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Making a Dream Come True

Karen Kosinski pursues her goal to help the disadvantaged

By Rachel Faugno

Karen Kosinski at Tulane University, where she studied public health with plans to move on to medical school. She hopes to take her medical degree to Latin America to help "ease the suffering" of the poor in that region.

For as far back as she can remember, Karen Kosinski '02 has been motivated by the desire to serve others. As a youngster growing up in Rhode Island, she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and helping subsistence farmers in developing countries. But a chance comment made in her junior year by WPI biochemistry professor José Argüello changed her mind. After hearing Kosinski describe her goals to him after class one day, Argüello, an Argentinean, remarked, "In my country, when our animals get sick, we don't call the vet. We kill them and eat them."

From that moment, Kosinski's ambition was to become a primary care physician in the developing world. "I had always refused to consider the idea of practicing medicine because I found the responsibility for human life overwhelming. But once I faced my fear, I realized that I had the potential to become a doctor," she says. "Moreover, I saw that people everywhere live in hardship, and that medical care for them is exponentially more important than it is for their animals."

Reasoning that a public health degree would help her get into a medical school of her choice, Kosinski decided that after WPI she'd pursue an M.S. at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. She completed her studies there this spring and continues to compile an impressive record of humanitarian service.

As a biotechnology major with a minor in international studies at WPI, Kosinski earned wide recognition for her intellect, leadership, tenacity, and selflessness. Her volunteer work at a local animal hospital involved a round-trip walk of 10 miles. She helped out at the Rutland, Mass., office of Heifer Project International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable farming and animal husbandry, mentored disadvantaged youths, and was involved in neighborhood reading and recreation programs.

She also volunteered in the emergency room at Worcester's St. Vincent Hospital, a job that only hardened her newfound resolve to be a physician. After waitressing shifts, she would head to the hospital at one or two in the morning and stay for several hours, transporting patients, stocking supplies, and running errands. "I saw many disquieting cases," she recalls, "and sometimes could not sleep at night for thinking about the situation in which those poor people found themselves. The more I witnessed, the more I wanted to help."

"I saw many disquieting cases. The more I witnessed, the more I wanted to help."

She earned numerous honors, including the President's Interactive Qualifying Project Award (which she shared with project partner Abel Alvarez-Calderon) for creating a how-to manual for subsistence fish farmers in Costa Rica. "The experience dovetailed beautifully with my interest in nutrition and efficient protein production," she says.

Kosinski's understanding of developing countries' nutritional concerns will soon be broadened. She embarks soon on a year of study in the subject on a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship to Equador.

"This is the chance of a lifetime," she says. "I taught high school science in Venezuela for three months last year and I loved it. There's something about South American culture that's very warm and sincere. I feel comfortable there."

So comfortable that once she gets her medical degree she plans to set up a practice to serve the poor in Latin America. "I can't think of a more fulfilling way to live my life," Kosinski says. "If I can help ease the suffering of those around me, I will die happy."

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Last modified: Sep 15, 2004, 11:10 EDT
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