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Eaton ’22: Houston, TX Memorial Hermann Hospital

Sean Blackwell, MD (’89) with (l/r) Cesar Mares (’22), James Eaton (’19), Dr. Blackwell, Chris Wilson (’19), and Ben Grubbs (’20).

James Eaton ’22 — This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to shadow a variety of doctors in the high-risk OB/GYN department at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. During my time at Memorial Hermann I was able to join doctors on patient rounds, conduct research, and scrub into many surgeries. This experience not only educated me about medical specialties I was fairly unfamiliar with, but also provided me with firsthand experience working in emergency situations.

I think one of the most surprising things about my time at Memorial was how diverse our patients were.  The Texas medical center, which Memorial was apart of, is one of the largest medical centers in the world. Because of this, we took in many patients from a variety of countries, which allowed me to interact with people from cultural backgrounds I was not familiar with.  More importantly, I witnessed physicians and residents taking the time to understand the cultural backgrounds of their patients in an effort to provide the best care possible. This experience highlighted how the best physicians attempt to make a personnel connection with each of their patients.

One of the highlights of my time at Memorial Hermann was observing an in-utero endoscopic laser ablation, which is a fairly rare and complicated procedure that can correct twin-twin transfusion syndrome. It was fascinating watching a team of fetal surgeons simultaneously map and coagulate placental vessels in real time, especially because they were using extremely advanced technology to do so. This experience, along with the many other surgeries I observed, has drawn me closer to the procedure side of medicine. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to spend a summer at the Texas Medical Center, which would not have been possible without the help and generosity of Jill Rogers and Dr. Sean Blackwell.


Tanchevski ’20: Denver, CO with Dr. John Serak ’05

Neal Hayhurst (’21), Dr. Serak (’05), and Michael Tanchevski (’20)

Michael Tanchevski ’20 — I had the opportunity to spend two weeks of my summer shadowing a neurosurgeon in Denver, Colorado. Dr. John Serak, Wabash graduate of ’05, volunteered and opened up his home to allow myself and another Wabash student to observe him in the OR and his private clinic. It can be easy to speculate on how the life of a surgeon may look, but getting the opportunity to live it was the real deal. Having an extended externship of 2 weeks allowed us to see patients come into clinic to schedule a surgery, and on some occasions, we were able to observe their surgery and see them for post op checkups as well – giving us an all-encompassing physician-patient interaction.

What sticks out the most to me was the passion that Dr. Serak has for health care, but more specifically, the passion he has for the most efficient and effective health care. To provide some context, Dr. Serak is a neurosurgeon who predominately enjoys taking on spinal cases. With his operations, he uses a minimally invasive approach which leaves small incisions and keeps blood loss to a fraction of what traditional invasive surgeries would cause. Through learning this and observing how he interacts with his patients, you can see the model care taker that one should strive to become. His desire to be on the cutting edge of minimally invasive surgery speaks to the devotion he has to his field and the patients he takes care of.

It would be selfish of me not to share the most exciting surgery we had the privilege of observing. In my opinion, the most exciting surgery was the endoscopic discectomy – which is the removal of a herniated disc. This is a minimally invasive surgery, thanks to Dr. Serak’s approach, that only requires two small incisions and a microscope to complete, allowing us to watch the surgery on a monitor. What makes the surgery incredible is that the patient is awake for most of the operation and under local anesthesia, enabling them to leave the hospital a mere 2 hours later! To my surprise, as I reflect, it was in the shorter, hour long operation that I can draw the greatest take away from. Here, I gained the appreciation and understanding as to what it can look like to own your passion and use that passion as a means to serve others. It seems clear to me that Dr. Serak found the aspect within medicine that is most meaningful to him and has been able to craft it into something special that not only allows him to help others, but teach and inspire students like me. Thus, I gained the understanding to truly find and do what you’re passionate about as that will benefit the most people.


