Collin Amelsberg ’19 always assumed he’d go into the family business—medicine. Both of his parents were doctors in Germany, and work in medical fields in the United States. His sister started Taft’s Pre-med Club. A stint at Georgetown University’s Summer Medical Institute in 2017 sealed the deal for Collin; he dug even deeper into his medical exploration this summer, spending a full month in Belize working directly with the residents of San Pedro Town.
With support from a Meg Page '74 Fellowship grant, Collin traveled to Belize with Projects Abroad, a volunteer agency based in the UK with offices and service projects in 50 countries around the world. Their public health initiative in Belize offers high school students practical experience through a variety of community outreach initiatives.
“Three days each week we set up a mobile clinic, usually in one of the more impoverished areas of the city, but also in the center of the San Pedro Town,” says Collin. “We recorded patient information and medical histories, and conducted free blood pressure and blood sugar tests. Many of the people we served had never had their blood pressure taken. Others came weekly for monitoring because they have hypertension or diabetes, or because it was important to them to stay on top of their health.”
Collin worked alongside a small group of high school students throughout his month in Belize, all of whom were guided by two Projects Abroad staffers, a public health professional, and a medical student from Taiwan. The team taught them how to conduct the medical assessments, and how to effectively interpret the test results.
“When we weren’t in the community working at the mobile clinic, we were in the office entering the information we developed for the patient charts into a database,” Collin explains. “We learned to read the information and understand and interpret what that meant for the larger community.”
They also partnered with the Red Cross in conducting door-to-door surveys to gather and share information about mosquito borne diseases and non-communicable diseases.
“Every interaction I had with the members of the community was particularly meaningful to me,” says Collin. “As we went door to door, or as I took their medical history and personal information at the mobile clinic, people would tell stories. I was constantly reminded about perspective—thinking about how others see things, about what they know and what their lives have taught them. So many people I encountered didn’t know what diabetes or hypertension was—what the symptoms are or how that could impact their health. Remembering that the playing fields aren’t always even is important in almost any context, but can be particularly important in medicine.”
To learn more about Projects Abroad, visit projects-abroad.co.uk
Collin’s travel was funded in part by a Meg Page ’74 Fellowship grant.
To honor her commitment to compassionate health care, this fellowship is awarded annually to students who wish to explore an experience or course of study devoted to the provision of better health care in areas such as public health, family planning, medical research, mental health, and non-Western practices of healing.