Deepika Rajkumar has always had a passion for finding creative ways to improve medical technology and traveling abroad, and this summer, with the support of the Jean Danielson Scholarship Fund, she was able to participate in a program that tapped into those overlapping interests and talents.
Deepika volunteered in two hospitals in the Dominican Republic through a Summer Institute Program sponsored by Engineering World Health, an international non-profit. Deepika, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, had studied abroad in the United Kingdom during the previous semester and wanted to continue exploring her academic interests in an international setting, specifically “seeing all the differences in biomedical engineering in developing countries and how much medical technology could benefit them.”
The program provided her with new experiences and new perspectives. Deepika was in a cohort with eight other students who participated in the program. In the first month, they took classes together to improve their Spanish language skills and learn about medical instrumentation in the developing world. They also visited hospitals every week to practice repairing medical equipment with their professor. During the second month, Deepika volunteered every day in local hospitals, where she helped the staff repair and sort medical equipment. Deepika found this experience surprising and enlightening, as the hospital in Santiago had very different equipment and procedures than those she was used to. For example, when she asked why there was no hand sanitizer outside of patients’ rooms, she learned that “people were coming in with bottles and stealing all of the hand sanitizer, which is something you probably wouldn’t [deal with] in a hospital [in the United States].'' She realized the significant need of something we take for granted.
Through the experience, Deepika and her classmates were able to use their knowledge and skills to find solutions to some of the hospital’s unique challenges. When hospital staff showed them that the gauze restraints they were using on patients were uncomfortable and often left bruises, Deepika and her classmates used old antibacterial curtains to create new restraints that were softer and easier for patients to use.
Deepika's work in the Dominican Republic inspired her to continue her study of biomedical engineering and to pursue further opportunities abroad. She is now considering master’s degree programs that focus on global health technology in the developing world.
The Jean Danielson Scholarship Fund that supported Deepika in this field work program was named in honor of Professor Jean Danielson, who was an associate professor of political science and also directed the Honors Program for 14 years, spending countless hours counseling students and working on their behalf. Professor Danielson strove to challenge students to think and work in ways they had never considered and to live a life of purpose and intellectual vigor.
In 2019, in addition to Deepika, four other students were awarded the Jean Danielson Scholarship for summer field work: Bailey Casteel, Humzah Khan, Jimmy Rogers, and Nelle Kulick. Through their work, these students honor Professor Danielson’s legacy by exemplifying the values and essence of this award, and the Honors Program is proud to have supported them in their endeavors.