By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service
May 1, 2013
(This appeared in a GCNS package of stories in the print and online editions of the Boston Globe, North section, May 16, 2013.)
It took Laura Corlin, 22, a Tufts University senior, a trip overseas to discover her passion for community and environmental health. As a result, just weeks before graduation, she’s been busier than usual presenting a thesis on a two and a half year asthma epidemiology research project, working eight hour shifts and serving as the campus director of development for a national group on health equity.
One of about 1500 students graduating from the university on May 19th in Tufts’ 157th commencement ceremony, the Colorado native will earn her degree in biopsychology and community health as well as the 2013 Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service.
“I’m grateful for the tools, resources and ideas I’ve gained over my time here,” said Corlin.
But Corlin won’t be leaving with only her degree. She teamed up with Kanupriya Tewari, another Tufts University senior, to cofound a vibrant chapter of a health equity program called GlobeMed on the university’s campus. Its purpose is to expose Tufts students to global health disparities.
The two met in pre-health science classes, and later combined their experiences and medical interests to help establish the campus organization. Tewari (who has roots in India and Egypt) interned with GlobeMed and knew it would complement Corlin’s commitment to addressing unjust healthcare practices.
“My motivation—which is shared by Laura and others—stems from a sustainable and accountable model I learned (at GlobeMed),” Tewari said. “It promotes student engagement in global health.”
With over 50 sites around the U.S., GlobeMed is maintained by university students through partnerships with grassroots organizations. The Tufts chapter partners with Nyaya Health, a network that serves the poor in rural Nepal through raising funds for building projects.
As a result of Corlin’s leadership, Tufts students have raised over $16,000 to expand Nyaya’s community health worker program and installed 28 solar panels to operate the new surgical center, microbiology labs and the food bank center in the rural hospital, said Katherine Cinnamond, assistant director of public relations at Tufts.
“Laura knows so much about the world of public health,” said Marie Schow, a junior biology major at Tufts and incoming co-president of GlobeMed. “When Laura returned from her internship in Nepal, she brought back stories of what life was like and it made our work here on campus more tangible.”
Corlin will stay on the east coast to develop her passion and attend Tufts for a master’s in environmental health before pursuing a doctorate degree.
“My family has always supported and encouraged my siblings and me to be involved with our community,” said Corlin. “Those of us with resources have a responsibility to use them to improve society.”
Even so, balancing the emotional and ethical aspects of weighty issues like global healthcare can be challenging for college students but according to her friends, Corlin finds time for lighter activities.
“We get coffee and dinner all the time to laugh and relax,” said Schow. “Laura is sometimes a five year old at heart.”
Her professors are also impressed by her work ethic and maturity as she is often the youngest person presenting at science conferences and is sometimes mistaken for a Ph.D. student or post doc. Dr. Doug Brugge, a professor of public and community health at the university, says Corlin’s extremely high academic achievement and leadership skills combined with her interest in civically engaged activities is rare.
But Corlin is quick to acknowledge the power students have when they work together to address global issues that can otherwise seem insurmountable.
“Advocacy and partnership are important aspects of our work,” said Corlin. “It’s all about the team.”