As a first-year undergraduate at the University of Florida, I felt lost and in disarray. During that time, I approached Dr. Alyssa Zucker about potentially adding a Women’s Studies minor to my Biology degree, but she encouraged me to pursue a double major instead. I could not be happier with this decision, as it has had a positive influence on my desired career path. Now in my sophomore year, I am confident in myself and eager to pursue my interests in women’s health.
This past summer I went to Mysore, India on a Global Health Research study abroad program where I spent a month immersed in learning focused on health disparities related to caste and gender, with a focus on cervical cancer in women. We listened to distinguished doctors and researchers who explained the cultural context of the community of women we were studying. We learned about the basic structure of various health care systems and how outside social determinants affected women’s ability to access health care. We set up a cervical cancer screening clinic, conducted medical history interviews, and observed screenings.
Prior to my experience in India, I had taken one Women’s Studies course: Transnational Feminism with Dr. Maddy Coy. I realized how advantageous taking that course was to laying the foundation of my understanding of feminism not only in the West, but around the world. Taking cultural contexts into account helped me understand the experiences of women in India, specifically related to cervical cancer. It is vital that, as a woman in the West, I do not assume that progress should look the same for women globally.
This study abroad experience linked my interest in Women’s Studies with my passion for medicine and health. In the future, I hope to become an OBGYN or pediatrician emphasizing women’s health. There are many stigmas and social constructs that inhibit women from accessing the level of health care that they need. Prevention was a large aspect of women’s health in India that was neglected due to the inability to leave their duties at home, transportation limitations, or disapproval by their husbands and social stigma. I learned about disparities in India, but I know the U.S. is not immune to these tendencies. There are communities and regions within the U.S. where I could have observed similar things to what I saw in India. In my future career as a health professional, I want to make myself and my expertise more accessible to the great women who make up this nation, and further empower them.
I am extremely grateful to this Center for growing my interests in the way that it has and for bringing diversity to my perspective. The courses I have taken, am currently in, and will take, are all influencing the way that I will carry out my ideas in my future and career. Read, watch, or view more about my incredible, life-shaping experience in Mysore, India through research critiques, a day-to-day blog, video interview, and photos on my website at www.thepowerinpurpose.wordpress.com