Gender Studies and Pre-Health Arts and Letters
I first discovered the Gender Studies program at Notre Dame during the spring semester of my freshman year after my first year advisor suggested I take Introduction to Gender Studies. The interdisciplinarity and breadth of the program drew me in as I discovered a deep interest in women's health and social justice.
As a student pursuing a degree in Gender Studies in the Pre-Health Arts and Letters program, I love studying medicine and healthcare through a feminist lens. I also come from a family of strong women and a city with a prevalent LGBT community (Lakewood, Ohio), so becoming a Gender Studies major felt like, in a way, coming home.
Majoring in Gender Studies also allows me to engage in a variety of service opportunities. During the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I worked as an intern at the May Dugan Center in Cleveland, Ohio. May Dugan is a direct social service center on the near-west side of Cleveland. While at May Dugan, I worked in the food and produce distribution, health and wellness center, educational resources center, and counseling and community services department. Working at May Dugan was an experience of seeing constructions of gender, poverty, and intersectionality come to life. It was also a great opportunity to become more in-touch with a local community just ten minutes from my childhood home.
The Gender Studies program also inspired me and supported me in pursuing independent research. After spending a semester abroad in Puebla, Mexico and interning in local hospitals there, I knew that I wanted to research maternal health in Mexico for my senior thesis. Through the support of the Gender Studies Program and the Kellogg Institute, I returned to Mexico, this time to the state of Chiapas. This summer I spent ten weeks volunteering and completing fieldwork for my senior thesis in Gender Studies with the Salud Materna (Maternal Health) team at Compañeros en Salud (CES). CES is a sister organization of Partners in Health and works to bring healthcare to one of the most marginalized populations in Mexico through primary care, surgical referrals, community health worker programs, and other developing initiatives. The maternal health program at CES, while relatively new, strives to connect women in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas with respectful and safe birthing practices, pre natal care, and options for family planning. The maternal health team trains student doctors, or pasantes, in family planning methods, mentors midwifery pasantes in local maternal waiting homes, and recently started recruiting and training community health workers who specialize in maternal and infant health. My project, however, focused on the physical and social well-being of mothers and their access to healthcare services in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas.
Ultimately, I hope to pursue a career in medicine and believe that my experiences as a gender studies major will give me a unique perspective on patient care. I am so grateful for these experiences, what I have learned, and the support from the Gender Studies program, and I look forward to applying what I have learned here at Notre Dame to my future career as a physician.