Letter from Uganda: A Promega International Internship Scholarship Recipient Shares her Experiences

Sydney Roberts, left, at work at a rural community outreach health clinic outside of Kabale, Uganda where she helped conduct basic health screenings. Here she is measuring a woman’s MUAC (midupper arm circumference).
Sydney Roberts, left, at work at a rural community outreach health clinic outside of Kabale, Uganda where she helped conduct basic health screenings. Here she is measuring a woman’s MUAC (midupper arm circumference).

We were inspired by a letter we recently received from one of the recipients of the Promega International Scientific Internship Scholarship. The scholarship supports undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. who are undertaking an international internship aimed at using science to improve the quality of life in the world. Students from all scientific fields are eligible but preference is given to those whose internships use molecular biology techniques. Students must be based in a country other than their own for at least six weeks and cannot be in a country where the recipient has already spent significant time.

Sydney Roberts, a junior at UW Madison majoring in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Global Health, was awarded the Spring 2018 Promega scholarship. As a result, she’s spending her spring a long way from her hometown of Cedarburg, WI. Sydney is currently working in Kabale, Uganda, a town in the southwestern part of the country near the border of Rwanda, as an intern with the Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (KIHEFO).

KIHEFO operates a primary care clinic, HIV/AIDS clinic, Nutrition and Rehabilitation center, and works with rural community groups. Sydney is supporting local staff members as they treat clients, provide counseling sessions for families affected by disease, and work on global health initiatives that support prevention of these diseases and health complications. She has only been in Uganda for a few weeks, but she says her experiences have already been life-changing.

I have already learned so much about global health in the developing world. My role at KIHEFO is to observe the doctors, but I also support the organization in other ways. For example, I used a new medical technique of rubbing cold water on a baby’s lower abdomen to collect a urine sample, since there are no pediatric catheters here in the field. This urine sample revealed that the baby was extremely malnourished (1 year, 2 months old and weighed 5 kg). It is small tasks like this that have impacted me the most. This baby was then admitted to the KIHEFO nutrition clinic for re-feeding, and is on her way back to a healthy life.

Sydney’s main work in Uganda involves looking at ways KIHEFO uses medical and social approaches to combat HIV, as well as learning about various HIV tests, including EZ tests, viral load tests, and CD4 counts. She also describes driving an hour into the mountains to deliver antiretroviral drugs to HIV patients who do not have access to any other type of health clinic.

All of this learning is taking place thanks to your financial support, and I could not be more thankful to Promega Coporation for this opportunity. [It] was the ultimate gift that allowed me to make my dream of coming to Kabale a reality.

Sydney also hopes her internship will begin supporting a partnership between KIHEFO and UW Madison, allowing other UW students a chance to participate in such a rich learning environment through working annually with KIHEFO for academic credit.

We are honored to have played a role in catalyzing Sydney’s work, and are inspired by her energy and passion to harness the power of science to change the world for the better. Four more Promega International Scientific Internship Scholarships will be awarded in April. We can’t wait to see what this opportunity has in store for the students who receive them!

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Karen Burkhartzmeyer
Karen is a Communication Specialist who has the privilege of helping to tell the Promega story in a multitude of ways. A former reporter, producer and teacher, Karen holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She is the mom of teenage twins and one very spoiled (yet deserving) rescue dog.

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