Feb. 11, 2015
Traveling the world is an awesome experience. However, getting ready to do so can be a challenge. Before I embarked on the Spartans Will.360 trip a few years ago, there was so much to do. I had to figure out how to put eight weeks of travel into carryon luggage. We had to figure out flights and lodging. I drove to Chicago at the last minute to pick up delayed visas from the Chinese Consulate. Computers needed to be updated and files created. Other projects had to be finished or handed off. Oh, and then there was the visit to the travel clinic at the health center where preparing for world travel was a pain – literally.
My poor arms were on the receiving end of polio, yellow fever, hepatitis A and B vaccines. Thank goodness my tetanus, MMR, pneumonia and influenza shots were already up to date or I might not have been able to move my arms for weeks. I was also given medication to prevent malaria, prescriptions for regular antibiotics and some heavy duty ones too. We talked about rabies and water-borne illnesses and all sorts of other things to look out for. Holy wow – there are a lot of ways to get sick around the world.
Luckily, I never even got as much as a cold during the entire trip. In fact, other than a dislocated shoulder and an odd reaction to a bug bite, our entire group remained healthy. I did, however, see plenty of illness and disease as we traveled to remote locations and each time I was incredibly grateful for the modern medicine I have access to. I saw kids suffering from preventable, treatable illnesses and it broke my heart.
Each year 2.5 million children die worldwide because they do not receive life-saving vaccinations at the appropriate time. Even if the vaccines are available, there often aren’t appropriate systems available to keep track of what kids need and when. Anil Jain, an MSU professor, is developing a fingerprint-based recognition method to track vaccination schedules for infants and toddlers, which will increase immunization coverage and save lives. He’s traveled to rural facilities in Benin, West Africa to test his system. Read more in the MSUToday story, “Scanning babies’ fingerprints could save lives.”
With so many people around the world desperate for vaccines for their children, it’s astounding to me that here in the United States we’re finding a reappearance of diseases like the measles because so many are choosing not to vaccinate. Vaccines are based on massive research and testing. Science proves that they save lives.
Kimberly Mitcham is an assistant professor and a practicing pediatrician who has been treating and vaccinating children for more than 20 years. She is extremely knowledgeable about the importance of vaccines and the problem with the anti-vaccination movement. It’s not an easy job with so many misconceptions swirling about. She’s even been accused of getting kickbacks from the vaccine industry. She says, “There’s no secret agenda behind vaccinating your children. We just want them safe and healthy.” Read her FACULTY VOICE: A Pediatrician’s View on Vaccines, to learn more about her work.
While I was at the travel clinic getting poked, I saw students doing the same. Most of them were getting ready to embark on a study abroad experience. MSU has a long history of being globally connected and is truly a leader in study abroad.
It’s crazy the amount of programs we offer. Students can study sustainable food systems in Australia, marketing in China, Mayan culture in Belize, arts education in Ghana, archaeology in Greece, ecology of African mammals in Kenya, biodiversity crisis in Madagascar, public health in Peru, Swahili in Tanzania, English literature in the United Kingdom and so much more. Check out the video in the STUDENT VIEW: Leave Your Comfort Zone, to learn more.
Studying abroad has a way of staying with you. Sarah Scott, a 2014 MSU graduate, participated in a study abroad experience in Uganda learning about conservation. A local environmentalist, Benson Bamatura, was a partner in the program. When he passed away suddenly, leaving behind a wife and children, Sarah was inspired to help honor his memory. She, along with other students and partners started a fundraiser to build a classroom addition to a local school. Read "A classroom for Benson" to learn about this incredible mission.
Get out there and leave your comfort zone. Travel the world and see new things. Take new adventures and meet new people. Experience new cultures and open your mind to different ideas. Value differences and work for common good. Be bold.
Photo of local children taken by me in Magomero, Malawi, Feb. 2013.