Monday, March 5, 2012

School of Public Health Student Ambassadors Program, week three

Around the World and Back
by Ekpa Eyoma
Senior Community Health major

Ekpa Eyoma (left) with children in Mangalore, India.
The School of Public Health has offered me so much within the short few years that I have been part of this community. I have had the chance to plan, implement and assess a health intervention; gain a better understanding of health behaviors and the factors that drive them, and, most importantly, understand the significance health plays in our daily lives, communities, and world. If anyone would have said a few years ago that I would have the opportunity to study the public health system of South Asia, India I would have laughed out loud. How could a girl born and raised in West Africa, Nigeria, currently studying abroad in the United States possibly get to India? It is and was possible. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity this 2012 winter term to study abroad with the amazing Dr. Donna Howard. She has been instrumental in shaping my education and career choice thus far; she is the professor that introduced me to the public health field through her HLTH130 Introduction to Public and Community Health course. There were twelve other passionate University of Maryland students from various disciplines that partook in the adventure with me through the course East Meets West: Contrasting Public Health Priorities, Pragmatics and Polemics in the U.S. and India. As a current senior community health major it was an eye opening, life changing experience that I am so glad I was a part of before I bid adieu to the School of Public Health and the University of Maryland.
I was able to not only study, but to see the public health system at work in Mangalore, India. We visited primary health care centers, hospitals, immunization clinics, HIV antiretroviral therapy treatment centers, and maternal and child health care centers. We received lectures from the top public health officials in the field, and so much more. One of the most moving lectures I have ever heard was from Dr. Leonard Machado, an associate professor of public health at Manipal University and lead public health official of the Polio Eradication Initiative of India. He was personally involved with the successful polio eradication initiative. He brought a humanity as well as reality to his personal journey to eradicate a disease no one thought possible. He is a pure example of what happens when determination and passion meet against all odds. Alongside the educational part of the trip came the fun side. Riding elephants and camels, sleeping on hotel sized house boats, watching sunsets from breathtaking views, eating food fit for kings and queens, visiting Paradise Beach that overlooked the Arabian sea, and interacting with the people of India were among the fun times we had.
Participants in the Winter Term 2012 Study Abroad course

East Meets West: Contrasting Public Health Priorities, Pragmatics and Polemics in the U.S. and India at "End Point" in Mangalore, India.
I returned home with a new lease on life. The determination to succeed in whatever it is I do, to graduate knowing all the possibilities and hope that this wonderful field of public health offers, the re-birth of my passion for community and public health, the knowledge that the road ahead won’t be easy but well worth it in the end, to name a few.
The discovery of a third place to call home, direction in my career, thirst for travel, and much more could not have been possible without the School of Public Health and the amazing faculty and for that I will be eternally grateful.

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