USciences Alumnus and Peace Corps Volunteer Helps Families in Ethiopia

By Katherine Tancredi

Published on December 15, 2017

Michael EltonWhen Michael Elton BI’14, enrolled at University of the Sciences, his plan was to continue on to medical school immediately after graduation. However, his coursework inspired him to put his career plans on hold and pursue something bigger.

Elton is currently working for the U.S. Peace Corps as a rural health development worker in Ethiopia. His primary project is to provide household nutrition and hygiene education to mothers of young children. He also supports the local primary school in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives and educates the students about hygienic practices and reproductive health.

Due to a high malaria rate in his town, he also conducts net demonstrations and educates the community on prevention strategies. He draws on his USciences education to help explain these strategies to the community more effectively.

“When talking with mothers or facilitating trainings, I’m often asked ‘Why?’ in response to a lot of things,” explains Elton. “While fellow Peace Corps volunteers sometimes express difficulties in answering this question, I typically know the answer from my education at USciences.”

During his time at USciences, Elton had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for the biology labs and serve as president of the Pre-Med Society. While the coursework was intense, the most memorable part of his time at USciences was the biology department faculty and staff.

Of his courses, he was most influenced by health and societies with former faculty member Claudia Parvanta, PhD, and medical anthropology with associate professor of anthropology Michelle Ramirez, PhD, MPH, which sparked his interest in culture’s effect on health practice and knowledge. He was also inspired by global biological threats with medical laboratory science program and senior lecturer of biological sciences Margaret A. Reinhart, MT, MMa, MS.

“Global biological threats helped me realized just how connected the world we live in is,” said Elton. “Small parts of these classes and all of my science coursework really did get me to where I am today.”

For prospective students, Elton has some advice.

“Come to USciences with an open mind,” said Elton. “Maybe you know exactly what you’ll be when you ‘grow up.’ I thought I did, but I found a different focus. You’ll certainly have the opportunity to expand your knowledge in the sciences, but other classes/options are available to you at the University as well. By taking advantage of everything the University offers, you’ll be better equipped for the world. You might learn more about yourself as well.”

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