Meghan Desale is only a junior, but her plans for life after college are clear. When she completes a study-abroad program in Quito, Ecuador, at the end of the semester, she’ll head to Hemalkasa, a free hospital clinic in the jungle of Maharashtra, India, to continue her work as a clinical intern at the region’s only Western health-care center. Then, after graduating from BU, Desale (CAS’08) will begin her studies at the School of Medicine as part of the University’s Seven-Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education Program.
“After medical school, I hope to complete my medical internship and residency in infectious diseases,” Desale says. “Over time, I would like to develop a program or establish an organization focused on strengthening health-care systems in developing countries.”
Desale, who goes by “Meghana” to friends, will have help achieving her goals thanks to a 2007 Truman Scholarship, one of 65 awarded to students around the country on March 27. The scholars, who are college juniors elected on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual capability, and the likelihood of “making a difference,” receive $30,000 for graduate study; Desale is the first BU student to receive the award since 2001.
“It’s a very competitive program, and this year we had two finalists, which was wonderful,” says Assistant Provost Suzanne Kennedy. “The Truman Foundation looks for leadership, academic achievement, and commitment to community service, and Meghan really does want to help and make a difference.” The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by an Act of Congress in 1974 to honor the 33rd president.
Desale, a psychology and Spanish major from Sunnyvale, Calif., wrote in her application essay, “The purpose of life is discovering your gifts; the meaning of life is giving them away.” In high school, she discovered her aptitude for the life sciences and has pursued studies and work in the health-care field throughout her years in college, working as an EMT for BU’s Emergency Medical Services and interning at clinics in Peru and Ecuador as well as at Hemalkasa. The experiences, she says, gave her a firsthand look at the disparities in global health care and helped her refine her goals for public service. “None of my past experiences could have prepared me for Hemalkasa,” she wrote. “It was difficult to comprehend the complete lack of health care that still existed in many parts of the world. For many of these families, this would be their first time seeing a doctor, much less considering surgery.”
Desale’s community service activity extends locally and nationally: she has served as a coordinator for the BU Community Service Center’s First-Year Student Outreach Project and led a spring break volunteer trip to work with Habitat for Humanity in Mechanicsville, Va., in 2006. “The maturity, reliability, and calm confidence she demonstrated as coordinator of the Alternative Spring Break trip have been unrivaled by her more senior classmates,” wrote Aaron Stevens, a College of Arts and Sciences computer science instructor and the trip’s chaperone. “It is these qualities which I believe make her unquestionably deserving of the Truman Scholarship.”
Other faculty recommending Desale for the Truman Scholarship noted the energy she brings to her myriad commitments, which also include serving as a CAS Dean’s Host and a member of the India Club. In her application essay, Desale wrote that she hopes to only increase that energy as she completes her education and embarks on a career in public health and service.
“Recently, a friend told me, ‘I hope, 10 years from now, your enthusiasm is just as strong,’” she wrote. “I would like to show him that, if anything, 10 years from now my enthusiasm will be even stronger. My desire to help, my belief in humanity, my passion for volunteering — it is what drives me every day.”
Jessica Ullian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.