The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Students travel to Zambia with Bush Institute

Four SMU students were selected to travel to Zambia with the
Bush Institute this past June. Junior Prithvi Rudrappa, Senior Katie Bernet, and Sophomores Melanie Enriquez and Tyrell Russell, helped renovate one of the
clinics that is a part of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon program. This is a flagship program
in the Global Health section of the Bush Institute that deals with cervical and
breast cancer.

Finance and biochemistry double major Rudrappa already had a summer internship lined up when he received an e-mail from Dr. Eric Bing stating that he had been recommended for the program.

After sending Dr. Bing his resume and having an interview, Rudrappa was told on June 1 that he would be leaving for Zambia three weeks later. Luckily, his internship allowed him to take a week off.

“I probably would have quit if they didn’t let me,” Rudrappa said. “I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity.”

Hannah Abney, director of media relations at the Bush Institute, described the purpose of this trip as two-fold.

“The first is to support the work of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon by renovating the cervical cancer screening area so that women are able to come to the clinic and get comprehensive health care that includes screening for cervical cancer,” Abney said. “The other purpose of the trip is to remind people that to who much is given much is required.”

In 2011, George and Laura Bush traveled to Zambia. They worked worked with the Zambian government to renovate a clinic that gave women access to breast and cervical cancer screenings.

According to Dr. Eric Bing, senior fellow and director of Global Health at the Bush Institute, this clinic saw 10 percent of all cervical cancer cases in the country. This number is 2.5 times the expected percentage of cases, if there had been an even distribution among the 25 clinics in Zambia.

After renovating the first clinic, George and Laura Bush knew they wanted to go back and do it again. This time, they decided to bring volunteers, including four SMU students.

The students, along with Dr. Bing, left on June 21. After 21 hours of traveling, they finally arrived at the clinic.

Rudrappa said his first thought when he saw the clinic was “we have a lot of work to do in five days.” Although the clinic was still functioning, Rudrappa was overwhelmed to see how animals were littering their waste outside the clinic.

“It was in pretty bad shape,” advertising major Bernet said.

According to Bernet, the previous crew had done the majority of the construction. It was up to them and the group of volunteers and Zambian construction workers to finish the job.

“We painted the whole exterior, the roof, and the interior,” Bernet said.

Working alongside the Zambian people was one experience that stuck out for Bernet.

“It was so cool since he was around our age and we got to hear all about his life,” Bernet said. “It gave us an idea of what our life would be like if we lived in Zambia.”

Russell, biology major, encountered a little boy when he and the rest of the group decided to walk through one of the villages to hand out clothes and supplies. The boy was standing away from the rest of the group crying. Russell walked over to him, asked him what was wrong and referred to him as “big man” – a name that Russell was called when he was younger. As the boy stopped crying, Russell said he had a realization.

“I am no different than this little boy who lives on the other side of the world,” Russell said. “By being aware of that oneness, it made both my experience in Africa and my perspective on global health a lot more meaningful and personal.”

For Dr. Bing, the interaction between the students and the Zambian community was one part of the trip he found rewarding.

“When [the students] worked with the Zambian people, not only did they get to understand them but the Zambians were also able to understand Americans,” Bing said. “The students, I think, were amazed to see how similar we are and even though their opportunities aren’t the same, their hopes and dreams and wishes for life are really no different for our own.”

Another opportunity the students were given was to visit Livingstone General Hospital. For Rudrappa, it was this visit that had the greatest impact on him. Dr. Bing arranged for the students to visit the cervical cancer ward and talk with the doctors, nurses and patients about their day-to-day lives.

“We were able to talk to the patients about their battles and how some had to convince their husbands it was okay to go to the clinic,” Rudrappa said. “Hearing the patients’ life stories really had an impact on me.”

Although there are not any upcoming trips to Africa planned, Abney recommends students interested in these types of issues to apply for internships at the Bush Institute within the Global Health program.

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