Jacklyn Johnson: Medics to Africa Experience Changes Her Career Path
Jacklyn Johnson had a special connection when she interned in Kenya in the summer of 2011 with "Medics to Africa." Her brother, Jeremiah, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, also participated in the program.
Jeremiah had learned from one of his professors that the program was also open to undergraduates, which led to Jacklyn applying for the internship and being accepted. She is a junior biology major from Litchfield, Minn.
Jacklyn’s four-week internship was spent at St. Joseph’s Mission Hospital in Migori, where she and other interns started each day by discussing special patient cases with the staff, then shadowed the physicians on their morning rounds in the wards and also handled some of the paperwork on patients leaving the hospital. “After rounds, we would branch off into several areas, including physical therapy, radiology, pharmacy, nursing stations, laboratory and surgery,” she explains. “I was trained in each area and allowed to assist.”
“Working in surgery required an enormous amount of responsibility because I assisted the surgeon. My jobs included applying pressure to wounds, handing the proper equipment to the surgeons and even assisting in births,” says Jacklyn. “In other areas, I filled prescriptions, gave shots, worked in the surgery room, conducted HIV tests and put casts on legs.”
Jacklyn’s experience had an unanticipated impact on her career plans. “When I went to Kenya I was considering a career in the medical field. However, as much as I loved working in the hospital, it wasn’t where I wanted to spend the rest of my career and I am now looking at becoming a university professor.”
While she has changed her career plans, Jacklyn says the internship did get her interested in medical research, specifically the growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, which is the focus of her BVU research for her biology major. She will also be conducting a BVU Honors Program research project to study the effects of antibiotics on human cells.
The experience also had a personal impact on her. “I saw poverty, disease and defined gender roles firsthand, but I also saw the courage and hope of a nation as well,” she says. “The hospital staff shared not only their knowledge of the medical field, but they also shared their culture, as did the patients. We were able to debate politics as well as share struggles and hopes. They made my time in Kenya absolutely amazing.”
About half the cost of Jacklyn’s trip was funded by the Wendy C. Waugaman Women and Leadership Development Award, which was established by the late Wendy Waugaman, a BVU trustee.
Jacklyn, a member of the BVU volleyball team, is active in campus organizations and is an academic assistant in the organic chemistry department. She also participated in a travel course to Belize and Guatemala during BVU’s January 2011 interim.