Michael Clark

Michael grew up in rural Indiana the third of four children and spent most of his time with sports, music lessons and family. When choosing an undergraduate institution, he looked for a rich Catholic identity and support for his passion to serve. This led him to the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a bachelor’s in Biological Sciences and a Master’s in Global Health. While at Notre Dame, he served as President of the Notre Dame Glee Club, with which he traveled the world and experienced cultures vastly different from rural Indiana. Michael’s undergraduate research interests included nanoparticle cytotoxicity, clinical manifestations of Niemann-Pick Type C and the cardiac electrophysiology of post-bypass surgery patients. His Master’s capstone took him to Belize, where he partnered with the Ministry of Health to design and implement a mobile database management system for dengue surveillance. He presented this work as a poster at the 2014 ASTMH Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA. Currently, he is a second-year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine, where he aims to pursue pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. As a member of the Spanish-speaking Intro to Clinical Medicine course, he learns to apply the language skills learned in school and from his abuelita for the benefit of the underserved. With the help of the Kean Fellowship, he will travel to Nicaragua, where he will work with local doctors and MoH officers to train in tropical medicine and learn how Nicaragua responds to issues of public health.

Project: "Education, Management, and Prevention of Chronic and Acute Illnesses of Public Health Interest in a Developing Tropical Setting"     
June 9, 2016 - July 9, 2016


What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
As someone looking to make a lifelong commitment to tropical medicine, the importance of this exposure early on in my training cannot be overstated. The Kean Fellowship is a pivotal step toward my goal of serving the underserved domestically and abroad. Thanks to the generosity of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, I will be able to learn firsthand from patients and providers directly affected by neglected tropical diseases and the complications of healthcare disparity there upon. Without the support of the Kean Fellowship, I don't think I could afford to have such an impactful experience this early in my career.

What do you anticipate learning?
I can only predict what formative things I will learn from the doctors and patients in San Juan de La Concepción, but my anticipation in great. I expect to learn how to do more with less, to listen more than I speak, and to be challenged professionally and personally. As one at the beginning of his second year in medical school, my comfort level in leading the patient encounter ends after the review of systems. As such, I look forward to witnessing techniques for performing the physical examination, gaining insight into medical decision-making, and especially coordinating follow-up care in an area where many have to travel significant distances to see a provider. With regard to public health, I look forward to learning what issues affect Nicaragüenses uniquely and similarly to Americans, as well as the solutions the Ministry of Health employs to address them.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
Everything about tropical medicine interests me: the complex mechanisms of the illnesses not commonly encountered in the U.S., the translational solutions that work to prevent many of the illnesses, the cultural beliefs of the affected populations and how they influence patients' viewpoints on illness and treatment, the opportunity to find common ground with people from completely different backgrounds based on shared goals, etc. Most importantly, what interests me about tropical medicine is the same as what interests me about medicine in general – using the skills and education I have in service to others. After all, that is what medicine is about to me. Whether that service be in a metropolitan Level I trauma center or a rural clinic in Nicaragua, my goal as a physician is to serve. Given the one-month time constraint of the fellowship, the problem I am most interested in solving is the establishment of a lifelong partnership with my connections in Nicaragua. Having worked on a regionally based trial implementation of a novel solution for my Master’s capstone, I am aware that only so much can be accomplished in such a short time. However, my month in San Juan de La Concepción can certainly be the beginning of an enduring and, hopefully, mutually beneficial endeavor. Ultimately, when I am finished with my training, I want to engage in surgical training for local students and residents, as sustainability can be an obstacle to optimal care in more rural areas. By showing solidarity with the community in the form of repeat trips and encounters, I hope to demonstrate my commitment to their well-being, as any doctor should.