Garretson is a native of the D.C. area who is going on a one-week medical mission trip to Haiti this holiday season. As a senior at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Massachusetts, she has assisted lab scientists for four straight summers and previously went to the Dominican Republic on a separate medical mission trip. Garretson plans to conduct research in Haiti for her senior thesis on diagnostic tools used in Haiti clinics. She plans to earn a joint M.D./Ph.D.
How did you get involved in these trips?
I did a ... program at a graduate institute in California, and the summer research project was creating a medical diagnostic device to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Ever since that project, I've had an interest in medical health and diagnostics and significant diseases that plague populations, especially disadvantaged populations.
What's the most common misperception about these populations?
A lot of the misperceptions I hear is they don't want to improve their health status, that they don't want to find the proper services or doctors. But the truth of the matter is, depending on where you live [in Haiti], there's only one clinic every 12 miles. They all have to ... walk in most cases to get access. But even the clinics set up in rural areas aren't as supplied as well as they should be. It's really hard to treat everybody, especially for outpatient care. Basically, once patients come to the clinic and leave, it's pretty hard to determine the effectiveness of whether the treatment is working.
What are your career hopes?
I would like to really incorporate health care policy, but I think it would be really interesting if I worked for the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] or had a position with the World Health Organization or a nongovernmental organization that really tackled world health care issues.