David Bernstein, 2013-2014, Luxembourg (right), interviewing Mr. Rhett Power, a distinguished American entrepreneur, author, and business coach, during a talk show style event for local entrepreneurs and investors in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. (Photo Credit: Carolyn Turpin)
Nestled between Germany, France, and Belgium resides my second home and the country that welcomed me with open arms for one of the best years of my life – the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the 2013-2014 academic year, I had the distinct honor of being a Fulbright Study/Research Grantee to Luxembourg. While I expected my experience in the Grand Duchy to be life-changing, I did not fully grasp how much the opportunity would positively impact me until I actually arrived and began interacting with professors, classmates, and others from across my host country.
The main element of my Fulbright proposal revolved around earning a Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Luxembourg, a new beacon of higher education in the European Union that had been founded only ten years earlier. With plans to return to the United States following my Fulbright experience to pursue a dual MD/MBA degree, I arrived in Luxembourg eager to learn important entrepreneurial and innovation skills that I could adjust, as needed, and apply in my future medical career. However, upon entering the classroom for the first time, I knew that I would learn more than I had originally planned.
Giffin Daughtridge, 2011-2012, Colombia, and fellow 2011 Fulbright U.S. Student to Colombia Emma Din at Monserrate, a chapel overlooking all of Bogotá, during their orientation week.
Francesca and I were both 22 when we first met in 2011. She was a transsexual sex worker, and I was doing street outreach with the Fundación Fénix as part of my Fulbright U.S. Student grant to Bogotá, Colombia. Through our conversation, I learned she had undergone multiple surgeries from unlicensed street side providers to augment various parts of her body, consistently used a range of drugs, and engaged in sex work with up to 12 clients per day.
I enjoyed our conversation, but it also left me frustrated. Francesca was at extremely high risk of contracting an infectious disease like Hepatitis B (HBV), but she was also at extremely low likelihood of having access to the HBV vaccine. She was deeply distrustful of the public system stemming from years of abuse from police and stigma from healthcare providers, and she refused to go to any clinic or hospital to get the vaccine.
As a result, I dedicated my year to delivering Hepatitis B vaccines to the populations at highest risk of contracting the disease. In Bogotá, this was the female and transsexual sex worker population. By leveraging the healthcare resources of the Bogotá Secretary of Health and the community network with the sex worker population of the Fundación Fénix, we administered HBV vaccines to almost 200 high-risk individuals in their work places.