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Erin Campbell Makes a Difference While Helping Others During International Experiences

October 15, 2014

Campbell With Youths 2

Passionate About Helping Others: Erin Campbell spent time reading to children in the Panama village of Embera Puru during this summer’s engineering mission project. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Padgett)

Global educational experiences half the world away from her Indiana roots have brought perspective and a humanitarian focus to Erin Campbell’s future as a biomedical engineer.

As a Whitaker International Student Scholar, the senior spent two months this past spring as a medical intern at Mashoko Christian Hospital, a facility providing valuable services to an impoverished region of Zimbabwe.

Then, she joined a Rose-Hulman professor to travel through the jungle region of Panama to help bring clean water to a remote village.

“I saw first-hand that there’s great need throughout the world for the skills provided by engineers,” says Campbell. “I believe that I can be someone who can make a difference to other people.”

Campbell’s passion to help people, especially children, was on full display in her work alongside nurses and medical director Zindoga Bungu, M.D., at Mashoko Christian Hospital. Her experiences included assisting in surgeries, helping deliver and care for babies, providing counsel and care to patients, and giving medications.

The 120-bed hospital is normally full with patients walking 10 to 20 miles to get assistance from a medical facility serving a region of Zimbabwe hard hit by drought, malnutrition, unreliable energy resources, and an adverse economic climate.

“This was my first time away from America, quite out of my comfort zone for an extended period of time,” states Campbell. “I started out missing so many things and began counting down each day until going home on an Excel spreadsheet. But by the end, I didn’t want to leave.”

As Americans, she says, we take so much for granted. “If you flip the light switch in a room, and it comes on, that makes for a good day in Zimbabwe,” Campbell adds. “I learned to appreciate the little things that I have in life.”

The conditions were even more remote in the Panama village of Embera Puru, where Campbell spent a week expanding clean water resources. Reaching the village required an hour drive from the country’s capital of Panama City and a two-hour motorized canoe ride. She was accompanied on the trip by her sister, Rachel, a junior mechanical engineering student at Pensacola Christian College in Florida.

Erin Campbell

International Student Scholar: Erin Campbell, a senior biomedical engineering major, had a global educational experience through the Whitaker International Student Scholars program. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Wayne Padgett, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering, organized the engineering mission trip to help install a new water filter and storage tank that will add 19 new taps to homes in the village. The group also spent time reading to children of the village, evaluating the old water filtration system, and delivering new chlorine test kits to manage water quality standards.

“It was so sweet to see Erin bond with the children in the village, and working with the men responsible for the water system and its construction,” says Padgett.

Campbell has completed more than 300 hours of community service during her three years at Rose-Hulman, and is the service coordinator for the college’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organization. She is a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society, Society of Women Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society, and Tau Beta Phi organizations. She has also completed an internship at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“I came to Rose-Hulman expecting a quality engineering education, and I have certainly received that and so much more,” she says. “Rose-Hulman has provided me with the skills, confidence, and strong support system to succeed. It has been everything that I wanted.”