Defining its global views on helping populations at risk |
For Isabelle Loop ’21, strangers are just friends she has not yet met. And “strange” places are just places where she will meet them. So the biochemistry major from rural Spencer, New York, enrolled at Stony Brook University, a campus ten times the size of her hometown and more diverse.
The summer before high school, Loop pored over a book on bubonic plague, AIDS, and smallpox. The book inspired her to learn about infectious diseases, from the common cold to cholera, and also took into account her decision to pursue biochemistry.
“I knew Stony Brook had a good reputation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and I was interested in understanding the biological basis of the disease,” she recalls.
This set the stage for Loop to travel to Ileret, Kenya as part of the Turkana Basin Institute’s Study Abroad program in spring 2020.
“Our field school was made up of students from all over the world including UK, Finland, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya,” Loop said. “My hometown is rural, but Ileret is remote. I began to enjoy a way of life very different from my upbringing, and this experience fueled my desire to support health in developing communities while being aware of their cultural heritage.
Beatrice, the only nurse at the Iteret clinic, told Loop how she provided general medicine and maternity care to the indigenous Daasanach community. “She told us that the latest malaria epidemic has infected 5,000 people in the region,” Loop said. “She pointed at a small stack of medicine bottles and I felt a sinking sensation. She did not have the resources to treat a fraction of those 5,000 people.
Loop’s only regret about her study abroad experience in the Turkana Basin is that she didn’t take the time to learn to speak Swahili before arriving there. “Learning Swahili would have helped me get in touch with members of the wider Ileret community,” she said.
Ultimately, Loop said, “the biggest takeaway from studying abroad in the Turkana Basin is that I realized that I wanted to focus on the health of communities in developing areas in the Turkana Basin. world rather than public health in the US This influenced my decision to choose a graduate school outside of the US. “
Loop enrolled in a Master of Science in Global Health program at National Taiwan University (NTU) for the fall and began studying Mandarin this summer in preparation. “I took a beginner’s course at the Confucius Institute at SBU,” she said. “At NTU, I will continue with classes until I achieve fluency because I recognize the value of a shared language when connecting with a new community.”
After leaving Turkana, Loop became fascinated by a mosquito-borne disease in Asia caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). When Loop attends NTU in the fall, she will be mentored by Professor Dr. Yi-Chin Fan on a project that seeks to understand why a strain of JEV replaced another strain circulating in Taiwan.
“This project will help me gain an intimate understanding of the pathogen, while the courses including the Global Health program will equip me with the skills to model the impact of JEV and other diseases in communities. in the field of epidemiology, “she said, adding that she looks forward to advancing her mathematical understanding of epidemiology and participating in courses that apply these models to health care research. . “NTU excels at extending learning beyond the classroom. For example, a course examines the health of indigenous communities, followed by a visit to an indigenous Taiwanese village and hospital.
Whether it’s Ileret or Taipei City or some unknown destination, Loop’s desire is to connect with the people around it.
“Serving the communities affected by the disease is essential to effect change,” Loop said. “Global health workers need to be able to adapt to their environment and be aware of the diversity of socio-economic contexts. I take up the challenge of facing new environments and discovering different cultures in order to be a positive presence in global health.
– Glenn Jochum