After Michael Scanlon graduated from The Orchard School in 2000, he attended high school at Park Tudor, followed by four years at Indiana University. During his time at IU, he majored in International Studies with a focus on human rights. After Michael graduated from IU, he lived in Kenya for two years and worked for a small community development and environmental conservation organization. He came back to Indiana in 2010 to start his Master’s in Public Health at the Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis.
In 2015, Michael began his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts—Boston, where he taught an introductory course on global health to undergraduates in the Honors College.
Recently, Michael was awarded a Fulbright Student Research Award and a Fogarty Global Health Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, which he will use to support his dissertation research in Kenya.
Michael is currently living full-time in Kenya conducting his dissertation research, so catching up with him was tricky to say the least. However, we eventually found time to chat about the Fulbright scholarship, life in Kenya, and his time at Orchard.
CONGRATULATIONS ON THE FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP! YOU’RE ONE OF ONLY A FEW NATIONWIDE...THAT MUST FEEL VERY REWARDING.
I am very honored to receive the Fulbright Student Research award. As a Ph.D. candidate, I spend a lot of time applying for scholarships and grants to support my research with an admittedly low success rate. It always feels great to have someone acknowledge your hard work, your potential as an academic, and to recognize your research as important. It feels extra special to be acknowledged as a Fulbright Scholar and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to use this award to support my dissertation research in Kenya.
AS A SCHOOL THAT PRIDES ITSELF ON DELIVERING AN EDUCATION FOR A GLOBAL SOCIETY, THE ORCHARD SCHOOL IS VERY PROUD OF YOUR COMMITMENT TO EQUITY AND JUSTICE CENTERED AROUND THE KENYAN HEALTH SYSTEM. WHAT’S A DAY IN THE LIFE LOOK LIKE AS YOU WORK ON YOUR DISSERTATION IN KENYA?
I live in Eldoret, a mid-sized city in the western part of Kenya, where the AMPATH Kenya program is based. I have been living and working on and off in Eldoret since 2011, so in many ways Eldoret feels like a second home. I have a great community of Kenyan and American friends and colleagues, two dogs, chickens, and a rather large tortoise roaming the yard. Most of my days are spent at the AMPATH research offices, which are on the grounds of the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, the largest hospital in the country outside of the capital, Nairobi. As part of my research, I spend a lot of time talking to Kenyan medical professionals about the challenges they face in delivering health services, particularly in the public health sector. Despite these challenges, I am routinely inspired by my Kenyan colleagues’ commitment to ensuring high-quality care for their patients.
HOW DID ORCHARD PLAY A ROLE IN KEEPING YOU EAGER TO LEARN?
For me, Orchard was foundational in instilling a curiosity about the world from an early age. I believe this curiosity has been instrumental in my academic and research careers, and I have been privileged to leverage that curiosity to, for example, spend a semester at the University of Cape Town in South Africa as an undergraduate and to live in a tent for two years in northern Kenya on a wildlife conservancy. The thing I like most about being a Ph.D. student is the challenge to study a problem or approach a question in a way that no one else has and, in doing so, hopefully create a new body of thinking and knowledge that can be used to positively impact the world.
WHEN YOU REFLECT ON YOUR TIME AT ORCHARD, WHAT QUICKLY COMES TO MIND?
The educators. When I think back on some of the most remarkable people in my life, I quickly think of my Orchard teachers. Even at a young age, it was obvious to me how much they invested in and cared for their students, which had a major impact on my growth as a learner in the classroom and as a person outside of the classroom. After my Ph.D., I plan to stay in academia, where I hope to teach in the field of global health. I think my desire to work with students is in no small way informed by my experience at Orchard and by my former teachers there. My sister Kelley, also an Orchard alum, is a fourth-grade teacher in New York City, and I would imagine she would say the same.
SO YOU’RE A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR, Ph.D. CANDIDATE, AND GLOBAL HEALTH FELLOW—DO YOU HAVE ANY FREE TIME?
The region around Eldoret is famous as the home of many of Kenya’s famous marathon runners and there are lots of international training camps. So, there is a big running culture here and occasionally I get inspired to go for a run, although not occasionally enough. There are great places for hikes and bike rides around Eldoret, so once a month or so my friends and I try to get out of town and enjoy the outdoors. In other exciting news, Eldoret just opened its first movie theater. Otherwise, many of my friends have young children and so activities tend to revolve around the kids, which is a lot of fun. I always enjoy a good game of hide-and-seek, a pizza- pool party, and a Disney movie.Read more alumni stories here!