Hayhurst ’21: Colorado, Resilience Code

Neal Hayhurst (’21), Dr. Serak (’05),
and Michael Tanchevski (’20)

Neal Hayhurst ’21 — During my time in Denver, I saw a side of medicine that I had seen nowhere else, but not due to the rarity of the cases. The patients I saw came to Resilience Code with common problems but left with uncommon results because of the unique philosophy of the practice: use the cutting edge of medical technology and a holistic approach to give patients the best, most personalized care possible. The Resilience Code building contains the neurosurgery clinic, a physical therapy practice, an imaging clinic, a phlebotomy lab, and a micronutrient consultant which all work as one—everything a patient with a herniated disc, for example, may need to be treated effectively and recover fully.

This model naturally emanates from two basic principles that should be at the center of all healthcare: above all else, doing what is best for the patient and a vicarious understanding of the patient’s situation. Because patients often do not know what exactly they need, doctors are charged with the responsibility to integrate their medical knowledge with this vicarious understanding and empathy. Thus, a doctor should ask himself, how would I want my herniated disc treated? The product of such thought is the Resilience Code model where there is clear and efficient communication, seamless continuity of care, and the best medical technology. The interesting part of this model is the satisfaction of not only the patients, but also the doctors and other professionals. By making the patient experience easier and more intuitive, the healthcare professionals make their own jobs more enjoyable—partly because of the easier communication, but because they interact with mostly happier, less frustrated patients. Extra thought, effort, and selflessness is intrinsically rewarding, but may even come back around to make the job easier and more enjoyable.


Kiesel ’20 Indiana Rural Health Association Internship

Abraham Kiesel ’20 — As an intern for the Indiana Rural Health Association, my first major project this summer was to convert physical screening tools to online tools using RedCap, which is a little more advanced version of SurveyMonkey. The screening tools will be used by Perinatal Navigators of IRHA partnering organizations to collect data about women’s pregnancy history as part of the Healthy Start Initiative. I worked closely with a staff member and was able to teach her more efficient ways of creating screening tools in RedCap. Together, we accomplished about two weeks of work in less than five days.  I have also assisted my supervisor Dr. Amnah Anwar with various tasks, including finalizing two grant reports necessary to continue receiving funding for her projects.

One of her projects funded through grants is the Indiana Rural Opioid Consortium (InROC). At the annual IRHA conference, Dr. Anwar, a fellow intern, and I presented about InROC at our booth. We provided information to health professionals and students. A unique feature of our exhibit was a mock teenager’s bedroom; it contained 13 hidden fake drugs. We had a challenge in which participants searched the room to find as many drugs as they could in 45 seconds. Most participants found only a couple, and this alarmed them. It became a great conversation starter for them to learn more about substance abuse disorder.

In the future, I look forward to additional presentations regarding our mock teen bedroom that we will be bringing to a few hospitals. I am also eager to shadow administrators of Gibson General Hospital–my county’s hospital–to learn more about the administrative side of healthcare. I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative for this opportunity.


Piesyk ’22 Focuses On Improving Public Health Through Community Engagement

Patrick Piesyk ’22 (left) & Patrick Kelly ’21 (right)

Patrick Piesyk ’22 — First off, I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative, Dr. Milligan, and Jill Rogers for providing this wonderful opportunity. This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern for the St. Joseph County Health Department in South Bend, Indiana. For the duration of my internship at the health department, I was also able to participate in a summer program at the Indiana University South Bend School of Medicine. This summer program focused on community health and the social determinants of health. Dr. Mark Fox, the Deputy Health Officer at the health department and Dean of the IUSB School of Medicine, organized and taught the program alongside Dr. Joe Kotva, who is a professor at the IUSB School of Medicine.

In addition to the program, I was able to gain clinical experience by volunteering at the Saint Joseph Health System Family Medicine Center. During my internship at the health department, I have experienced a variety of different things. For my major project, I researched ways to combat obesity while accounting for the social determinants of health such as education, income, food access, transportation, neighborhood, and healthcare. After researching and gaining knowledge from the community health summer program, I wrote a paper that included the obesity statistics for St. Joseph County and the nation, what St. Joseph County is currently doing to reduce obesity, and ways to improve these current strategies. Also, I included ways that other states and organizations across the country have had success in combatting obesity. Overall, I learned that government funding, policy changes such as an increased tax on sugary beverages, and donations are successful ways to combat obesity while considering the social determinants of health.

