Senior Takes on Challenging Study of Medical Care in Impoverished Countries

Created: March 21, 2016
Last Updated: July 16, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (March 21, 2016) – Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) student Michael Kasunic ‘16 had plans to spend his summer in Tanzania studying how impoverished countries receive medical care.

He didn’t expect that his Magellan Project would have an emotional impact on his studies, as well as in his post-graduate career plan.

Kasunic, from Butler, Pa., is a history major with a chemistry minor on the pre-health track. He graduated early from W&J, in December of 2015. During the summer of 2015, however, Kasunic spent more than five weeks traveling abroad in Tanzania, volunteering at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and living at an orphanage.

“The first two weeks were spent traveling the country to gain an appreciation for and knowledge of the culture, so I could better understand how the Tanzanian people live when I was helping them and volunteering at the hospital,” Kasunic said. “The last three weeks I lived at an orphanage, and traveled eight kilometers into the town of Arusha each day to volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s.”

Kasunic expected to face challenges during his trip, but he also learned to value things that are often take for granted in the United States.

“Showering was rare,” he said. “It felt wrong to shower when I saw the struggle these people faced just to obtain water used primarily for drinking.”

Both on a personal level and academically, Kasunic was deeply affected by his trip.

“This journey allowed me to witness extreme poverty and desperation and realize that there are many out there who have it far worse than we could ever imagine,” he said. “Living with orphans is very exciting yet very sad, especially when it comes time to leave and they all try to fit into my backpack with hopes that I will bring them home with me. Through this project, I realized the immense need people have of both general and medical care.”

In August, Kasunic will attend medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is confident his Magellan Project has given him tools and an outlook he will need to succeed in the future.

“The medical experience I gained as well as the compassion and empathy I felt toward the people I met will allow me to become both a better and more compassionate physician,” he said.

Kasunic encourages others to take a chance and complete a Magellan project as well.

“I would love to answer questions about the Magellan process itself, or even about Tanzania, with hopes that others will embark upon their own journeys and realize how eye-opening helping people in such need can be.”

About the Magellan Project

Established in 2008, Washington & Jefferson College’s unique Magellan Project extends liberal arts learning outside the classroom by providing scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Magellan Project on the W&J website.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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