Kevin Kindler, ’13 (above right), has wanted to be a doctor since middle school, but it wasn’t until this year that he developed a passion for global health. Now, his post-medical school plans include working in developing countries that have inadequate access to health care, sanitary living conditions and clean drinking water.

Kindler was a participant in this year’s Sophomore Scholars in Residence program on global health, led by Rick Mayes, associate professor of political science. 

Kindler signed up for the program because, he says, he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to combine his interest in health and medicine with his curiosity about foreign cultures. “I am a science person,” Kindler says. “I haven’t taken classes about foreign policy or anything foreign … I’d never had the opportunity to get a global perspective on something I understand.”

He quickly learned that the SSIR program is a lot of work. Even before class started in the fall, Mayes had the students read 10 books and submit papers. But Kindler says it was totally worth it.

“All the books we read over the summer built the foundation that allowed us to explore issues of domestic and international health care, views on medicine, perspectives on international aid and factors like access to clean drinking water, proper public sanitation and access to health care.”

Not only did Kindler learn a lot — he also got the opportunity to live with other students who were passionate about the same issues. “It is kind of funny, but it is not uncommon for us to stay up late having well-informed debates about health care or poverty in the lounge. Where else can you do that?”

After experiential trips volunteering in Grundy, Va., with Remote Area Medical — an organization that provides free dental, medical and vision care for people in Appalachia who are either underinsured or uninsured — as well as spending fall break in the Dominican Republic, the issues that Kindler studied in the global health class became more real to him than he had ever expected.

“I realized there are so many things that I take for granted that some people have absolutely no access to," he says. "I don’t think about how to pay for food. If I get sick, I don’t have to worry about paying to see a doctor because I have insurance.”

In the Dominican Republic, Kindler got to work with Esperanza, a non-governmental organization that provides low-interest microcredit finance loans and health care support to women. 

Kindler’s experiences there have changed his life forever. “It’s one thing to learn about all these issues in class and hear about all these solutions that could be made, but it is another thing to actually meet the women who have empowered themselves through these programs and see how important microcredit can be to them,” Kindler says.

Kindler decided to spend his entire spring break volunteering with International Service Learning in Costa Rica.

“In Costa Rica, we did house visits and asked people about their health problems. If they had conditions that were not chronic and could be treated in a short period, we brought them to our mobile health clinic,” says Kindler.

Kindler’s experience giving hands-on care in Costa Rica deepened the understanding of global health that he formed in class and on his trips to Grundy and the Dominican Republic.

Kindler says that his experiences this year have helped him figure out what he wants to do with his life. “Once I become a doctor, I want to use my skills in countries with similar challenges to the parts of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica that I visited, probably not for my entire career, but for a while, because I have seen what a difference doctors can make in these areas that don’t have health care. It has made me really want to give back.”