Abby Martin '14 Capitalizes on Kenya Semester to Intern at VOA's Africa Health Network

Abby Martin '14 in Kenya.
Abby Martin '14 in Kenya.

During her semester abroad in Kenya, Abby Martin ’14 saw first-hand the effects of many terrible diseases, which strengthened her resolve to become a doctor and motivated her to learn more about health issues in Africa. This summer, she is furthering those goals through an internship with The Africa Health Network at Voice of America, a government news organization that broadcasts abroad. Martin is researching and helping to produce radio and video segments on health-related issues in Africa.

Martin studied in Kenya through St. Lawrence University's program during the past spring semester.  While in Kenya, she completed an independent study at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. There, she witnessed diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis take their toll. She noted that the experience was “not as depressing as you might think, though—there are so many people and organizations that are saving lives and implementing innovative research so that people in impoverished areas can have access to high quality, affordable healthcare.” Her semester abroad furthered her drive to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician.

Martin applied to work with Voice of America (VOA) because she wanted to educate herself and others about health issues in Africa. She commented, “Although pre-med students typically don’t do internships in journalism/news, I thought that this was a really unique opportunity to try something that was out of my comfort zone while learning more about the challenges Africa faces with regard to healthcare.”

In her work for VOA, Martin helps to create the segment Africa Health Minute, a one-minute video covering three to five major health events, which is broadcast weekly to an audience of approximately 11 million people in Africa. She helps to research the stories and write headlines for each segment and also works on editing the videos.

Martin has even been able to create three of her own radio segments. The first was about vaccinating dogs against rabies in East Africa. Martin explained, “Rabies is not an issue that receives enough attention in the media like malaria and HIV/AIDS do, but it’s a terrible virus . . . that is easily preventable through the distribution of the rabies vaccine.” She has also completed stories on genetically modified foods and the efforts of the Gates Foundation to address tuberculosis in developing countries.

Martin attended events in Washington D.C. related to these issues, wrote the scripts, recorded her own audio, and edited the completed pieces. Her segments were then broadcasted across Africa on the radio news show Africa News Tonight. By working with radio and the news, Martin is balancing long-term interests with learning new skills. She remarked, “This internship was a wonderful opportunity for me to become more aware of health issues in Africa while improving my writing, confidence, and public speaking.”

Looking forward, Martin is focusing on applying to medical school. Before then, however, she is planning on taking a gap year and working as a nurse’s aide in a pediatric setting, where she can gain more clinical experience. After her time in Kenya and with Voice of America, she is thinking of ultimately joining an organization such as Doctors without Borders, where she will be able to continue addressing the healthcare issues that are most important to her and providing care to those who most need it.

Martin is a graduate of Litchfield High School in Litchfield, Conn.

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