After winning a $30,000 grant for one year of studying abroad, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology student will continue his studies at the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia after graduation.
Hanson Cowan wants to use his Rotary Global Grant to get a master's degree in epidemiology. He hopes to become an infectious disease doctor or epidemic intelligence service officer, and his studies will focus on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
Cowan, a Tennessee native and a triplet, found his passion for non-communicable disease research by working with professors at USC to learn the field of epidemiology.
In addition to his studies at USC, Cowan volunteered at the Good Samaritan Clinic in Columbia, a clinic that provides healthcare for uninsured and Spanish-speaking clients.
"It’s been really good, I guess eye-opening, to see how much disparities there are with the immigrant population, specifically Hispanics when it comes to health care," Cowan said.
Cowan said he found passion for studying and learning more about Type 2 diabetes in the Hispanic community while volunteering for the clinic, and decided to pursue that more in his study abroad in Colombia.
“When they come to the United States, fast food, unhealthy food, is cheaper and that's what they can afford," Cowan said. “And so I hope by learning this, it will help me bring back skills to the U.S. and really start that conversation and progress that conversation about how policy can influence health."
Fourth-year biology student Catherine Shirer met Cowan through volunteering together at the Good Samaritan Clinic.
“Hanson really is kind of the jack-of-all-trades, he knows how to do almost everything over there," Shirer said.
Gina Gresham, development and volunteer coordinator at the Good Samaritan Clinic, met Cowan on her first day as coordinator and his first day as a volunteer. Gresham recalled Cowan's versatility and his involvement in helping implement the clinic's paper to digital conversion of clients' records.
“He’s very compassionate, very smart. He’s going to make an excellent doctor,” Gresham said.
She hopes he capitalizes on his grant and uses it to positively impact those who are generally undeserved in the communities he works to impact in the future.
"I hope that with this grant, or really anything in life, he continues to give back to his community," Gresham said.
Along with his volunteer work, Cowan spent a maymester researching healthcare systems in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the U.S., and the differences among the three. He said the most striking finding was how these countries view their commitments to their healthcare systems.
“In the Netherlands, they're really proud of their successful healthcare system, and they’re willing to pay a good portion of their income to support this," Cowan said. "And I think it’s a big benefit, because they have excellent resources."
Gresham emphasized her admiration of Cowan's work and of his opportunity to continue with it in Colombia.
“I’m very proud of him and this award is very, very well-deserved," Gresham said. "I couldn’t think of a better candidate.”