Aaron England believes he will always remember the month of June 2015 as one of the most significant experiences of his life.
England, a senior pre-medicine and biology major from Elkins, Ark., recently spent four weeks serving an international medical internship at the Pasteur Institute in Da Lat, a city of about 200,000 in the Central Highlands of southern Vietnam. He secured the internship through Experiential Learning International (ELI), a Denver-based non-profit organization that creates unique volunteer and internship opportunities for students.
Aaron England spent four weeks serving an international medical internship at the Pasteur Institute in Da Lat, Vietnam.
The Pasteur Institute is a medical clinic that focuses on vaccine research and production. Working six days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., England began the internship shadowing the doctors and nurses. Within a few days, he was preparing and administering vaccines, taking vital signs of patients and preparing IV’s.
"It was an incredible experience; one that will stay with me for a long time" said England. "Being able to be so involved with the clinic was a rare opportunity that isn’t normally an option with medical internships as a pre-med student. Administering vaccines, for example, would never be allowed by a pre-med student in the U.S. to my knowledge. I felt like I was able to help make a difference and also learn and grow as a student."
England said he learned first-hand what it was like to work in a busy, fast-paced medical environment.
"Staff members at the clinic had to perform different jobs to keep up with the many people that came in each day," he said. "For example, the dentist also gave vaccinations, drew blood, and took chest x-rays. Because the limited staffing was so spread out, they often relied on me to help in the vaccination room."
England found himself utilizing information from some of his classes at Ozarks.
"Many of the biology classes that I have taken at Ozarks were valuable while working in the clinic," he said. "More specifically, my anatomy and physiology classes were helpful in understanding many of the things that were taking place."
The idea for the internship came about after he read an article on the U of O website about Ariel Henderson, a former Ozarks student who volunteered at a medical clinic in Peru in 2012. England received funding for the trip from the University’s Academic Enrichment Fund and endorsements from his professors.
"Dr. Sean Coleman was a great help to me in applying for the Academic Enrichment Fund," England said. "He was able to work with me and the AEF committee to help secure the funds for the internship. Dr. Salomon Itza was also a tremendous help in securing the internship. As an AEF committee member, he worked with me to provide any financial advice. I have a lot of appreciation for the Academic Enrichment Fund because it helped me secure this incredible experience."
The internship was originally scheduled to be in Nepal, before that country suffered a destructive earthquake in April.
"I was originally set to go to Nepal, which I found appealing for its beautiful landscape and the opportunity to experience medicine in a developing country," England said. "However, after the earthquake, I was informed by ELI that I would not be able to intern there. Instead, they offered me a great opportunity in the mountain town of Da Lat, which provided similar interests to me."
During the evenings and on some weekends, England got to explore the culture and natural world around Da Lat.
During his free time, England had the opportunity to explore the area and tackle new experiences, which included rappelling down water falls, trying local cuisine, and riding elephants.
"During the evenings and on some weekends, I was able to explore the city of Da Lat as well as surrounding areas of Vietnam," England said. "One of our favorite excursions was hiking to the top of Lang Biang Mountain. Another of our favorite trips was to the beach town of Nha Trang. I was even able to do some scuba diving in the crystal clear waters."
England will begin the application process for medical school in the fall and plans to pursue a career in medicine, perhaps with the U.S. Navy.
"My Ozarks education has been great in providing me with the knowledge needed in preparation for the MCAT and medical school courses," England said. "This internship was an excellent experience for my application to medical school. Interning abroad offered me a special experience that not many other applicants will have."