Along with my research, the majority of my internship has included attending elementary school camps. For the elementary school camps, I would assist in developing daily lesson plans and teaching these lessons. Since I interned for the public health education sector of the health department, our education primarily focused on nutrition, physical activity, mental health, sun and water safety, etc. For a typical lesson of forty-five minutes, we would give a brief presentation that was followed with interactive activities that emphasized the importance of the daily lesson. The summer camps we attended were free, so it was truly a great experience offering health education to students of a lower socioeconomic class.

Additionally, I also participated in a community garden camp for a couple of weeks. At one of the local community gardens, they offer a free children’s camp where they teach the students how to garden fruits and vegetables. At this camp, we would prepare a healthy snack such as watermelon slices, banana wraps, vegetable wraps, and would teach the children about the nutritional value and health benefits from eating these snacks. Every Wednesday afternoon, I attended a community health program, where I learned about the social determinants of health. On July 10th, we traveled to Chicago to see their efforts at improving the public health of the community. On the south side of town, we visited an urban garden which ultimately increased access to healthier food in an urban setting. Overall, throughout this program, I learned that poverty and the social determinants of health are all interconnected to an individual’s health. I also learned that someone’s environment can play a more impactful role in their health than their genetics.

Each Friday during my internship, I volunteered at the Family Medicine Center attached to the St. Joseph Hospital. My responsibilities included sanitizing exam rooms, stocking exam rooms with materials, and even rooming patients to take their vitals. I went through a one-day training for taking vitals such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. Additionally, I shadowed nurses and doctors while volunteering at the clinic. I am especially grateful for this clinical experience due to my goal of becoming a physician’s assistance or pediatrician. Again, I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative, Dr. Milligan, and Jill Rogers for providing this internship opportunity this summer!


Martin ’21 Translates For Patients At The Montgomery County Free Clinic

Cameron Martin ’21 — I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative for giving me the opportunity to work at the Montgomery County Free Clinic. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work as a translator and scribe for the clinic. The Montgomery County Free Clinic helps people who are unable to obtain health insurance and provides free dental and healthcare to these people. A large portion of the population who come into the clinic speak little to no English. Therefore, they require someone who is able to communicate with them in Spanish. Translating for the patients allowed me to be right in the middle of the healthcare experience, where I worked directly alongside doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners. Having translators or other people who are able to speak Spanish at the clinic helps both medical providers and patients. While working as a translator, I have greatly increased the fluidity and ease in which I am able to have conversations in Spanish. I have had to learn many medical terms and phrases on the job because I have never heard many of these words. Medical Spanish is very different from conversational Spanish and being thrown into the middle of it has made me learn it much faster than I would have any other way. Each day I work at the free clinic, I learn a new word or a new phrase that I did not know the day before. My favorite part about translating is being able to talk to the patients in another language and hear their stories and listen to where they came from. They are always grateful to have someone who will speak to them in Spanish, and they are always helpful when I do not know a word or when something is unclear. I also help do some scribing at the clinic. As a scribe, I worked with the doctor in recording everything that was done during each appointment. This helped the doctors with their charting and allowed them to fully focus on giving care to the patient while I recorded everything. Scribing has taught me to think on my feet and strengthened my listening skills. Things happen fast during an appointment, and I was responsible for making sure it all was written down, and nothing was missed. Overall, my experience at the Montgomery County Free Clinic has been unforgettable. Being able to work alongside health care professionals and help people who would not be able to receive care if the clinic was not there has changed my perspective and outlook on life.


Borland ’22 Behind The Scenes At The Montgomery County Health Department

William Borland ’22 (left), Spandan Joshi ’22 (center), & Alex Rotaru ’22 (right)

William Borland ’22 — My name is William Borland, and for the past eight weeks, I have been an intern at the Montgomery County Health Department. My responsibilities in the office have included the continued development of the Drug-Free Montgomery County (DFMC) website, as well as designated driver and “brew”-master for the vector control unit known as the SWAT (Surveillance of Water and Airborne Transmitters) team. With these roles, I was able to contribute to the pursuit of general health and welfare for the populace of Montgomery County.

