This spring St. Ambrose proudly announced its fifth Fulbright student in the past six years. Bloomington-Normal native Samantha Lee ’09 earned the distinction in April and will conduct AIDS research in Trinidad and Tobago for 10 months beginning in January.
The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.
Lee, an Industrial Engineering major, will assess a computerized reporting system that monitors the spread of the AIDS disease.
“Professionally, this experience will be unparalleled to anything I’ve ever done before,” Lee says.
And her work is critical. The race to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over. In 2007, UNAIDS reported 33 million people worldwide living with HIV – with over 18,000 of them in Trinidad and Tobago, two small islands east of Venezuala.
Key to reining in this rampant and deadly virus is managing blood samples and receiving accurate and fast test results. Now that monitoring system has been implemented, Lee will determine if there have been any changes or improvements, or if people have gone back to the old, erroneous ways of data reporting. So far, the system has made a difference: patients typically would wait three days for an HIV confirmation but today that wait is cut in half.
However, there’s more to do to increase the system’s efficiency. “I'll also be looking at the interaction between the system and the employees,” Lee says, “such as the main clinic and the rural clinics, and the employees and the patients to see if improvements still need to be made. A further aspect is assessing the number of employees and determining if that’s enough to meet the patient demand.”