Kilgore aims to expand access to health care through a study abroad tour

Cassandra Thomas

Breanna Kilgore

Graduate and international education is about discovery – the discovery of knowledge, the discovery of research and creative science that improves life, and the discovery of new countries, cultures and people. Graduate School and International Education celebrates our students, faculty and staff who are making discoveries at the University of Arkansas.

Breanna Kilgore wants to see a world where people don’t have to choose between paying their medical bills or buying food for their family.

Growing up in El Dorado, Kilgore saw firsthand how poverty and social status affected a person’s health. Barriers like access to affordable and healthy food, clean housing and education can mean the difference between illness and health.

“Everyone deserves to be healthy, and I’ve seen how poverty, environment and social status affect a person’s overall health,” she said. “My zip code shouldn’t determine my health care, and I hope that combining technology, global health and engineering can solve these problems.”

She wanted to change that—especially by increasing access to healthcare technology. To do that, she enrolled at the U of A through the Honors College’s Path program, where she studied at the intersection of technology and health care.

One day, an advisor from the Office of Study Abroad attended a meeting at the Honors College and introduced Kilgore and others to study abroad opportunities. Kilgore realized that immersing herself in another country’s healthcare system would not only help her more effectively find solutions to healthcare challenges, but would also be a strong addition to her resume as she graduated and entered the increasingly globalized workforce.

breanna kilgore in narrow alley
Breanna Kilgore sits by the lake

“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone,” she said.

But the prospect terrified Kilgore. As an underrepresented first-generation student, the prospect of attending college at a flagship university was daunting enough. No one in her immediate family had ever traveled outside the country, much less attempted to take an academic course while living in another country. Also, studying abroad was expensive.

Kilgore then met with the Office of Study Abroad, where counselors provided her with information about scholarships and made recommendations on what study abroad experience would be best for her based on her interests.

Her conversations with the Study Abroad team reassured Kilgore and helped her land Switzerland as her destination. In her program, she spent six weeks studying global health and development policy, where she conducted field research alongside biotech specialists and participated in briefings from international organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

This experience led Kilgore to become a Rice 360 ​​Global Health Engineering Fellow after completing her post-baccalaureate fellowship at the U of A, where she will help develop affordable and sustainable medical devices to help pregnant women in Africa give birth and babies survive after birth.

During her scholarship interview, Kilgore was asked about her study abroad experience and spoke extensively about her time in Switzerland and its impact on her.

“I loved the study abroad experience and the program is solid, so it definitely helped me become more well-rounded,” she said. – I highly recommend and encourage studying abroad to everyone.

For more information on study abroad opportunities, visit Study Abroad Office website.

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