IN THE SPOTLIGHT
A passion to improve global health
Before applying to medical schools, University of Colorado at Boulder graduate Nick Breitnauer is taking a two-year hiatus to teach in sub-Saharan Africa with the Peace Corps.
"One major inspiration to serve is that it is a very real, powerful way to serve the community in which I'm placed," said Breitnauer, who graduated May 8 with bachelor's degrees in molecular, cellular and developmental biology (MCDB) and psychology. "I truly believe I can improve the quality of life of those I will be teaching."
He will leave in November 2009 to join a corps of fellow volunteers and begin training. During his service, Breitnauer will direct a class in secondary biology, incorporating concepts of health and environmental education as well as promoting school and community involvement. He also will take on a self-directed project for which he plans to work in various health centers across the region.
"I am excited about understanding much better what it would look like for me to work as a doctor internationally," Breitnauer said. "More specifically, I don't just want to be another volunteer for international medical foundations, but I want to work tirelessly at real, systemic changes in international health."
Part of his motivation for working on these changes in Africa, Breitnauer explained, came about from a previous volunteer trip he took to a township in Cape Town, South Africa. "I loved the culture," said Breitnauer, who directed a camp there and also spent a year teaching English in China.
During his visit he learned that 30 to 50 percent of the children of the township were HIV positive.
"I was completely captivated by the smiles upon the faces of the children, constantly glowing in the face of hardship," he said. "It became very clear to me that the hope within these children was something special. Their joy shone through the darkness of an epidemic. From that moment, my heart was captivated by the African people and I remain driven to be a change agent in the face of this enormous battle for global health."
Breitnauer's background in leadership will assist his efforts to make an impact through his service. In addition to being in the Presidents Leadership Class, he also is one of two statewide recipients of the Colorado Leadership Alliance Student Leader of the Year award.
This honor, presented by 9News, the Boettcher Foundation and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, was created to recognize students who demonstrate extraordinary support of their campus leadership programs, exceptional service to their community, and outstanding character and personal resilience.
"Nick leads with integrity and compassion," said Barbara Volpe, executive director of the Presidents Leadership Class. "He leads by connecting to others and drawing out their strengths. That is a quality not many people possess."
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