Goodwill and good health

“I’ve always dreamed of being an international ambassador,” said senior Grace Wandell who, at the age of 7, visited the World Health Organization and the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, with her family.

Fourteen years later, her aspiration has come true. Wandell, the 2012-13 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship award-winner, will head to Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, this fall to earn her Masters Degree in Global Health. She will study health challenges worldwide through a variety of disciplines including, health economics, health policy, infectious disease and health demographics.

“We need a global view to come up with solutions to today’s health problems,” said Wandell, a biology major earning chemistry and philosophy minors. “The best health care solutions in the future will be economically sustainable for both individual communities and the world.”

It was Anita McCauley’s functional neuroanatomy class and its emphasis on case-based learning that Wandell says profoundly influenced her decision to pursue a career as a physician.

“Dr. McCauley taught us the complex anatomy of the brain almost entirely through hypothetical cases similar to those a physician would encounter in a clinic or hospital,” Wandell said. “By examining the chief complaints of patients, I evaluated which tests and exams were appropriate, and after I received test results, made a diagnosis. I learned through real-world applications.”

At the School of Medicine, Wandell honed her research skills studying adult-onset diabetes and helping determine how genes affect the life and health of insulin secreting cells.

Though a career in medicine has been her focus, an introductory course on philosophical ideas with Charles Lewis spurred another passion. With Lewis’s encouragement, Wandell decided to weave together medicine and philosophy.

“Science gives us the tools, but not the values that bring us to ask how we should act as human beings,” she said. “My philosophy classes have improved my critical thinking skills, challenged my beliefs, and helped me understand why we do things and how our decisions affect others.”

The summer between her junior and senior years, she joined a study abroad program in Costa Rica researching public health. “I gained a new understanding of why primary care is important, she said. “Even though Costa Ricans enjoy universal health care, treating rural residents there is a challenge because people can’t get to the clinics.”

“Grace has a strong scientific background based on academic, research and clinical experiences, which is complemented by her minor in philosophy,” said McCauley. “From this background, she has developed tremendous depth of thinking and reasoning. She is passionate about developing a global perspective on both the human condition and the challenges of providing basic health care, and she is authentically committed to the service of others.”

The Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships sponsor undergraduate and graduate students. While abroad, scholars serve as goodwill ambassadors to the country where they study and give presentations about their own culture to Rotary clubs and other groups in the host country. Back home, scholars share with Rotarians and others the experiences that deepened their understanding of another culture.

Categories: For Alumni, For Parents, International, Recognition, School of Medicine, Student, Top Stories, Wake Forest College