Student Profile – Stephanie Sestito (MSIH Class of 2021)
In 2010, during the second year of a degree in Forensic Science at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina, Stephanie joined a group that planned to travel to Haiti to carry out community work.
“Just two weeks before the trip, the earthquake struck. The focus of our trip shifted to providing basic medical care, and the experience changed my life.”
Earthquake in Haiti
Stephanie had been home schooled by her mother and was only 19 when she arrived in Haiti to face a natural disaster that was so far removed from her experience that it turned her entire world upside down.
“I’d had a pretty sheltered life until then,” she admits. “Haiti was my first exposure to many things – a crisis situation, a medical emergency, a poor country. I’d never seen anything like it.”
Sestito spent 10 days in Petit-Goave, Haiti working around the clock to help wherever she could.
“In my group, there were two nurses. We met up with two doctors there and began organizing an outdoor, temporary clinic. We’d brought supplies from the US and we saw between 200 and 300 patients a day. It was mostly injuries, but we there were some births too, and some emergencies that we had the resources to handle.”
The experience so affected her that when she arrived home, she immediately changed her major to pre-med – intent now on entering the medical field and continuing to help underserved populations.
The Peace Corps
“I joined the Peace Corps shortly after graduating and left for Namibia, where I taught English for two years,” she says. “I specifically chose the Peace Corps because I appreciated their focus on sustainability. After learning more about the nebulous world of “development,” I wanted to learn firsthand about the challenges in low-resource environments.”
After finishing her Peace Corps service at 23, Stephanie completed a Masters in Public Health at the Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health, with a focus in Community Health and Prevention.
“Studying public health at Drexel allowed me to formalize some of the knowledge I’d gained in Namibia, and develop my understanding of health systems, history, policy, and the theory behind major public health principles. While at Drexel, I attended an MSIH recruitment event. It sounded perfect – just what I had been looking for and it immediately became my top choice of medical schools. Be’er Sheva is a very vibrant community and the school’s location allows us to take exciting opportunities.”
Shadowing in Nepal
During the summer after her first year of medical school, Stephanie traveled to Nepal and shadowed healthcare providers in both private and public clinics.
“Many students took the opportunity to travel during our summer break. It was a great time to reconnect with our desire to become doctors – something that can feel very far-off during pre-clinical training years.”
Stephanie’s guiding principles are a belief in equity and compassion.
“In Haiti, I was first exposed to the inequality in the world. In Namibia, I was able to gain experience in community development and rural living. I firmly believe that learning about inequalities is a good first step, but that once you know about them, you have a responsibility to take action. At MSIH, I have found many opportunities to expand my knowledge about the way that socio-political environment, religion, and cultural backgrounds affect population health and healthcare delivery. It has offered me a unique environment to study medicine – full of fresh challenges and rewards.”