Spring Summer 08

The Core


Off to the Races

Practice Makes Perfect

Portraits of the Artists


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Irrefutable Fun

Broadened Horizons

The Searchers

Fair Trade

Diamond Anniversary

Project Help

From Maroon to Marine

Dinosaur Discoverer

Go Ask Alumni

Eye on the Quads

Broadened Horizons

Inevitably, during a Rhodes Scholarship interview, the candidate gets thrown a curveball question. Senior Nadine Levin hit hers out of the park.

Last November, the District V Rhodes Scholarship Committee asked Nadine Levin to imagine herself as the head of the World Health Organization and to name the global health concern that she would address if forced to select only one. She chose bird flu, citing its devastating effects during the 1918 “Spanish Flu” epidemic and its potential to reemerge as a modern-day health crisis of even greater magnitude. Levin’s unconventional and informed answer must have struck a chord with the committee: later that day, she was selected to spend two years at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

It’s not surprising that Levin answered with such aplomb when you consider how immersed she’s been in global health issues. A biology major, Levin arrived at the College in the fall of 2004 and began working in an immunology lab. She delved into the intricacies of lab work and hoped to someday broaden this experience by engaging in a more culturally oriented study of science and medicine. Over time, she developed an interest in international public health—an interest inspired by a significant challenge.

Levin enrolled in Spanish 101 during her first quarter at the College and soon found herself in an unfamiliar position: completely overwhelmed. Accustomed to the logical structure of her science course material, Levin struggled with the demands of learning a new language. She found it challenging to put together disparate elements of vocabulary and grammar to express herself in Spanish given her limited knowledge.

For one who had always been an exemplary student, the experience was eye-opening. “It felt really humbling,” says Levin. “And it made me feel insecure about my intellectual capabilities...because it’s maybe the one thing I’ve ever encountered that I have to apply my full intellect towards in order to be even competent in it.”

Levin’s initial struggles only strengthened her resolve, and she eventually decided to pursue a Spanish minor. By her third year, she was reading entire books in Spanish and had developed a keen interest in Latin American history and culture. As she began to look at science and medicine from a social and cultural perspective, she realized that her Spanish-language skills and knowledge of Latin America broadened her opportunities to do just that.

By summer Levin was in Bolivia, volunteering at a hospital. She shadowed medical interns to learn more about the Bolivian medical system, spending much of her time in Infectologia, a ward for patients with infections like AIDS, herpes, and tuberculosis.

Levin’s time in Bolivia deepened her commitment to studying public health and issues that affect human welfare. “When I left I felt like I was just beginning to uncover a lot of topics that I wanted to go back and pursue,” says Levin. “I think that it’s one thing to go in and just hand out medicine, and I think it’s another thing to go in and actually analyze the social dynamics that are creating a lack of public health initiatives. That is what really interests me—the societal and cultural factors that are leading to global health problems.” Levin will have the opportunity to explore these issues in depth at the University of Oxford, where she plans to study global health science and/or medical anthropology. After that, she sees herself pursuing another advanced degree and then working for an international public health organization or initiative. Regardless of her specific career choice, Levin would like to focus her efforts on Latin America.

But no matter what the future holds for Nadine Levin, one thing’s for sure: When faced with a challenge, she will turn it into an opportunity.—Katherine Muhlenkamp