This is an archived article.

November 30, 2006

Passion for service bonds eclectic cohort of Health Sciences students

This year’s crop of health sciences students are smart, compassionate, and have a strong desire to serve others.

They also bring a wealth of life experiences to the six schools of health sciences — Medicine, Nursing, Social Work, Public Health and Community Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy.

Among this year’s students are a Mary Knoll nun, a naturopathic physician, a registered nurse, a former ballet dancer, a civil engineer as well as social workers and teachers.

Here’s what some of them had to say about why they chose the UW.


  • Maria Leonor Montiel, a Maryknoll nun, originally from the Philippines, who has been working with the urban poor of Cambodia since 1997, said, “In places like Cambodia there are very limited social services. We’re helping to rebuild communities devastated by poverty, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. I want to bring social justice and equality to the world. Mary Knoll volunteers recommended the UW School of Social Work to me because it has a very strong social justice component.” Montiel and fellow social work students Ly Long and Dalin Meng are part of a new training collaborative between the UW School of Social Work and the Royal University of Phnom Penh. After training at the UW, the three will return to Cambodia to establish a school of social work at the Royal University.
  • Ly Long says people have been doing social work but without the training. “I’ve been learning about social work on the job. I’ve been working with people with disabilities for 12 years. My undergraduate degree is in business administration. I’m interested in policy. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Things have to be changed. Our social infrastructure needs to be filled out.”
  • Dalin Meng is particularly interested in rounding out her undergraduate degree in psychology through the social work training. “I want to help the whole person through a framework of social justice. I want to bring the social work training I receive to others so they can set up social programs in Cambodia.”
  • Dost Bardouille-Crema is a civil engineer pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She worked as an environmental health volunteer in the Peace Corps in Panama for three and a half years building aqueducts, latrines and health centers. “I lived in a very remote village with no water or electricity in a wooden house on stilts. It was an empowering and beautiful experience. It was there that my interest in health education and health promotion grew. I’m interested in international development and health. I loved working with indigenous people. My parents raised us to be world citizens — my mother is from Dominique in the Caribbean, my father’s from Treviso, Italy. Artificial boundaries hold us back from helping others. “I love being around interesting groups of people who stretch my mind with so many different ways of looking at things. And, the UW School of Public Health is one of the best places in the world to learn more about global health.”
  • Sheila Hudson, a former 10th grade chemistry teacher who has traveled in Japan on a Fulbright Scholarship, had one significant criterion for coming to the UW School of Dentistry. “The UW School of Dentistry has a strong public service model. I am interested in public service and want to pursue dentistry to help underserved populations — the poor, low-income, people with disabilities. I don’t want to do cosmetic dentistry. I’m happy to find the best school right here.”
  • Chris Gerard took a long route to the UW School of Medicine. “As an actor, I couldn’t make a living. I made a living as a ballet dancer with the Oakland Ballet Company. I was a UCLA dropout. I went to community colleges and took biology for non-majors and eventually received my undergraduate degree in zoology from UC Davis and a master’s in biological science from Florida State University. I worked in biomedical research for 14 years before coming to UW medical school. At age 44, rather late in life, I wanted to do something worthwhile. I’m very interested in primary care and emergency medicine.”
  • Michael Isiah Sandlin received his doctorate in naturopathic medicine last year from Bastyr University. This year he is pursuing a medical degree. “I decided to get a medical degree so I could serve low-income people on Medicaid. Naturopathic physicians can’t accept Medicaid. I’ve lived in rural Latino communities and off the coast of Alaska. I couldn’t be happier than working with homeless folks in the boonies of Wyoming or a village in Alaska. I feel like a kid in a candy store. I’ve traveled a great deal — Africa, Australia, and South East Asia. I would love to do international health.”
  • Phuong Luu started her journey to UW medical school as a participant in the school’s Minority Medical Education Program that exposes minority students to career opportunities in medicine. “I have always been struck by the warmth of staff and faculty at the School of Medicine and its commitment to serving underserved populations. I’m interested in health care advocacy and policy. I chose the UW because of its primary care program and its commitment to caring for the underserved in urban and rural areas.”
  • Marie-Anne Sanon, a registered nurse from Haiti, is pursuing a doctoral degree in the School of Nursing. She wants to do research on families coping with children who have chronic illness. “There was a lot of chronic disease in my family — sickle cell, epilepsy, cancer. The family had difficulty coping because of a lack of resources. No one talked about the diseases because of embarrassment. I’m very aware that culture determines and influences people’s responses to illness. I’ll bring culture and Haiti into my research. I was impressed with the diversity of faculty and areas of research at the School of Nursing.” Sanon holds the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need fellowship from the School of Nursing and became a United States citizen in August.
  • Michelle Akcar, a doctoral student in the School of Pharmacy, explored anthropology, applied linguistics and teaching English as a second language, and was an animal rescue volunteer during the Gulf War before landing in the UW pharmacy program. “Pharmacy seems to bring many of my eclectic interests together — it’s about science, research, and communicating with people. I was intrigued by the cross-disciplinary aspects of the School of Pharmacy’s program. The profession is really changing — it’s not just focused on the dispensing side of pharmacy, but also on collaborating with nurses and physicians and patients to understand risk factors of a drug. It’s more about getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time. I like that.”