University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix third-year student Michele O'Shea is about to take a big step in her quest to practice medicine overseas.
O'Shea has been selected for a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship in Public Health from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
"It came as quite a shock to me, especially since I was planning my fourth year," O'Shea said.
O'Shea plans to travel to Malawi for the 2013-14 school year, delaying her graduation for 12 months but also using the time as her internship toward earning a combined master's degree in medicine and public health.
"It's perfect because this is exactly what I want to do as a career," she said. "This will help me further get my foot in the door. I see this as an integral part of my training."
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed research projects or English teaching assistantships. During their grants, Fulbright recipients meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.
"I hope to come back with a better idea of exactly what I want to do with my life," O'Shea said. "I know that no matter what I do it is going to involve global health, and some sort of research component. I want to mentor students in the future. I think this will be a life-altering experience as I have found my trips abroad to be in the past."
The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home and in routine tasks. The interaction, particularly on a one-to-one basis, creates an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.
"It started in undergrad, I spent time in Peru and Costa Rica, volunteering for the Costa Rican health department, doing some research down there," O'Shea said. "I had gotten a scholarship to do some purposeful travel, and from there, I just got hooked."
O'Shea has already served out of the country, helping to organize a trip to the Dominican Republic in 2011 for a group of UA College of Medicine-Phoenix students during winter break.
"Every time I do a trip like that, I come back with a renewed motivation," she said.
As part of the Fulbright grant, O'Shea will be working in a clinical project being conducted by the University of North Carolina on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. O'Shea said her research specifically will revolve around perceptions of family planning methods and outcomes from uptake of different contraceptive metholds.
"We're trying to look at focusing that outreach, if we were to expand that educational component of family planning, who should we target, what kind of message should we deliver," O'Shea said. "And then apply what we learn."
But why Malawi?
"I do have an interest in obstetrics and gynecology," O'Shea said. "So I looked for projects that dealt with women's health, and that's how I stumbled on this project taking place in Malawi. I thought family planning is a very important issue to tackle."
The UA College of Medicine-Phoenix admitted its inaugural class of first-year medical students in August 2007. The college currently has 265 students training to be physicians. The UA College of Medicine-Phoenix inspires and trains individuals to become exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders who are life-long learners and inquisitive scholars and who will embrace professionalism, innovation and collaboration to optimize health and healthcare for all.