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Research on Campus and Service through Timmy Global Health Play Pivotal Role in Career Path

Anna Brenneman | Undergraduate, Biology

A week in the Dominican Republic with Timmy Global Health taught Anna Brenneman a lot about potential careers in health care, whetting her appetite for a return trip to the Caribbean country with the organization during spring break 2014.

The School of Science senior had her eyes opened wide last spring break during her first international trip with Timmy Global Health, serving several banana farm communities near the town of Montecristi.

Anna Brenneman
Anna Brenneman poses with her poster during the Women in STEM Research Poster Session in March 2014.

“I hate to be a cliché, but it opened me up in a totally different way,” said Brenneman. Seven days of working in clinical settings in the Dominican Republic “instilled a passion in me to work with people less fortunate than I,” she added.

“Shadowing these physicians, nurses, pharmacists and community health leaders imparted a sense of thankfulness I had never before felt,” Brenneman said of her Dominican Republic trip. “What I did not expect was my growing aspiration to study how to provide care on a national and global scale. Public and global health were not disciplines I foresaw myself being interested in, until I saw the inequities in a single community in single country abroad.”

That has put a master’s degree in public health firmly on the radar screen of the IUPUI student, who was an IUPUI Top 100 student in both 2013 and 2014.

The experience with Timmy Global Health allowed Brenneman to work in various tasks from pharmaceutical dispersal to translation skills to observing professionals at work.

“I enjoyed observing medical professionals in action,” she said. “It was a nice introduction to family care and made me realize how challenging that career could be.”

The trip may turn out to be a pivotal moment in her life. “As each day passed, I could see my career path taking shape,” Brenneman said. “I knew I wanted to learn more about how to make community health better, not just there, but in our country too.”

As big a role as the Timmy Global Health experience played in her life, Brenneman has found other sources of encouragement.

Anna Brenneman

Brenneman, first row standing fifth from left, and members of the Timmy Global Health crew that traveled to the Dominican Republic on spring break of 2013.

“Research has played a big role in my career path,” she said. “My academic career wouldn’t be complete without those experiences of working with talented researchers at IUPUI and in the School of Medicine (IUSM).” Brenneman admires their passion, a quality she believes she shares.

Brenneman has participated in the Life-Health Science Internship Program, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and the Distributed Drug Discovery (D3) Project. The Center for Research and Learning awarded her a grant for two years to continue research with UROP that she started as a Summer Fellow. She is working on a project with the guidance Dr. Jill Reiter in the OB/GYN department of IUSM, that focused on investigating the imprinting status of a gene cluster on Human Chromosome 6 expressed in the placenta.

She’s also made a lasting impact on the School through her work as president of Undergraduate Women in Science (UWIS). Brenneman was involved in founding the campus organization in 2012, which is dedicated to helping women enjoy a richer undergraduate experience through service, academic and professional resources, leadership opportunities and a supportive community of women who share an interest in science.

Brenneman also has benefitted from living in the residential-based learning community Women in Science House since her freshman year.

“The aspect I am most thankful for is how living in WISH showed my fellow residents and I how there was a greater need to provide a similar support system for undergraduate women science students outside of WISH,” she said. That realization led to a group of undergraduate and faculty women creating Women in Science. “For all those involved, creating this program has given us incalculable experiences in creativity, problem-solving, communication, respect for our peers, and drive for constant improvement.”

Brenneman said she knew as early as her high school sophomore year that she wanted to be a physician. As she prepares to graduate in May, she plans to take time to work in the industry, learn Spanish and spend time volunteering before preparing to apply for medical school in the future.

“I knew I wanted to be pre-med, and even though I didn’t have a strong background in biology, I fell in love with the discipline,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without the help of mentors here, at IUPUI. The best reward is that I’ve been able to give the same help to others."