Kerry McGowen

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Washington & Jefferson College

Heinz Programming Area:
Arts and Culture
International Experience Summary:

Kerry McGowen spent her summer in the Netherlands studying the Dutch healthcare system. She gained insight into the history of healthcare and how the Netherlands handles controversial health-related issues, such as prostitution, drugs, housing, abortion, euthanasia, and immigration through a cultural, social, and political lens. She had the opportunity to visit the GGD (Amsterdam’s healthcare municipality) where she learned from healthcare professionals about HIV prevention and treatment in Amsterdam and how it differs from HIV care in America. She also visited a local hospital to hear from hospice physicians that perform physician-assisted suicides and euthanasia. Additionally, she also visited an abortion clinic and a psychiatric ward where she heard from professionals about the progressive treatments and how they are breaking down stigmas against both fields. Her experiences allowed her to better understand healthcare issues that are often avoided in America due to their controversial, polarizing nature. She realized that she could apply her new knowledge to better understand the foundations of these healthcare problems in America as well as the changes currently happening with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Additionally, she found that even though the Netherlands has a far more liberal approach to healthcare than America, she was astounded to discover how similar the Dutch system is to what the Affordable Healthcare Act is hoping to achieve. Because of this she chose to expand her studies with an independent project to interview locals about their opinions regarding both the Dutch and American healthcare systems. Additionally, the supportive and empowering nature of the Vira Heinz program inspired her to further her education and pursue another passion outside of healthcare, so she extended her time in the Netherlands to pursue bio-medical research at Radboud University in Nijmegen. Through one of her college professors, she contacted the university and applied for a research internship in the bio-organic chemistry research group. Under the supervision of a PhD student, she researched a synthetic hemostatic polymer to control surgical bleeding. During this part of her journey, she lived with Dutch roommates and worked with Dutch scientists. 

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Until All of Us Have Made It

The Washington & Jefferson VIH cohort held a panel discussion about privilege called “Until All of Us Have Made It.” The panel discussion focused on how the concept of privilege is based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. Additionally, we chose to also address the ways privilege affects women leadership. For this event, we invited three panelists: Eva Chatterjee-Sutton, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students, Dr. Candy DeBerry, associate professor of Biochemistry, and Dr. Tara Fee, associate professor of English. We began the event with an activity called a ‘Privilege Walk’ in which the audience and panelists started in a straight line in the middle of the room and then took steps forward or backwards based on varying scenarios about privilege. This allowed for everyone to have a visual understanding of the differing levels of privilege within the W&J community and a better understand of what privilege is. We then began the panel discussion by asking the panelists various questions regarding privilege and women leadership. The panelists told personal stories of hardships and triumphs about privilege that they have endured throughout their lives. By discussing the obstacles that they have faced, this allowed for the panelists to give the audience advice and ideas about how they too can handle discrimination in a professional way. This then opened the door for conversation amongst the audience members. Students began to discuss how they are personally affected by privilege and also how they desire more diversity. The students also came up with ideas about how student life at W&J both socially and academically can become more diverse and aware how privilege affects everyone’s lives.