Emely Baez was in high school in Woonsocket, R.I., when she learned about the 1990s genocide in Rwanda, Africa. A teacher spoke about the tragedy and introduced the class to a woman who had barely escaped with her life.
“She was injured and had been lying under a pile of bodies in a church for days,” Baez recalled. “Most of her wounds would have been easily treatable but because of a lack of health care, they became infected and doctors had to amputate.”
Baez decided she wanted to help such people through a career in global health. As a student at URI’s College of Nursing, she has studied abroad in Tanzania, Jamaica, Argentina, and Spain. “You can’t learn everything from a book,” Baez said.
In January, she joined classmates from the colleges of nursing, pharmacy, and health sciences for a global health course in Indonesia. The students worked on educating residents about prevention of stroke, a leading cause of death in the country. “I think it’s our responsibility to provide access to health. People shouldn’t be disadvantaged because of where they were born.”
Baez knows something about disadvantages. Paying for college posed a serious challenge. URI’s Pathways to Nursing program, which supports students from historically underrepresented populations, helped Baez meet that challenge. The program provides students with resources and support to attain their degrees over five years.
“It was critical for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to come to URI,” Baez said. “It’s been instrumental to my success here.”
After graduation, she hopes to join the nonprofit global health organization, Doctors Without Borders, or a similar group. Her experiences abroad as a URI student have solidified her resolve. “Every trip I’ve gone on further fortifies that this is what I want to do.”