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Fulbright recipient focuses on women’s health issues in India

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One former University of Iowa student aims to conquer the breast and cervical cancer epidemic in India, a passion she acquired and fostered while being an Iowa Hawkeye.

By Emily Creery

emily-creery@uiowa.edu

As a member of UI’s Class of 2018, Rachel Maggi graduated with a major in international studies, a minor in global health, and a certificate in sustainability. Having been awarded the Fulbright grant, Maggi’s vision will quickly become a reality as she leaves Iowa behind for India, where she will stay for nine months to further conduct her research as an open study.

“My research is taking all of the information that I gathered in my honors thesis and applying it to the actual region, holding in-depth interviews and focus group discussions,” she said. “I want to know what the level of knowledge is and the perceptions of how these noncommunicable diseases are a burden for those in India.”

Maggi said even though the incidences of breast and cervical cancer in this country are lower than in the United States, the mortality rate is higher. She said she wants to understand if people know where they can get care, if they can afford that care, and if there is a social stigma surrounding attainment of care.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, the executive director of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, Ed Zastrow, said this opportunity to practice her passion is “truly a dream come true for Rachel.”

When choosing her future “home” for nine months, India was not a whim location, but a place of both childlike wanderlust and familiarity.

“Growing up, I really enjoyed learning about other cultures,” she said. “When I came to the University of Iowa and dove deeper into international studies, I found my love of India through discovering world religions, for Hinduism stood out as very interesting to me.”

Maggi participated in the India Winterim Program, spending three weeks in Rajasthan studying the effects of high efficiency cook stoves. Additionally, she went back to India to complete a four-week internship with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement shortly after returning to Iowa.

Maggi said she would love to continue her education through a doctorate degree, and that she would feel most herself in an academic setting. Her eyes brightened at the thought of having the luxury of furthering her research, teaching aspiring students, and serving as a mentor.

“Being a professor gives you wonderful opportunities, for not only can you teach — which I love doing — but you are also thrown into that mentorship role, which I became very comfortable with at my internship … the fact that my advice is actually useful to my peers is incredibly rewarding,” she said.

Maggi’s closest advisor, Christopher Squier, former Director of UI’s Global Health Studies, worked with her since 2014 and said he has no doubt that she will succeed in her future endeavors.

“Rachel knows what she wants to do by-and-large, so it was never as if she really needed any help,” Squier said. “She does well in the realm of extracurricular and work, but at the same time, she is succeeding in much more academic things as well.”

Maggi is ready for the next step but will never forget her time at Iowa. She said she was always surrounded by “a lot of people learning about the world and making it a better place.”

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