One of the responsibilities as an intern at the MCHD is the SWAT team. As interns, our job was to regularly set traps that attracted insects with a special mixture of alfalfa and water that, to the bane of man and beast alike, reeks something awful. Caught mosquitos were labeled to the best of our ability and sent to the Indiana State Department of Health to be tested for various pathogens such as West Nile Virus, Malaria, and Chikungunya. The responsibilities of the SWAT team are an example of how the health department is on the front lines of prevention; the goal is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases rather than mosquito eradication.

My chief role, the development of the DFMC website, has a very similar purpose: prevention. Substance abuse is a topic that is readily discussed and researched, but resources are spread out over the expanses of the internet and tucked away in corners not regularly accessed by the community. My job was primarily to find resources for prevention/education, treatment, and recovery to compile onto an easy to navigate and centralized website. This way, all the services from Montgomery County, the state of Indiana, and the nation, can be easily accessible and easily distributed. The hope that Samantha (the intern coordinator) and I share is that the site will be a tool for emergency responders, law enforcement, and citizens alike to use to combat the ever-growing epidemic that is substance abuse.

My experiences at the MCHD have given me a much broader understanding of public health, and a deeper respect for it. I think a good analogy for the role of public health is to describe the health department as the offense, and any sort of practiced medicine as the defense. When thinking about community welfare and health, we tend to think about the short-term solutions, like getting treated for an infection or dehydration. What we don’t see are the underlying causes of these problems. We don’t see or think about the malfunctioning septic systems or lack of running water. We don’t see these same people working two to three jobs just to stay afloat, and not having the time or the strength to take care of home responsibilities. All of these things are just a portion of what is on the docket for the health department every day. The health department is the offense that provides resources, pushes inspections to identify disparities in living conditions, advocates for correct construction and facilities development and upkeep, and for the monitoring and eradication of hotspots that could lead to communicable diseases from mosquitos. All of these things are done under the radar to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Montgomery county. As we like to say, a good offense is the best defense, and the health department is the offense that works for the community.

Thank you to the Wabash Global Health Initiative for providing the funds and opportunity for me to experience the workings of a prime example of public health at work. I know the goings-on of this summer will contribute heavily as I look to find what my life will lead and am grateful for the lessons and conversations had along the way.


Kelly ’21 St. Joseph County Department of Health Intern

Patrick Kelly ’21 — My internship at the St. Joseph Department of Health has truly been a fantastic experience. I have been able to tackle my own project while also experiencing and observing the many facets of the health department. I would like to give a special thank you to the Global Health Initiative, Jill Rogers, Dr. Eric Wetzel, and Dr. Sam Milligan, for the opportunity to participate in this awesome internship experience.

Communication and Provider List

Patrick Kelly ’21

At the health department, I have been creating a list of local primary care physicians in St. Joseph County. With this list containing physicians, clinics, and contact info, we are hoping to improve communication throughout the local public health infrastructure in St. Joseph County. I have also been researching best-practiced communication methods for different providers and different health departments. Later this year, we are hoping to develop a monthly newsletter from the St. Joseph County Department of Health with updates about health in the county.

School Camps

I have also been able to visit lower end elementary schools with the health department team and give healthy living lessons. Educating young people about healthy living is super important when thinking about the longevity of the community and public health because there is a huge correlation between education and health outcomes in a community.

Community Health Program

I’ve also had a great opportunity to participate in a community health program led by Dr. Mark Fox and Dr. Joe Kotva where we are focusing on the social determinants of health. I participated in a “neighborhood survey” in South Bend of about eight different neighborhoods, and we presented to the class to see the difference in each. We were looking at things like access to education, employment, transportation, food, healthcare, decay, parks, common spaces, and community protection. It was very interesting to see how these factors affected health outcomes. We also noticed big differences amongst the neighborhoods and the disparities in health equity. It was truly fascinating to see how it correlated with life expectancy. We looked at a map of life expectancy and saw a difference of 13 years, but only 3 miles apart, which is super interesting to think about.

