Esther Lee '13 is truly a globally engaged person. She was born in South Korea and grew up in the southern Philippines, but also spent some time in South Africa, Singapore and parts of the United States before attending Houghton College. While at Houghton, Lee was a participant in the First Year Honors Program, London, expanding her world-wide repertoire. She graduated in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in biology and is now studying at the Medical School for International Health at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel.
“I applied for this program because of its global health emphasis,” Lee said. “I always knew that I wanted to work internationally because I grew up travelling, without one country to call home.”
The MD program is a joint program from Ben-Gurion University and Columbia University Medical Center and is a four-year program that incorporates global health into all years of study and teaches medicine for global heath relief and development work.
“I love that I study with such a diverse group of classmates: Ph.D.’s, Masters of Public Health students and other master’s degree students, or just out of college graduates, like me, from different cultures, countries and backgrounds,” Lee said. “The only thing that brought all of us here is our desire to combine global health into our M.D. studies and our belief that health is more than a physical state.”
Lee is also working on improving her Hebrew language skills so that she will be able to better communicate with the people immediately around her. In order to more fully expand her global mind and medical experience, she also plans on doing her third year rotations in Israel, her fourth year electives in a developing country and then her residency in North America.
“Medicine may be my passport to showing God’s love in countries and contexts where it may otherwise be difficult to gain access, such as war zones, disaster relief areas and closed countries,” Lee said.
Working on her Hebrew skills and having the opportunity to exchange greetings with security guards, patients, doctors and visitors is what Lee pointed to as some of the greatest aspects of this experience.
She doesn’t have a lot of free time due to the intensity of her course work. “The quantity of information, plus language classes, plus adjusting to life in a new country and culture is a challenge,” Lee said. “I make time to do the things I love and that refresh me: backpacking, reading literature and poetry, perfecting my coffee making skills and enjoying the fruit of it, soaking in art galleries and museums, and writing.”
After returning to Houghton from London in September of 2010, Lee declared her biology major with a pre-med track. She mentioned a number of professors as influential to her during her Houghton years. She points to Dr. Jamie Potter, Dr. Ndunge Kiiti and Dr. Karen Torraca as mentors, friends, prayer partners and people that encouraged her to pursue international health as well as take full advantage of her time at a liberal arts school; Dr. Laurie Dashnau and Dr. Thomas and Margo Kettelkamp, her host families, for making her feel at home in Houghton; and Dr. James Zoller for sharing his book collection with her.
Along with her biology major, Lee was a psychology minor and took a number of literature courses along with pipe organ, ceramics and many other non-biology related classes.
“The liberal arts education showed me that medicine is more than science, empirical data and results, logic and numbers,” Lee said. “Biology and medicine are both looking at the human experience, as do other departments, just from a different perspective or emphasis.”
Lee is excited to see where God leads her after completing her medical program and is thankful to have had four years in Houghton. “Houghton was a place of preparation for me,” Lee said. “It was quiet, isolated and full of good people and open spaces.”