Feb 07, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
When she was student-athlete at Skaneateles High School playing soccer, ice hockey and softball, Emily Devins, class of 2009, sustained her share of sports injuries. But these injuries — and more specifically the medical care and physical therapy she underwent as a result — actually influenced the course of her life.
The experience of going through medical treatment and physical therapy made her realize that what she wanted to do with her life was to help others as she was helped.
“I’ve known for a long time that I want to go into the medical field,” said Devins, who currently is a junior at Cornell University and majoring in biology, health and society. “And, coming from a place that’s privileged with easily available medical care, I’m very interested in helping in medically underserved areas.”
Devins currently is looking to attend a post-graduate physicians’ assistant program when she finishes her bachelor’s degree. Such post-graduate medical programs, however, typically require 1,000 hours of clinical experience merely to allow a person to apply.
This requirement, plus her desire to help people, plus her interest in travelling abroad, led Devins to apply last fall to the Child Family Health International organization’s “Healthcare Challenges Program,” which takes place in Cape Town, South Africa.
The four-week volunteer program gives pre-medical students the opportunity to rotate in a variety of community clinics associated with the Eerste River Hospital in the Cape Flats, where they will follow patients through their treatments and learn from the medical staff and public health associates at the hospital.
Child Family Health International is the leading nongovernmental organization placing health science students on global health education programs in ways that are socially responsible and financially just, according to its website.
“My biggest hope in doing this program is to gain an appreciation to live and serve in a medically underserved community, as well as gaining a new appreciation for a different culture,” Devins said. “I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa, and not only do I find the place interesting, but the program as well.”
The major medical issue facing South Africa currently, and the primary disease Devins is likely to face in Cape Town, is HIV/AIDS. According to the CFHI website, life expectancy in South Africa is approximately 49 years, and at the end of 2009, an estimated 5.6 billion South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS.
South Africa has roughly 393 nurses and 74 doctors per 100,000 people.
In order for Devins to be able to participate in the CFHI program this summer, however, she needs to pay her own expenses. The cost of the program is $2,700.
“Yes, if I cannot raise enough money, I will not be able to go,” Devins said.
Because of this self-pay requirement, CFHI encourages all of its volunteers to reach out to their families, friends and home communities to ask for donations to fund the experience.
Devins has created her own page on Firstgving.com where people can read about her program and her personal reasons for wanting to participate, and can give an online donation to her fundraising cause. She also recently “started the process” of reaching out to people she knows and educational or philanthropic organizations who might be willing to contribute.
“My parents of course are all for me going, and they will donate, but I will raise the money myself. I grew up knowing that if you want something you have to work hard for it,” Devins said.
Whether she is able to travel to South Africa and participate in the CFHI program or not, Devins’s ultimate goal after receiving her medical degree is to work in medically underserved areas. “And that’s not just in Africa, there are such places in New York state,” she said. “I love upstate, I loved growing up there, and I’ll probably want to come back and practice there.”
To learn more about the CFHI “Healthcare Challenges Program,” visit cfhi.org.
To learn about Emily Devins and contribute to her fundraising, visit her Firstgiving website at firstgiving.com/fundraiser/emilydevins/june22012.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.