Testing blood sam­ples, deliv­ering babies and watching sur­geons per­form emer­gency oper­a­tions on patients in hos­pi­tals in Cape Town, South Africa, gave Sam Lau­dano a glimpse of her life’s calling.

It was com­pletely inspiring and absolutely life-​​changing,” said Lau­dano, who grad­u­ated from North­eastern in Jan­uary with a degree in tox­i­cology. “It made me cer­tain that this is exactly what I want to do,” she added, noting that the summer-​​long expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity has encour­aged her to pursue a career either as a doctor or a physi­cian assistant.

Lau­dano con­nected with Chil­dren Family Health Inter­na­tional to get the posi­tion with three hos­pi­tals in the South African city. The non­govern­mental orga­ni­za­tion places health sci­ence stu­dents in global health edu­ca­tion pro­grams throughout the world.

At GF-​​Jooste Hos­pital, in Cape Town, Lau­dano drew blood, mea­sured heart rates and per­formed EKG’s on the severely impov­er­ished and uninsured.

The harsh reality of bud­getary restric­tions imposes severe limits on testing for sick kids, expec­tant mothers and ailing elderly, Lau­dano said.

Doc­tors tried to get as much infor­ma­tion out of the phys­ical exam as they could,” she explained. “They won’t order 10 tests just to rule out something.”

She also watched severely wounded patients face surgery, vividly recalling the case of one victim who had a bullet extracted from under­neath the skin of his thumb, and of another who wan­dered around the hos­pital with a knife embedded in his head.

Lau­dano mar­veled at the dili­gence of the under­paid, yet over­worked doc­tors, and said she’d jump at the oppor­tu­nity to work full time at a clinic in an impov­er­ished for­eign country.

It was very inspiring to work with the doc­tors there,” she said. “The essence of med­i­cine is to help people who oth­er­wise have no alternative.”

At Eerste River Hos­pital, an anti­retro­viral drug clinic, Lau­dano tested blood sam­ples and shad­owed doc­tors who coun­seled patients and fam­i­lies who were coping with HIV/​AIDS.

Many of the coun­seling ses­sions focused on safe sex prac­tices and spousal therapy. “There is a ton of mis­in­for­ma­tion about AIDS,” Lau­dano said. “And even if a woman wants to have safe sex, her hus­band might not believe in that.”

Lau­dano also cleaned and weighed new­borns at the midwife-​​run Macassar Day Hos­pital, an out­pa­tient mater­nity ward.

The overall expe­ri­ence trans­formed her under­standing of the impor­tance of becoming a health care pro­fes­sional. “It’s about caring for people and making their lives easier in any way that you can,” she said.