Connelly Casts a Wide Net to Save Lives
Elizabeth Connelly won a Michael D. Wilson Scholarship from UMF to spend two weeks in the East African country of Uganda, where she focused on curbing the spread of malaria. Connelly, a junior psychology major at UMF, worked with Soft Power Health Clinic to distribute mosquito nets and educate Ugandans about halting the mosquito-borne disease. As a result of the experience, she knows how much money it takes to save the lives of two children in the malaria-ravaged country: exactly $10.
Connelly drove the point home by displaying four empty cups during her Michael D. Wilson Symposium Day presentation at UMF.
"Ten dollars to us is about four iced coffees. For the cost of four iced coffees, a person can donate all it takes to manufacture, ship and distribute a mosquito net, which is the most effective prevention strategy to combat malaria," she said. "This disease kills 30 percent of all children under the age of 5 in Uganda. Two children can sleep under a net at a time, so ten dollars to a family in Uganda is the lives of up to two children saved and healthy parents who are able to support their families. Ten dollars means hundreds of dollars saved on medical treatments that can be used toward education and sending children to college so they can contribute to their communities and boost their country."
Connelly, who has been a licensed EMT since her junior year of high school, supplemented her psychology major with a pre-med mix of biology and chemistry to enter a physician assistant program after graduating from UMF. "Working with Soft Power made me more certain of what I want to do with my career. As a PA, you have the opportunity for more patient contact and, unlike doctors, spend less time dealing with insurance companies and administrative matters," she said. "I want to be in the trenches with clinical care."
The symposium day presentation was part of Connelly’s larger campaign to educate people about not only the low-cost, high-impact disease prevention strategies, but also proximate ways to affect change at home.
"People’s first reaction to hearing about the catastrophic numbers of people who die from malaria is to be overwhelmed, to say "the problem is so tremendous, what possible difference could I make?" The reality is that individuals can make a tremendous difference with small amounts of money and time," she said. "I encourage people to look at volunteer organizations, donate, make an impact. I want people to be empowered by my experience. There’s a lot they can do."