Yale Bulletin and Calendar

March 7, 2008|Volume 36, Number 21|Two-Week Issue















Emily Morell

USA Today honors students for
their work ‘beyond the classroom’

Yale students Emily Morell and Nathan Segal were among 20 undergraduates nationwide named to the USA Today All-USA College Academic Team for 2008.

The honor is given annually to full-time college students for academic excellence and for applying their intellectual abilities “beyond the classroom to benefit society.” Members of the elite team have their photographs and a description of their achievements published in the daily newspaper, and they receive a trophy and $2,500 cash award.

Two seniors, Mark Beyersdorf and Nadim Mahmud, were named to the USA Today second team; and a third senior, Robert Nelb, was selected for the third team.

Emily Morell

Morell, a junior from Oakland, California, traveled to Rwanda two summers ago for an internship with the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) and worked on a national assessment of pediatric HIV/AIDS care and treatment. She was surprised to discover, she says, that the attitude among public health officials was that HIV treatment is largely ineffective in malnourished patients and that HIV testing in children is often futile because children die of malnutrition before their test results are even known.

Morell discussed the problem with Emma Clippinger, a friend from Brown University who was an intern for CHAI’s agricultural program in Rwanda. The two women came up with the idea for a community garden program that would both feed and provide an additional source of income for AIDS patients and their families.

Morell, who founded the international development policy center of the student-run Roosevelt Institution, put her organizational skills to work, enlisting the support of the Rwandan government as well as the country’s HIV/AIDS Network, which represents more than 1,000 organized commu-nity groups of HIV-positive individuals.

Morell and Clippinger’s idea grew into the non-profit organization Gardens for Health International (GHI) (www.gardensforhealth.org). Working in partnership with the Rwandese Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, GHI is now developing community gardens throughout the country. Starting last summer with a pilot 33-acre sustainable garden program in an area outside the capital city of Kigali, GHI now represents 30 registered HIV/AIDS associations in the area, serving 4,131 individuals.

GHI was the winner of the 2007-2008 JP Morgan Undergraduate Good Venture Competition, which provides the recipient organization with a $25,000 “investment.” Morell shared the honor with fellow Yale students Julie Carney and Hae-in Lim, as well as Clippinger.

Morell is pursuing the neurobiology track of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology major. Since her freshman year, she has been involved in a neurosurgery research project studying neurological changes associated with cognitive function tasks in epilepsy patients. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school as well as pursue global health policy.

Morell will return to Rwanda this summer to continue the work of the rapidly expanding Gardens for Health. Her experience there, Morell says, has taught her some important lessons in management. “I have learned to delegate, to trust and not to micromanage,” she explains.

Nathan Segal

Nathan Segal

A Yale College senior from Gainesville, Florida, Segal has a dual major in history of science and medicine and in ethnicity, race and migration.

At the age of eight, he volunteered to work with patients at a hospice. He was guided to public service at that young age by a precept his Cherokee grandmother had taught him: “Ea nigada qusdi idadadvhn,” which translates into English as “all my relations in creation.” The saying is a call to serve humanity, to make the world a better place and to serve as a catalyst for change.

When he signed up at the hospice, he was told he was too young to work directly with the patients. “All they let me do at that age was fill bird feeders, help fill out menus and stuff envelopes to solicit donations,” he says. But by the age of 13 he was deemed mature enough to interact with families of the terminally ill.

One life-altering encounter he recalls was with a patient’s sister, a diabetic, who confided to him that she was struggling to pay for a roof over her head and food, and couldn’t afford the medication she needed to stay alive.

Segal immediately did a Google search of the companies that made all the medicines she needed, and was surprised to find that the pharmaceutical manufacturers had programs to help people who can’t afford the medicine they produce. However, he claims, in addition to effectively hiding the assistance programs by not advertising them, the drug companies make applicants fill out incredibly “convoluted” forms.

As a self-described “starry eyed 15-year-old,” Segal embarked on a mission to enroll low-income individuals in these programs, canvassing churches and nursing homes for people who needed assistance paying for their prescription drugs, and then helping them to apply to the drug companies. Eventually he offered his services through a local agency that caters to the elderly.

His efforts were so successful that he decided to defer college after high school to continue this work.

In addition to his philanthropic work, Segal is a marine conservationist whose passion for sea turtles led to his lecturing on the subject to student assemblies and service organizations while he was still only in middle school. His research on the turtles in Gainesville landed him an internship as a conservationist in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, where thousands of tourists flock each year to see the turtles emerge from the sea en masse to lay their eggs on the beach. Segal recalls one occasion when, in attempting to tag one of the giant reptiles after she left her cache of eggs in the sand, the turtle ripped through his clothing with her flippers and bit off a chunk of his arm.

Of a diverse ethnic background, Segal most identifies with his maternal Native American roots. Indeed, it was his Cherokee background that led him first to Stanford University, which has a large Native population, and later — for his junior and senior years — to Yale. “Yale has an amazing program,” he says, noting that the University has an increasingly prominent Native American presence on campus and an assistant dean who specifically serves their interests. His many extracurricular activities include serving as a management fellow in Dwight Hall, a senior class representative in the Branford College Council, treasurer of the Association of Native Americans and of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and editor of the Native American publication “Red Ink.”

In addition to awards for his work with minority communities, Segal is the recipient of a Udall Scholarship for his environmental contributions and a Truman Scholarship, which provides funding for graduate school. He plans to work for awhile before going for an advanced degree in public health or public policy. He hopes eventually to work for health and human services or for an NGO on policy to deliver health care to every segment of the population.

“I would love to have universal health care,” he says, “but it would be politically challenging to go from a completely capitalistic system to a government-run system that insures everyone.” He thinks that there is a middle ground, and he intends to help build a more equitable system on it.

By Dorie Baker


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