Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2005


Mach Arom ´89: Rebuilding hope for Thai tsunami victims

Kathryn Bard ´68: Somewhere in Egypt

Who cares about Haiti?

Venturing into Iran: Beyond the warning

Gloria Hollister Anable ’24: Into the deep

Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74: Six months in Uganda

Sarah Trapido ´08: Going 13,000 miles on veggie oil

Yoko Shimada ´99: Fighting the war on AIDS in East Africa

The extra mile: Journeys that make a difference

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Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74: Six months in Uganda

Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74: Six months in Uganda
Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74, right, with artist Nyx Martinez, who eventually transformed the pediatric ward´s white walls into a colorful display.

by Julie Novak

Gaida Ozols Fuller ’74 , who works as a clinical study manager for Pfizer Inc, was walking through the company’s Groton, Conn. facility one day when she paused to examine some photos on the wall. The pictures, taken by her co-workers, depicted their experiences working to combat diseases like AIDS and malaria in Africa, Central America and Asia as part of Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows program. “It sounds silly, but it was one of those things where I stopped and thought, ‘this feels right. This is what I want to do,’” she said.

Fast forward several months and Fuller has become one of those volunteers. Through the fellowship she was paired with Health Volunteers Overseas, a nonprofit dedicated to improving health care in developing countries through education. From January to June this year she witnessed poverty and suffering first-hand in Kampala, Uganda where she worked at Mulago Hospital, an often-crowded place with patients camped out in the hallways. It was her first visit to Africa.

“It’s very startling,” she said, to see people who are hungry and crawling in the dirt streets. “It makes you very appreciative of what you have when you return to the United States.” But among the tragedy, she said, there was great beauty in and outside of Kampala, both in the landscape and the culture. The people were gracious and welcoming, she said, and curious about western culture.

At Mulago, Fuller’s work focused on women’s health issues. She created a health education program for staff, who were adept at teaching patients through verbal instruction, but had little written information for patients to take home. So she produced a series of eight brochures, each focusing on a different health issue such as nutrition, family planning and infant care. She also designed another brochure for the care of burn victims in the burn intensive care unit. But her education duties extended beyond the written word, and she also mentored two nurse interns who graduated from a local university nursing program. “It got me out of the women’s health arena and gave me an overview of what the other needs at the hospital were,” she said.

Fuller taught and created materials on how to properly monitor IV fluids and blood products and became more involved in other areas of the hospital, creating a presentation for staff on infection control and aseptic technique.

Fuller, who majored in zoology, credits CC for broadening her view of the world and providing a solid foundation for her career.

Although Fuller is back home in Waterford, Conn., her experience in Kampala is still fresh in her mind. She keeps in touch with those she befriended at the hospital via e-mail. A friend wrote to her recently to report on the progress of a painting project in the hospital’s pediatric ward, which Fuller was able to make a reality with the help of volunteers and Pfizer funds. When she left Kampala, the walls were white. Now they are brightly painted, adding a cheery air to the ward. “Every few days I get another photo,” Fuller said. “It makes my day.”

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