Tartil Ali, a fourth-year student majoring in psychology and pre-medicine, from West Des Moines, Iowa, will use her Gilman Scholarship to study abroad this summer in South Africa on the IES Cape Town Health Studies Program
Chosen from thousands of applicants from colleges and universities across the U.S., University of Iowa undergraduate Tartil Ali has been awarded the competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to study abroad this summer. Gilman scholarship recipients receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies -- making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.
Why did you decide to study abroad in South Africa?
I have decided on South Africa specifically because they have come a long way in terms of their healthcare. After the fall of Apartheid, South Africa has taken great strides to bridge the wide economic and social gap, causing infrastructure, education, healthcare services, and economic opportunities to grow. I will learn how different groups are treated in the healthcare system regarding their society due to the various cultures in South Africa. Studying abroad will allow me to compare South Africa's improving healthcare system to that of the U.S., where the majority of health disparities lie in minority and rural populations. The majority Black population in South Africa had limited healthcare until the 1990s, and today, South Africa's healthcare system provides free or low-cost care to most of its population. This is important because, in the U.S., the mortality rate for minorities in healthcare is very high. The initiative that South Africa is taking may be beneficial in other countries like the U.S. I would like to investigate how the Apartheid has created tension within the Black community in South Africa and has still placed an equitable healthcare system that benefits all. In Cape Town, I will learn from local healthcare personnel in public district hospitals that provide care for the underserved. I am specifically interested in this aspect of the program because of my involvement with the Free Medical Clinic and Mobile Clinic that serve minorities in Iowa City.
How do you envision this experience impacting your future/career?
Taking on this journey will help me to reach my goal of becoming a culturally competent physician who can treat patients more effectively and provide better care. Experience from this program will allow me to give service to underrepresented communities in the future and provide them with quality care tailored to their needs. This program will hopefully lead me to other opportunities in the future to gain experiences that will advance my adaptability and my ability to communicate with others who are different from me. As an aspiring physician, I will strive to provide education and resources that engage healthcare providers to reduce negative outcomes associated with health disparities by improving the quality, safety, and value of patient care.
Why is studying abroad important to you?
From a young age, I have aspired to create more inclusive communities. Being a Muslim who relocated to the U.S. as a refugee, I never felt like I belonged in my community. To create inclusivity I believe it is crucial for me to experience other cultures abroad and to apply such knowledge to prevent erroneous misrepresentations and correct stereotypes. A lot of problems in our community stem from ignorance, such as the inability to be cognizant of differences. As a result, I encourage all individuals to take the initiative by placing themselves in someone else's shoes to learn about a culture different than their own. You may be surprised by the similarities or the wonders you've been missing out on.