A team of dentists, orthodontists, and dental hygienists led by Dr. Lisa Alvetro from Sidney, Ohio, makes yearly trips to Tanzania and runs a clinic out of an orphanage near Tarime. Julie attended one of these trips in 2014, during which she spent mornings doing construction work on a new kitchen for the orphanage and afternoons teaching science classes in the attached school.
When I first arrived in Tanzania, in February 2013, I had no idea what to expect. I was taking part in a mission trip to the Angel House Orphanage and Secondary School and would be teaching science classes in the school. I wondered, “How old are the students? What is their background in science? Can they understand English? Where am I even teaching these classes?” I was also nervous that I wouldn’t have anything to use in my demonstrations. Any anxiety I had was immediately relieved when I walked into the classroom and saw the desks, chalk boards, and a model skeleton in the corner. The students I worked with were amazing. They were all so intelligent, eager to learn, and very respectful of their instructors. They even stood up when I entered or left the room!
I brought textbooks, some lab supplies, a microscope, and a stethoscope with me. They had been donated from my undergraduate university and a local pharmacy. Some of the supplies were for a DNA extraction that we did on the first day. I was very happy that everything made it through customs and I was actually able to do this one. On the third day of my visit I taught blood flow through the heart and showed them how to use the stethoscope. It was easy to tell when a student had found his or her heartbeat because their faces would light up with excitement. I think having something tactile to work with was especially helpful in this setting. Although the students were able to understand my English, any language barriers that may have been present could be overcome by having some sort of lab equipment to work with. It meant that even if they could not understand me speaking to them, these students could still discover the topics themselves.
At the end of one of my lectures, the students’ teacher asked me to stand up at the front of the room. I will never forget what he said. “Do you know what she is? She is a scientist and she is a woman. I want you to see her as a role model and a challenge, because she is proof that women can make it in science and medicine.” Later, some of the girls from my class came up to me and said that they wanted to be nurses. I felt so honored that I could be an inspiration for someone. That was probably the most important thing I brought to their school.
Julie Doll is a graduate student studying human anatomy at The Ohio State University. She completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Saint Francis in Illinois in 2013. While there she worked as a teaching assistant in gross anatomy and human dissection courses for two and a half years. Julie joined HAPS in 2015. Following the regional meeting in Cincinnati she joined the Communications Committee and currently runs the HAPS LinkedIn page.