…and it made me sick to my stomach. I will never forget the feeling I had standing on the side of a hill in a slum of Lima, called Pamplona Alta. I look out and see tarps, filth, garbage, disease-ridden dogs…I smell burned trash, burned feces, but most importantly I see homes. People live here. People grow up here. People fall in love here. People grow old here. I have never felt so bad for having so much. All of my petty complaints of my life were dwarfed compared to the daily lives of these Peruvians. I knew I had to change what I wanted to do.

I have always wanted to become a doctor, at least since high school. I still plan on becoming a doctor, but my path to get there and what type of doctor I want to be has changed because of my trip to Peru. I pursued this Masters at Notre Dame not only for the education and experience, but for the opportunity to travel and learn more about resource poor-settings. My goal is to become a rural doctor, focusing on resource poor-settings.

I am in Belize to study Chagas disease, a parasite-caused disease that is transmitted by Triatomine bugs or “kissing bugs”. These bugs contain the parasite in their feces and can transmit the parasite to humans. When humans get infected with the parasite they can have acute symptoms, but not all show signs of acute symptoms and go straight into the chronic phase, which after a period of time (10+ years) a person can have fatal occurrences of heart disease, digestive issues, and damaged organs.

The two aims of my study are to:
1)   Look at the effectiveness of current control strategies like insecticide-treated bed nets, insecticide paints, and indoor residual spray (more insecticide) on the vector.
2)   Survey local heads-of-households in surrounding villages of San Ignacio, Belize. I hope to better understand how much local populations know about Chagas disease, the vector, signs and symptoms, and current control methods with the goal of providing the Belize Ministry of Health this information so they can streamline future directed educational campaigns.

I plan on updating my blog at least once a week, and hopefully with pictures. I will not just talk about research but my experiences, and my thoughts. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might find this interesting.

Here is a link for more information on Chagas Disease:

That’s all for now,