Nov. 20, 2009
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
The experiences only confirmed what Megan Land already knew deep within her heart, but the reinforcements of her core beliefs was needed.
Land, a senior freestyle specialists with the Owls' swimming program, had committed herself academically to a career in medicine before working with the Baylor Teen Health Clinic following her sophomore year at Rice and volunteering for a Humanitarian Medical Outreach mission to Ghana this past summer. However, those decisions shaped her perspective in manners she never envisioned before signing up.
"It was one of those experiences that was life-changing," Land said of her five-week stay in Ghana. "You look at everything differently when you see how people live in the Third World. And it's really sad when you see these kids that will never get the chances that I've had, so it really makes you look at your life a little bit differently. It's just another experience that made me really sure that I wanted to be a doctor because I realized how much I could really help a wide range of people."
Land conduced HIV/AIDS testing for pregnant women and high-risk groups at a local clinic and also participated in community awareness programs focusing on AIDS education and testing. She worked in an orphanage housing HIV-positive children, and soaked in the experience with teammate and roommate Pam Zelnick, a breaststroke specialist.
Already in possession of one acceptance letter for medical school, Land is continuing the process of finding where she will continue her education after she earns her Rice degree in psychology/religious studies. Her volunteer work serving medically underserved communities altered her ideas of life beyond Rice's hedges of protection.
Land has helped others inside the hedges, too. She serves as a peer academic advisor, a task that involves guiding freshmen student-athletes through the rigors of Rice academics. The process entails explaining the time commitment needed to thrive academically and sharing wisdom with time management skills. Those were skills that Land needed time to cultivate, so she is motivated to instruct others.
"My position as a PAA has allowed me to really share with my teammates how to make the most out of their time here," Land said. "It's been incredibly rewarding. I really like helping others to not make the same mistakes I made. I know that it was really hard for me the first two years to get my schedule under control, so now I'm just trying to let others know how best to manage their time and what the right things to do are, especially in terms of premed."
Being so dynamic didn't come easy for Land, and there were moments when she contemplated her athletic commitment in relation to her studies and community work. But what Rice has to offer is so enriching that Land could not bear the thought of ending her career prematurely.
"I think that thought goes through everyone's head, but at the same time I really feel like the Rice athletic experience is not something that everyone gets a chance to be a part of," Land said. "I really didn't take the decision lightly, so every time I felt like I really couldn't do it anymore I just really considered what a unique experience it is and I never actually quit. Here I am my senior year, and I'm still going."
By displaying a relentless commitment to multiple endeavors, Megan Land will be one of Tomorrow's Leaders.