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Discomfort zone is just right for this premed student

Shadowing medical doctors through the crowded wards of Bolivia’s Hospital Del Nino recently, Northeastern University student Travis Howlette, ’11, helped care for young patients afflicted with some of the most rare diseases in the world.

Children with “monkey pox” and flesh-eating bacteria competed for care with children suffering from more common conditions like tuberculosis and inflamed abscesses. The pediatric hospital is located in Bolivia’s capital city of La Paz.

“We saw some really sad cases,” says Howlette, a health science major with a premed focus.

He also saw the hopeful beginning to life when he assisted in a birth. “Of all my experiences, that was the most amazing. I was the third person to hold this little baby.”

Growing up in New Jersey in a family of mostly attorneys, Howlette knew from boyhood that he wanted to be a pediatric doctor. “I’ve always loved being around kids, and being a role model, and I loved science, biology and anatomy in school,” he says.

At Northeastern, he is a member of the Health Disparities Student Collaborative, which does outreach on and off campus around the issue of socioeconomic differences in the incidence of disease, health outcomes, or health-care access.

His international co-op last spring gave him hands-on experience as a noncertified medical assistant, and also enabled him to contribute toward the purchase of hospital medical supplies through the charitable organization Child Family Health International of San Francisco.

Working internationally also allowed him to achieve a key educational goal.

“I wanted to get out of my bubble. I wanted to go somewhere in need, and someplace uncomfortable, and to immerse myself in the culture” Howlette says. “That’s how I work best, to be put in situations I’m not certain I can handle, get over my fear and nervousness, and do my best work.”

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