Lindsay Pett, '21

November 19, 2020
Study abroad, research offer senior insights on global healthcare

Healthcare has been top of mind for Lindsay Pett, ’21, from the day she was hospitalized for an illness her sophomore year in high school.

“I had access to such great healthcare,” she said, “and I wondered what people do who don’t.”

She’s been working on answering that and other healthcare questions ever since coming to University of Richmond, where she is a science leadership scholar majoring in leadership studies and healthcare studies.

Not one to limit her studies to the classroom, Pett has pursued hands-on opportunities. As a certified peer educator with the University of Richmond Wellness Education Bandits, she trains classmates on college lifestyle and wellness issues. She has served as an intake volunteer at four free medical clinics in Southwest Virginia. She also has expanded her healthcare knowledge through two study-abroad semesters.

The senior from Fredericksburg, Va., described as eye-opening her experience comparing rural and urban healthcare in the United States, Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina during her fall 2019 semester study-abroad program.

“Some of us visited a Vietnamese health clinic located about two hours from Hanoi,” Pett said. “Because the roads were too narrow to accommodate cars, we climbed into a run-down golf cart at the clinic to travel to a neighboring village. Eventually, the road became so narrow that we had to leave the golf cart and walk the remaining three miles to the village. The physical distance these villagers have to travel to access healthcare is challenging.”

She gained insights into European healthcare when she spent spring semester 2020 in Copenhagen. There she studied epidemiology and became a Center for Epidemiology and Screening research assistant at the University of Copenhagen School of Public Health.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced her to leave Denmark in March, Pett completed her semester remotely. She also continued working remotely throughout the spring and summer as a research assistant at the center. Eventually she parlayed this job into a Jepson internship, for which she received a Burrus Fellowship.

“My summer project involved looking at long-term mammography screening in the Copenhagen region,” Pett said. “I researched factors that make women ages 50 to 65 more or less likely to adhere to the government’s recommended two-year screening protocol. Denmark is exploring using artificial intelligence to offer personalized mammography-screening protocols based on individual’s health assessments.”

Back on campus, she is exploring COVID-19 epidemiology through her Jepson senior honors thesis, supported by her thesis advisor, Dr. Chris von Rueden.

“I’m using a large data set that shows almost every country in the world,” Pett said. “I’m looking at how the stringency of leaders’ responses to COVID-19 has affected the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths in countries. I’ll also look at economic factors, such as testing capacity and number of hospital beds, as well as cultural factors that affect leaders’ responses to the pandemic.”

Pett cited Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as a leadership role model who has remained calm and listened to the experts. “But a leader can do only so much if followers don’t respond in a way the leader wants them to,” she said.

Pett plans to pursue a career in public health following her graduation this May.

“I like to evaluate data, but I also want to be the boots on the ground collecting data,” she said. “I love to interact with people. As a public health professional, you can have such a large impact—you can impact global health.”