GGTW Scholar: Leah Boutelle

Leah is the first recipient of a Go Get The World scholarship. You can read about the award presentation in a previous post. Today, Leah shares her thoughts with our community. Thanks, Leah, and congratulations again!

When I was in my early twenties, I knew that I wanted to travel, to see, to do. I spent time in New York City as an older teenager and went West when I turned 19. Living in Oregon and California was a big step for me. I didn’t know anyone in the cities where I lived—Portland, OR and Oakland, CA. I just went out there, trusting that a totally new experience could be so much more than just scary. It was self-affirming to take those steps out into the unknown, because I hadn’t been anywhere that far away from home even as a child. When I left home and explored the States, I learned how brave and strong I could be, and how many beautiful and inspiring people and moments were out in the world. I’m now 30 and I’ve never stopped seeing life in this light.

From right to left:Leah Boutelle, daughter Charlotte, and niece Cyriana
“The day I found out I was receiving the…GGTW scholarship,” Leah says, “I cried.”

The day I found out I was receiving the BDIC GGTW scholarship I cried. It has been difficult for me to make sure my rent is paid, my student debt doesn’t go above what I can pay back, that I do well in school, work, and, perhaps most importantly, that my six-year-old daughter Charlotte has a happy childhood. Scholarships have been one of the few breaks that I get as a single working student parent. The scholarship I received from GGTW helped me pay for summer courses that are prerequisites for the next part of my journey—pursuing an MD/PhD in family medicine and anthropology.

Without this scholarship I would have owed almost $1000.00 for those classes and the summer would have been stressful—non-stop working and school, with not much of me left for making sure Charlotte has happy memories of this year of her life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take classes without trying to piece together a school bill on top of rent and other bills.

At the end of 2019, I will finish a degree that I tailored through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) program. My undergraduate work in Medical Justice and Competencies has focused on the societal determinants of health, and how the body intersects with society.

I know you’re asking, “What does ‘Medical Justice and Competencies’ mean exactly?” I’m glad you asked! It is simply this: People exist in a complex web of social and cultural constructs, and their health is dependent on the experiences they have within and because of those constructs. Health is not simply biological. Rather, human biology is affected by the social systems within which we exist. Often, these social-biological relationships are not closely examined in allopathic (traditional Western) medicine, which tends to only “characterize the lesion.” We define health only as the absence of disease, and look at it as a locally identifiable biological state. However, the mind and body interact with the environment and society, and then manifest either a diseased or healthy state. None of the elements of health can be separated from one another.

I hope to conduct research abroad before medical and graduate school. At the end of the summer, I will apply for the Fulbright fellowship to work on an independent research project that will document the alternative economic systems in post-austerity Greece. I am interested in how people remain resilient in the face of poverty and government funding failure. That resilience is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and I think it’s important for the world to see. Sharing our triumphs can inspire others, and has the potential to help others draw up strength in times of their own struggles.

People walking on the ridge of a sand dune in the desert.

I am so grateful for the opportunities that opened to me with this scholarship. I encourage anyone reading this to go get the world, too, because what is the alternative? Living a life afraid of the unknown is not worth living. Even the next moment is unknown, so why wait?

If you are interested in sponsoring a GGTW scholarship, drop us a line and we’ll tell you how!

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