For Tate Bierut ’18, the average work day starts at 4:30 a.m. with driving a battered manual transmission land cruiser down the “wrong side” (left) of Malawian dirt roads. Next, she picks up a team of nurses and drivers and heads to an open air clinic anywhere from one to three hours away. It is there, at these clinics, that the most important part of Bierut’s work takes place.
This summer, Bierut is interning for “Project Peanut Butter” (PBB), a non-profit organization founded to provide nutritional and medical support to children in sub-Saharan Africa while advancing the treatment of severe malnutrition. After hearing about PBB in high school, Bierut, who is interested in health research, particularly in the health of women and children, immediately found the organization’s work important and impactful. “I thought that working with PPB was the perfect opportunity to help make a difference while getting experience in global problems and health research,” said Bierut.
Hometown: Saint Louis, Mo.
High School: John Burroughs School
Bierut and a team of Malawian technicians visit 21 different field clinics in a two-week rotation. Mothers often carry their children many miles, traveling hours to receive care. Though often taxing, the work Bierut and her associates do is vital for children in underserved areas suffering from severe acute malnutrition, who, without proper treatment, often sustains severe compromises to their cognitive and physical capabilities.
At clinic, Bierut measures each child’s height, weight, MUAC (mid upper arm circumference), and checks for edema. If a child is two standard deviations or more from “normal” he or she is enrolled in a supplemental feeding program, consisting of “chiponde” (fortified peanut butter) as a supplement. In addition to assisting with the children, Bierut also is working on getting the necessary resources and approval for a new research project evaluating the effectiveness of supplemental feeding on intellectual development, and other health outcomes.
At the end of her stay, Bierut hopes she will have helped PPB to continue improving the health and development of kids in Malawi and, from her first-hand data collection, to evaluate the effectiveness of this program. “The people are wonderfully social and creative, and I am amazed at how well they cope with the inhumane degree of poverty which plagues their country,” said Bierut.