Student’s medical internships focus on career abroad

December 14, 2011

Although Devon Fogarty still hasn’t worked out all of the details, medical internships the past two summers in Moldova and Kenya have helped her set her sights on a career in medicine somewhere outside of the U.S.

The senior Biology major from Scranton, Pa., arranged both internships herself with the help of Professor of Biology Emerita Louise Paquin and Associate Professor of Biology Ralene Mitschler.

“I wanted to feel out if that’s really what I want to do,” Fogarty says, adding that being in operating rooms and at patient bedsides in Chisinau, Moldova, and Nakuru, Kenya, changed her perspective on health care in those countries, but only strengthened her desire to pursue an international career.

“They were so innovative in Moldova – they do so much with what they are supplied with,” she says, explaining that they used and re-used cloth bandages. “I went there thinking it would be so primitive and came back thinking I was a snob.”

Of course, she was astonished to see all the women in the hospital – doctors, nurses, technicians – wearing heels even while performing surgery. “They want to look their best – with make-up, hair, heels – for their husbands or other men they might meet,” she says.

Devon Fogarty, right, with another study abroad student enjoys a sky-blue summer day in a Moldovian poppy field during her medical internship there in 2010.

Fogarty is far from a newcomer to travel. She’s traveled to a dozen different countries but the internships marked her first ventures alone. Now, as she considers several post-graduation options such as grad school and Peace Corps before medical school, she isn’t worried about finding herself alone in another country.

“Medical school is going to take a long time,” she says. “I figure if I can provide help now through the Peace Corps or something similar, then I shouldn’t put it off.”

By the third week in the hospital in Kenya, Fogarty was stitching simple wounds. As in Moldova, she observed as many surgeries as possible – and discovered that her fascination with the science overshadows any potential problems she may have had with the blood-and-gore factor.

She did have difficulty making people in Kenya understand that she wasn’t the “wealthy, entitled white person” they perceived her to be, but also learned from a close friend she met there that “it’s nice to assist those in need but don’t assume everybody needs or wants help.”

Devon Fogarty, right, and her friend, nursing student Annette Kasera, take a break from biking in Kenya during her summer 2011 medical internship in Nakuru.

Re-entry is a bit difficult, she found.

“The week I came back I was overcome with guilt,” she says. “We have too many things.”

Still, as she finishes her McDaniel degree and works on her senior research project on a socio-economic comparison of health care in communities in Kenya, Fogarty can’t wait to again pack her bags for the next step in her journey.

“ I love Eastern Europe and that would be my ideal assignment,” she says.