Kiara Smith

Hometown: Howe, Indiana
Major: Health Science Pre-Professional, Pre-Medicine

I am excited to use the Gilman Scholarship to facilitate my participation in a medical Spanish and public health program in Merida, Mexico. I was motivated to study medicine by childhood interactions with medical personnel. During these interactions, I observed doctors and nurses at work and came to admire them for their self-assuredness, extensive knowledge, and straightforward certainty. I admired their confidence in the face of illness, and I hoped to emulate them in the future.

As I learned more about science and medicine, I also became interested in healthcare disparities. I began to realize that the costs of necessary healthcare can be exorbitant, preventing many families from saving money for things like retirement and college fees. In my first year at Purdue, I learned about the global healthcare crisis and found that many communities worldwide do not have access to the resources to treat or even diagnose many serious illnesses. That year I joined the Purdue undergraduate chapter of Doctors Without Borders to learn more about their work and how to be involved with its mission of providing quality healthcare worldwide.

One of the reasons I am eager to study abroad in Mexico is to observe how healthcare is managed in a different country that has a combination of a public healthcare system with private clinics and physicians. Classes at Purdue focus almost exclusively on U.S. law, and thus the laws that regulate a private healthcare system. While studying abroad, I will be able to learn how a public system is created, managed, and adapted to a population’s needs. I look forward to visiting medical schools and clinics and observing how the public healthcare system affects the administration of care. When I return, I will use my experiences to inform my honors thesis detailing the differences in healthcare that I observed and determining how that affects the cultural perception of health in each country.

The most challenging aspect of this experience for me will be adjusting to a new culture. I know that studying in Mexico will require conscious adjustments on my part since the culture, size, and language of Merida are all different than that of rural Indiana. I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to learn how to observe and interact with a new culture without bias. This is important to me because of my ambition to volunteer interculturally with nonprofit organizations in the future. Having exposure to diverse experiences like this one will prepare me for the cultural differences in healthcare that I expect to face in the future.

Studying abroad has always seemed unattainable to me, like something that other people get to do but I will never have the resources to achieve. I know that studying abroad with the Gilman Scholarship will bring me new perspectives to the field of healthcare and will make me a better student and professional as a result, and I’m eagerly awaiting my experience in Merida this summer.

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