Christiana Fattorini ’15 finds a passion for public health with Projects Abroad
When New Jersey native Christiana Fattorini ’15 (pictured center) stepped onto the Gettysburg College campus for Get Acquainted Day in 2011, it was pouring rain. “The fact that there were around 100 college students, standing and cheering in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning blew me away. The excitement was contagious,” she said.
Entering college, she had always thought she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become a lawyer. However, Religious Studies Prof. Charles “Buz” Myers’ First Year Seminar, “Death and the Meaning of Life,” changed her focus.
As part of the seminar, the class visited Gettysburg Hospital. “We met a pediatrician who spoke to us about working with newborns during emergency situations. I was completely captivated by the physician’s passion and energy for helping others. From that moment on, I wanted to be a pediatrician,” said Fattorini, who is currently following a premedical path as a Health Sciences major.
Fattorini was interested in conducting the internship and capstone component of her Health Sciences major abroad. “I knew that I wanted to complete my capstone in another country and for the project to be service-based,” said Fattorini.
Fattorini applied and was accepted for a volunteer medical internship program through Projects Abroad, which allowed her to study in Arusha, Tanzania for six weeks during the summer. Projects Abroad places over 10,000 people every year in a variety of service and volunteer opportunities worldwide.
Fattorini was placed in a local hospital and worked in several different areas, including the pediatric and maternity wards. In the maternity ward, Fattorini shadowed doctors on rounds and assisted the midwife when a woman was in labor. On rounds, she gained hands-on experience giving shots, listening for fetal heartbeats, measuring the fundal height of a pregnant woman’s belly, pricking patients’ fingers for rapid HIV and Syphilis tests, and dispensing malaria medication.
She often held the babies shortly after birth while the midwife attended to the mothers.
“There is something so amazing and beautiful about seeing a baby taking its first few breaths,” Fattorini said.
Observing the doctors on rounds with their patients made an impression on her. “From all of these experiences, the takeaway for me was the importance of the doctor and patient interaction,” said Fattorini. “Since there was a severe language barrier, I could not really comfort patients with my words.” Fattorini learned her smile and a few of the words she knew in Swahili went a long way in easing the discomfort of patients.
One of her favorite experiences during her internship was the day she participated in a medical outreach program with other volunteers. The volunteers took a bus ride to an orphanage in Arusha and set up a mobile medical clinic.
“We gave out vitamins, medicine to fight tapeworms, and a topical cream for lice. That was the best day of my internship in Tanzania,” says Fattorini. “When I went to sleep that night, I felt that I had truly made a difference.”
As a volunteer for Projects Abroad, Fattorini became aware of the importance of education in public health. It was a turning point for her career path.
“I loved working in the hospital, but I found most patients returned for preventable health issues,” said Fattorini. “I realized there is a great need for education and resources in public health.”
Fattorini is now exploring programs to get her Masters in Public Health, but she hasn’t given up on the idea of becoming a pediatrician.
“I may still pursue a medical degree, but I’d like to spend time working on a global level first,” said Fattorini. “I want to work in underprivileged areas, whether that is in the United States or abroad.”
Her experience in Tanzania has continued to influence Fattorini into her senior year. Outside of her capstone, she’s chosen to take two courses in the spring on global health and social change that relate to her experiences abroad.
“I’m hoping that both classes will allow me to expand on my experience and apply what I have learned to the classroom,” said Fattorini.
Develop citizens able to contribute and lead in a global society.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Shawna Sherrell, senior assistant director of creative services, 717.337.6812
Posted: Mon, 15 Sep 2014
Next on your reading list
Share this story: