Lauren Chambers, a junior from Freedom, Pa.,, is majoring in health studies. This summer, Lauren worked with David Sowell, professor of history, researching the eradicating of Yellow Fever in Mexico. Because of their research she was awarded the Goodman Scholarship, which gave her the opportunity to research at Juniata College and the Rockefeller Archive Center.
What was it like working with Dr. Sowell?
It was great! While working with him, I felt more like a colleague than a student.
What was the most rewarding part of this experience?
I have two in mind: One would be that I was able to handle original documents that came directly from the desks of the heads of the Rockefeller Foundation. Not many people have this opportunity, especially a student, like me, who is not a history POE. Another is that I was able to learn about an area of research that interests me, particularly about the early history of medicine and public health initiatives.
What type of responsibilities did you hold?
As a student research assistant, I primarily read books and documents about our research topic and then collaborated what I had gathered from my readings and presented it to Dr. Sowell. I then put together an outline of information that we knew, so that we could efficiently research for material that was still unclear or uncertain while at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y..
How do you feel about this issue? Is it something you are passionate about?
I believe that the yellow fever campaign was an important part of Mexican history, thus being important for researchers to further investigate the issue. Yes, I am passionate about it. I think that it is important to realize that not only was the disease a major issue in the early 1900s, but it is also still an issue today and should be attended to by those who are able to help.
What did you do while you were in New York?
In Sleepy Hollow, we spent three days at the Rockefeller Archive Center. During our time at the center, we read through multiple folders of documents that related to our area of research, primarily looking for information that was needed for our unanswered questions and uncertainties in our outline. I also looked through old photographs that were taken during the time of the campaign.
Would you recommend this type of research to other Juniata students?
Absolutely. Any research experience that a student can get under his or her belt is very beneficial, not only for personal fulfillment, but also for graduate school.
Do you think the foundation deserves responsibility for the eradication campaign or the Mexican and Yucatec public health officials?
I think that both parties should be given credit. The Rockefeller foundation benefitted Yucatán by supplying them with improved methods compared to what they were currently using to eliminate aedes agypti from water sources. Yet, before the Rockefeller came down to Yucatan, yellow fever was basically under control. Also, after the Rockefeller foundation left, they continued to use the Rockefeller methods without their help.
What did this medical campaign do for Mexico?
The campaign helped establish better federal relations and public health methods specifically in Yucatán and improved the overall health of Yucatan citizens.
What do you want to do after college? Has this affected/changed what you want to do in the future?
After college, my plans are to attend nursing school to get my BSN, and then proceed to get my Master’s in Public Health. I have hopes of working with a government agency to aid less fortunate individuals in foreign countries that do not have a solid health-care system.
-Mary Munion ’12, Online Journalist