Science Meets Public Health
From Argentina to Africa, Gettysburg College biochemistry and molecular biology major David Neagley is applying his research to public health.
During a semester in Argentina, Neagley studied Chagas Disease, a parasitic scourge widespread in Latin America. The Spanish minor also volunteered to help deliver medical care in isolated rural areas. "It's one thing to study Chagas from articles and books, but it's different to learn about the people afflicted with the disease and learn their stories," said Neagley.
As a result of his Argentinean experience, he wrote a 25-page thesis in Spanish proposing a new model for eradicating the disease. "Gettysburg will help students shape their experience. It's possible to study abroad, volunteer, do research, and 'have it your way.'"
Neagley also led 15 fellow students to Gettysburg's sister-city, León, Nicaragua, where they visited midwife and health-care clinics and the local hospital, and spent a day picking beans in an isolated fair-trade organic coffee farm. He created a blog documenting the trip, which was sponsored by the College's Center for Public Service and Project Gettysburg-León.
Now, in collaboration with Gettysburg economics Prof. Eileen Stillwaggon, Neagley is planning to analyze the economic burden of a neglected tropical disease in Africa.
His interest in public affairs is not limited to health issues. He is one of five Eisenhower Fellows through the College's Eisenhower Institute for Public Policy. He is a student member and committee chair of the College's Diversity Commission and has been involved in Allies on campus.
His scientific work rests on solid lab experience, both in Gettysburg College's state-of-the-art Science Center, and during a summer internship in pediatric hematology and oncology at Penn State College of Medicine, where he studied calcium's role in red blood cell formation. Results from his work were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and he presented them as a seminar for the Gettysburg College chemistry department.
What's next? Two years teaching secondary biology in Maryland through Teach for America, then grad school in microbiology or molecular biology. "We have solutions to prevent a lot of the diseases that affect the poor and developing countries of the world," Neagley said. "I want to be one of the people continuing to bridge the gap between science and solutions."