When I began medical school, I started an initiative with the HIV/AIDS Ambulatory Center in Albania. However, when I went to Albania to implement the project, I was unable to effectively communicate with patients and providers. This disconnect prompted me to apply for a Boren Fellowship, which offered me the opportunity to fully engage in Albanian language studies and complement it with a project in global health policy
My interest in South Eastern European healthcare began when I was a Fulbright Fellow in Switzerland. Many of the friends I met there were refugees from the Kosovo war, and they taught me about the difficulties of obtaining healthcare in Albania and Kosovo. I returned to Stanford with a question for the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, “How can I learn Albanian?” With a sum total of zero students studying Albanian at the time, we developed an individualized course in Albanian. After two years of studying, I departed for Kosovo as a Boren Fellow.
As a fellow, I was involved with multiple projects with the World Health Organization (WHO). I attended meetings with representatives from various ministries and the government, along with community and international organizations, who were working together to bring about the development of a top-class medical system in Kosovo. I participated in the drafting of statements and reports from the WHO and learned invaluable lessons from the members of our team. Each weekday I would complement my research with approximately two hours of language study and my language comprehension went from the intermediate to advanced level very quickly. In fact, based on my progress with Albanian, I was featured on a news segment for Klan Kosovo about foreigners learning Albanian.
My Boren experience was nothing short of phenomenal! I was able to learn so much about the delivery of healthcare within a developing country and fully engage in Albanian language studies. My future career will be rooted firmly in the realm of healthcare delivery on the global scale and I am interested in completing part of my residency training within the Veterans Affairs Hospitals.
To future applicants, seek out mentors at your home institution that are versed in the language you are interested in learning; they can offer valuable advice on your application.
Written: January 2014