Rachel Blake is a second year medical student at Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Originally from Summit, New Jersey, she is a first-generation daughter of Caribbean immigrants. Blake completed her undergraduate education at Princeton University where she majored in Molecular Biology and minored in French and Spanish. Blake's interest in medical research started early -- in high school she interned at a genetic birth defects laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
For her undergraduate thesis, Blake travelled to Ghana to conduct epidemiological research on the introduction of rotavirus vaccines. Her medical school research is set in the Philippines where she is working on a project to assess the benefit of treating mothers for schistosomiasis (parasitic worms) during pregnancy and looking at the effect on their infant’s growth, nutritional status, and cognitive development. Blake aims to combine clinical research, medical practice, and entrepreneurship to ultimately improve the health of infants and children worldwide.
Project: "Effect of Schistosomiasis Treatment During Pregnancy on Infant Growth & Nutritional Status,"
June 11, 2013 - August 6, 2013
Leyte, the Phillippines
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I feel honored to be recognized as a Ben Kean Fellow. This fellowship is a fantastic opportunity for me to advance my knowledge and understanding of the field of global health. Benjamin Kean’s headstrong commitment to solving the mysteries of rare and previously unknown tropical diseases is truly an inspiration to aspiring global health physicians like myself. His lifelong dedication has informed the passion that I have for working towards decreasing disease morbidity and mortality worldwide as I advance toward my career goals. I plan to honor his legacy as a future physician dedicated to international and tropical healthcare.
With this fellowship, I will now be surrounded by accomplished researchers, physicians, and policy makers who believe in my dream of becoming a physician concerned with developing sustainable healthcare initiatives in global communities. I will be able to engage in activities and conferences that will provide me with new knowledge and further me on the path towards achieving my career aspirations. My clinical research thus far in undergraduate and medical school has helped to prepare me to become a researcher and clinician focused on international health, and this fellowship will enhance my overall learning and clinical experience as I embark on my future career.
What do you anticipate learning?
During my fellowship work in the Philippines this summer, I experienced firsthand the rewards alongside the very relevant challenges that accompany living and performing medical work in a completely foreign, international environment. Moreover, since I was based in a low-income rural region of this country, I witnessed the essential skills that physicians need to successfully diagnose, prevent, and treat medical illness in a setting of extremely limited financial and medical resources. Conducting clinical research as well as tending to patients under these circumstances requires that physicians have very well developed examination skills and are able to make accurate diagnoses based on the specific pattern of symptoms. These diagnoses are frequently made in the absence of adequate diagnostic tests and imaging.
The Kean fellowship thus far has allowed me to begin to hone in on these clinical skills, which will be essential for medical practice and clinical research in developing nations during my career as a global health physician. This summer experience has already helped me to realistically paint the picture of my future career, and will ultimately play an important role in helping me find my particular niche within the vast field of global medicine. Importantly, the Kean fellowship will continue to facilitate my professional growth by placing me in an invaluable network of physicians, researchers, and policy makers who are actively contributing to advancing global healthcare. This program will continually connect me with other like-minded medical students and physicians who are interested in a vast array of issues within the realm of tropical medicine. I am eager to take this opportunity to learn from the unique passions and experiences of my colleagues, with whom I may be collaborating in the very near future.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I am passionate about maternal-child health and early childhood pediatrics. I am particularly interested in clinical research, practice, and entrepreneurship surrounding the pertinent issues of malnutrition and disease from birth to the critical age of five years old. My goal is not only to practice clinically, but also to use research and entrepreneurship to create sustainable solutions that are specific to the unique climate, culture, and health concerns of various global communities. I often find myself focusing on the “big picture”; how do we improve the statistics, change the outcomes, and ultimately help millions of children survive a healthy infancy and childhood? I plan to make clinical research a priority, focusing on developing treatment programs and vaccine initiatives to minimize disease morbidity and mortality. I have always been intrigued by how effectively we can translate the findings drawn from these in-depth clinical investigations into real-life solutions. Moreover, being involved in academic medicine will keep me on the forefront of the development of novel diagnostic procedures, treatment options, and vaccines. I am also interested in entrepreneurship as a way to improve pediatric tropical medicine.
Through my travels and international work thus far, I have seen firsthand the realistic need for fresh, new healthcare ideas in developing regions. I am extremely passionate about investing in new healthcare initiatives, ranging from pharmaceutical and product development, to novel healthcare delivery strategies, to health education campaigns. I am eager to work towards optimizing the usage of the limited financial resources available in these regions, while simultaneously working towards introducing new types of novel business ventures with a focus on sustainable programs and initiatives. Lastly, I have always had a passion for the non-medical side of medicine. I realize that culture, education, and human connection are implicit in healthcare delivery. I am eager to immerse myself in a variety of different cultures, connecting with members and administrators within the community in order to better understand the unique needs of mothers and children there.
My future involvement in clinical practice, research, and entrepreneurship pertaining to pediatric global health will eloquently combine my aptitude for problem-solving and resource management, while keeping important economic and cultural considerations in perspective. Above all, my passion for pediatric tropical medicine stems from my belief that there are tangible ways for physicians, policy makers, and corporations to create sustainable solutions for both preventable and easily curable diseases that devastate so many young children living in developing nations worldwide.