A self-​​described “premed since age 11,” North­eastern health sci­ences major Alison Coll has built a body of med­ical knowl­edge in Cen­tral America, India, and Africa, as she works her way toward med­ical school.

Nicaragua 2009
In Nicaragua, Coll often shared the dusty road with pigs, goats and chickens. Armed with a cooler filled with tetanus and polio vac­cines, she set out on foot every day to inoc­u­late Nicaraguan chil­dren and fam­i­lies. “People were so grateful that they’d send us away with bags of fruit,” she says.

The health sci­ences major vol­un­teered on co-​​op with Centro de Salud, a health clinic in Jinotepe, Nicaragua. In addi­tion to admin­is­tering vac­cines, Coll worked at the clinic, which was government-​​sponsored and offered free med­ical care. She cared for patients with chronic ill­nesses, such as hyper­ten­sion and diabetes.

What got her there? Coll has con­sid­ered her­self a “premed” since she was 11, inspired by her physi­cian father who has since died. “When I would see him run­ning off in seeming super­hero fashion to try to save a life, it was amazing,” she says. “He def­i­nitely sparked the interest I have in medicine.”

That interest has grown into a strong body of med­ical knowl­edge through her North­eastern aca­d­e­mics and inter­na­tional expe­ri­ences, which Coll said are paving her path to med­ical school.

India 2008
After classes ended last year, Coll aug­mented her studies with a summer pro­gram in India. There, she learned non­tra­di­tional home­o­pathic med­i­cine, mas­sage and color therapy.

South Africa 2007
Coll hadn’t con­sid­ered pedi­atrics before a six-​​month co-​​op in the burn unit of Cape Town Red Cross Children’s Hos­pital in South Africa; now, she says, she has “opened her heart to it.” She was involved in research on bac­te­rial infec­tion in patients with hot-​​water burns.

We were studying the bac­teria in the wound and whether it would lead to severe scar­ring of the skin,” Coll explains. “The work was pretty intense. We’d see these beau­tiful babies with hor­rible scars on their faces, where hot water had splashed them.” Babies burned by hot water were a common sight. Many fam­i­lies lived in one-​​room dwellings, where cooking and sleeping took place within feet of each other. It was not unusual for babies to pull on the cords of elec­tric ket­tles, says Coll.

With each new inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence, Coll stays focused on her goal. A minor fear of flying isn’t enough to stop her as she takes off for each new des­ti­na­tion. When the air­plane lifts off, she explains. “I just sur­render myself to the forces in life and go with it.”