Kigen-A.jpgStudents Kigen Allan and Christine Aboseif are working to solve problems as complex and diverse as the physician shortage in Kenya and women's health disparities in Egypt.

There is a saying in the Kenyan village where Kigen Allan grew up: My brother’s pain is my pain.

While Allan now lives on the island of St. Maarten, where he attends American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), that sentiment has stayed with him. He is a recipient of the First Generation MD Scholarship, which recognizes that he is the first in his family to pursue medicine as a career. But Allan’s not only breaking new ground within his family—he intends to go back and make a positive change in his community, too.

“Once I get my MD, I plan to dedicate half my practice to medical services in Kenya,” says Allan.

Allan describes his hometown as a remote community in Bomet, Kenya, where he became intimately familiar with the region’s widespread healthcare inadequacies. The constant, heartbreaking backdrop of chronic childhood illnesses and preventable deaths that Allan witnessed inspired him to pursue nursing at the University of Nairobi. He credits community fundraising and government loans with providing him the financial assistance he needed to complete the program. Now, he wants to pay it forward.

“I want to help solve these problems in any way I can,” Allan says.

Allan’s focus on the betterment of his community has already made an impact. He spent holidays in high school making bricks for the construction of a nearby primary school and, upon graduation, committed a year and a half as a volunteer teacher for another local high school. Once he entered college, he used his school breaks to help vaccinate children and organize free medical camps for marginalized communities. But in Allan’s eyes, these contributions are just a drop in the bucket.

“As of now, there are still no doctors in the area where I grew up. There is only one other medical student in an area of about 50 square miles, which has a very high population density,” Allan says. “The nearest Tenwek mission hospital is served mainly by doctors from the U.S. and Europe, who have helped provide subsidized care to thousands of patients every year. I want to be a part of it.”

Championing Health Equity

ChristineAboseifWhiteCoat.jpgChristine Aboseif is another first-semester AUC student dedicated to making a difference in global health disparities. A graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Aboseif served as the chapter director of the UC Haiti Initiative, which leverages all 10 UC campuses to help rebuild Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January 2010. In addition, she’s traveled to countries ranging from Ecuador to Egypt seeking to contribute to health equity.

For these reasons and more, Aboseif was honored with the Community Outreach Award, a scholarship that recognizes students who have shown exceptional dedication to their communities or charities.

“My community service involvement has shaped the kind of doctor I hope to become—one that sees the human body past physiology, who tries to bridge gaps through education, and looks to identify the root of the problem instead of accepting inadequacies,” says Aboseif.

One culminating experience for Aboseif was her trip to Egypt to research the cause of female health discrepancies. As she traveled from clinic to clinic interviewing women, a grim reality emerged: Women’s health was taboo in the region. Sexual education was scarce, and routine checkups for women were nonexistent.

In light of this, Aboseif’s goal evolved into creating a platform for discussion, where women could feel comfortable to start the conversation and speak about their own health care experiences. While many of the women she interacted with were initially hesitant, over time they were gratified that someone cared to listen and were eager to share more.

Aboseif looks forward to continuing her community involvement, with a focus on global health, while at AUC.

“People matter,” says Aboseif. “Everyone deserves someone to care about them, a community to belong in, someone to go out of their way for them.”

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Kristin Baresich

Posted October 04, 2016 10:58 AM

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