Student VoicesHappy Trails

These are Annie K. McCabe’s top three backpacking tips:
Bring good shoes.
Remember your water filter.
Pack extra underwear.

McCabe, M.D. ’11, had plenty of time to consider these tips. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), she applied for a Bonderman Travel Fellowship to observe the practice of medicine in Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

By the time she set out on her trip, McCabe already knew that she wanted to become a doctor. The Spokane, Wash., native had come west to Seattle Pacific University (SPU) on an athletic scholarship, but she found herself more interested in her studies than in cross-country — in fact, she helped her teammates with their science classes.

Then, she says, she had an epiphany. Although she loved SPU, McCabe decided to transfer to the UW. “I want to learn science big-time,” she thought, “and I want to get into medicine, and I want to be a part of research.”

It was during her undergraduate studies in neurobiology at the UW that she heard about the Bonderman Fellowship. Her first reaction to the program — which underwrites a year’s worth of travel and exploration — was one of incredulity. But she set out, armed with curiosity, goodwill and, of course, her backpack.

“The fellowship is really supposed to make you stop and experience the world and re- think your position on things,” she says. And her travels in Asia, she says, were eye-opening. McCabe observed hospitals. She hiked. She volunteered in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, providing water and first aid to soldiers whose job it was to identify the dead. And McCabe found herself grateful for the opportunities her own culture afforded, especially for women. “[The trip] made me really motivated to be aware of women’s rights…and to foster independence and self-worth in kids,” she says.

McCabe continued her travels abroad when she attended the UW School of Medicine, applying for the International Health Opportunities Program between her first and second year, and working at a hospital in Uganda. In addition to fostering her interest in global heath, the School also impressed upon her the importance of having a good mentor. George Novan, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in Spokane, was her third-year preceptor. “He really inspired me to want to be involved in teaching,” says McCabe.

Now a first-year pediatric resident, McCabe says that she has “hit the ground running.” And she’s noticed that her perspective on learning medicine has changed. As a medical student, she studied for mastery. As a resident, she studies to improve the care she provides to children and their families.

“All of a sudden,” says McCabe, “I have this strong sense of ownership. It’s not about knowing medicine to pass a test. It’s about knowing it to understand and treat my patients.”

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