Haiti co-op inspires career path
A one-month co-op placement at a missionary medical clinic in Haiti reinforced Simon Fraser University’s motto “engaging the world,” says Danielle Jeong, a Langley resident who graduates this month with a B.Sc. (honours) in biomedical physiology.
The experience strengthened her desire to become an international medical missionary, a goal that has motivated her to maintain a straight A-plus grade-point-average of 4.33 during her upper-division courses.
Those perfect grades have earned her a Governor General’s Silver Medal and, she hopes, entrance to medical school or further graduate studies.
Jeong turned down scholarships from other universities to pursue her undergraduate degree at SFU because of the more intimate learning environment and greater interaction with faculty.
But it was the co-op education program, in which she completed three co-op work terms in SFU labs and then the term in Haiti, that overcame her shyness and changed her life.
During the SFU lab co-op terms, she received mentorship and guidance from graduate students and professors that, she says, led to her undergraduate success.
And the trip to Haiti, she says, “gave me the opportunity to challenge myself in ways I did not think were possible, to discover who I am, and most of all, to find a purpose for my studies.”
Last month she received an honourable mention in the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education’s 2013 Co-op Student of the Year competition for her co-op and academic achievements.
In Haiti, Jeong spent weekdays shadowing the clinic doctor and helping out with simple tasks such as preparing bandages. She spent weekends travelling with a mobile clinic to remote villages.
“Each day I watched doctors and nurses work tirelessly in life and death situations,” says the Walnut Grove secondary grad.
And while she was “inspired beyond words,” she was also emotionally drained at the end of each day to realize there was so little to be done for so many who were dying.
Throughout, she was overwhelmed by the Haitians’ grace in the face of extreme poverty, malnutrition, incurable disease and death.
“Their happiness did not seem to come from wealth,” says Jeong. “And happiness did not seem to be suppressed by poverty. Rather, it came from one's decision to be happy no matter what the circumstances are.
“The Haitians taught me to always be thankful, and although these were lessons that I already knew in my head, I learned them by heart on this trip.”
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.