I’ve learned that a community plays a huge role in improving public health. It is not just the health department or the doctors, but the community as a whole needs to team up to make an impact. We have also split into different groups to come up with a community need to improve public health, and have the opportunity to present this information to other community members.


Gray ’20 Works With IRHA To Bring Healthcare To Rural Communities In Indiana

Nathan Gray ’20 (right)

Nathan Gray ’20 — This summer, I have been able to continue my exposure to rural healthcare through my internship with the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA). As one might guess, the IRHA is focused on aiding the access and quality of healthcare available to rural communities in Indiana. During this internship, the IRHA staff have exposed me to a variety of their different initiatives and have brought me in on tasks and projects that developed specific skills I had identified an interest in cultivating.

Primarily, my work has been on their Crossroads: Partnership for Telehealth grant which is done in conjunction with the Richard Lugar Center for Rural Health. This grant helps provide a telehealth platform that rural clinical sites can use to expand access to behavioral healthcare services to their rural communities. On this grant, I’ve helped with roll out and implementation of the equipment and program at partner sites as well as promotion of the program with potential partners. Additionally, Abraham Kiesel and I will be helping with Community Health Needs Assessments in a number of counties around the state later this summer. These assessments provide important information for provider systems and hospitals about the pressing healthcare needs of their communities. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some exposure to data analysis and grant writing.

My experiences with the IRHA this summer require me to employ an interdisciplinary set of skills and knowledge about health systems that I have gained through my time at Wabash and during other GHI-sponsored internships. In addition to honing and adding to my healthcare professional skillset, I expanded my professional network tremendously through my participation in the IRHA annual conference and partner meetings across the state. I would like to thank the Global Health internship for this opportunity.


Rotaru ’22 Data in Public Health and Beyond

William Borland ’22 (left), Spandan Joshi ’22 (center), & Alex Rotaru ’22 (right)

Alex Rotaru ’22 — When people hear the term “public health,” most think of vaccines, health inspections, and PSAs that tell you what to do to prevent catching X disease. However, my experience as an EHS Fellow at the Montgomery County Health Department revolved more around the behind-the-scenes side of public health: data. My responsibilities included vector control and inspections – data collection –, plotting public health interventions and subsidized living units into a Geographic Information System (GIS, for short), and making sense of it – data entry and analysis –, and educating the population using the spoken and written word, through two articles, and three posters – acting based on the data.

Vector control involved trapping and identifying mosquitoes to keep the population safe from West Nile Virus. Because we trapped daily, we had a lot of room to experiment and came up with hypotheses and research questions regarding where we would catch the most mosquitoes. Naturally, some of them were unfruitful, yet I feel more confident about making such hypotheses and testing them out in general, now that I have the experience of reaching dead ends before a breakthrough, which will help me in my career as a Chemist.

With GIS, I was tasked with plotting and cross-referencing subsidized homes through the HUD program with public health interventions, in order to identify any sort of vulnerable communities and correlations between different kinds of data. Through this project, I got a glimpse of just how much inter-agency effort is needed in order to maintain the health and safety of county residents. Communication is paramount when it comes to addressing issues in a community, and clearly defining roles and jurisdictions are key to effective collaboration.

On the education side, I wrote two articles – one addressing the community concerns and stigma around a sharps disposal program, and the other on how surveillance is the key to solving public health issues – and created three posters – one on proper sharps disposal, one on using a sharps clipper, and one on reducing the impact and breeding of mosquitoes in the home and community. Writing about public health was a challenge at first, as was creating a poster. It took a lot of patience, trial, and error, yet I feel more confident in those abilities, and I have become more realistic in my expectations regarding how difficult doing something familiar on an unfamiliar topic can be.

All in all, the biggest takeaway of this experience, besides working with data in public health, was that I have had the chance to explore all the different career paths related to public health, and further narrow down my future career path. I am thankful that the Global Health Initiative has offered me such an amazing opportunity, and I hope I will be able to use the skillset acquired through this internship during the school year and beyond.