Oct. 2, 2008
As a sophomore Elizabeth Nesbit has a long way to go before she finishes her time at Rice University and potentially goes on to medical school. However, Nesbit has made two journeys to rural Malawi in Africa that has given her a glimpse as to what is possible in the medical world.
Nesbit, from Waterford, Va., plays forward and midfield for the Rice soccer team. She has exceeded all possible expectations through her two remarkable trips across the world.
Both journeys--one during her high school days and one last summer--were aimed at helping Malawian children with medical issues. The first trip was more of an impulse than anything else.
"When I was in high school I told my mom, `I just want to go to Africa. I don't know why I just want to go,' Nesbit said. "I went for my junior year with my mom to Malawi in southeast Africa. It was the most incredible experience of my life."
The spontaneous feel of Nesbit's initial selfless trip to Africa does not end there.
"We ended up just buying a plane ticket, taking a leap of faith and going," Nesbit said. "We hopped on the plane--we didn't know where we were going, how we were going to get to the hospital, we didn't know anything. We didn't even know where we were staying."
After an eye-opening first experience in Malawi, Nesbit and her mother - a physical therapist - returned to the area to tend to the many injured patients in the villages. She worked in the pediatric ward with burn patients, kids with contractures from burns, and kids with epilepsies who had epileptic seizures because of fires.
Nesbit also tended to adults with strokes, HIV patients, and patients with cerebral malaria who had been in a bed for three years in addition to time in the ART clinic--the anti-retroviral treatment for pediatrics--weighing children, taking their heights, handing out drugs, counting pills.
"We helped my older brother who was at the hospital for the second time," Nesbit said. "He was on a grant to work on a project called `Frontline SMS'. Basically, we worked on training some community health workers--there are 600 of them. We trained them to use cell phones and taught them to text in information about their rural outreaching villages."
"That was a huge challenge," Nesbit continued. "They all spoke Chichewa, none of them spoke English. It was so awesome [to see the project work out with] the language barrier there."
Her final project was the completion of her BIOE 260 class at Rice.
"We designed a medical diagnostic lab backpack and I delivered that to the Baylor doctors in the capital city," Nesbit said. "I brought a huge hiking backpack and delivered it to the doctor and shadowed him in the HIV wards."
Nesbit has come out of these experiences with a different outlook.
"Honestly, I feel like a happier person since I've been back," Nesbit said. "Things I've learned to appreciate are smiling kids. The kids there are so happy."
"As for soccer--the experience helped me so much," Nesbit continued. "One of the hardest things we do for the team is fitness. I just spent the entire summer training with little kids. Coming back here and running my fitness test, [it felt as though] I was running with them, they were right there with me. I have a new perspective on life."
Her journeys to help those in need and her positive attitude make her a dedicated student-athlete and one of Tomorrow's Leaders.