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Making a Difference

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Stanford Med Students Holding An Inflatable Model of DNA

When I arrived at the clinic in Tijuana on an early Friday morning, there was a long line of Haitian women on the sidewalk hoping to get the chance to see one of the Stanford doctors who were visiting as part of a Stanford Medicine program called “Families at the Border (FATB).” Every month physicians visit community based clinics in Tijuana to help improve the health of migrant families in need. I was there to translate in my native language, Haitian Creole, and be a cultural and linguistic bridge for the doctors and patients so they could better understand one another.

Ever since large numbers of Haitians began migrating to the Mexico/US border in 2021, I have wondered how I could be useful. Most of them fled Haiti after the massive earthquake in 2010 wreaked havoc on our small island, and they sought refuge in countries such as Brazil and Chile that welcomed migrant laborers. However, after years of discrimination in South America, and continually deteriorating chaos back home in Haiti, they made the long and arduous trek risking their lives to make it across the continent to seek a new home. Many of them had numerous health problems, and had rarely, if ever, seen a doctor.

I can relate. I grew up living in poverty in the slums of Port-au-Prince. Medical check-ups were a luxury we could not afford, so I only went to the doctor on rare occasions when I was extremely ill; so rare in fact that I can count those visits on one hand.

Back then I could only dream about the life I live today: the abundance of food, the serene and comfortable shelter so foreign to my childhood, the privilege of being able to devote myself to learning in one of the most prestigious institutions in the world with ample resources. It didn’t happen right away. My journey from the slums of Port-Au-Prince to the Main Quad was long and challenging, but as a 33 year old undergraduate student, I can tell you that it is never too late to pursue your dream. I consider myself fortunate to be among an incredible community of non-traditional age transfer students, each with their own unique path to this place.

Having only seen college depicted in movies, I expected that the highlights during my first year at Stanford would be cheering at football games, eating late night pizza, or playing pickup soccer on one of the many beautiful green fields. Indeed, I did enjoy those activities. However, I didn’t expect that one of my most memorable moments would be in Tijuana, with the opportunity to give back to others, especially to people who share a similar background with me. The deep sense of purpose and meaning from making a difference to those in need is priceless.

I’m lucky that I happened to meet a doctor who volunteers with FATB and helped to connect me with their work, but what I have found at Stanford is that no matter what your interests are, you will find kind and devoted people who are trying to make a difference in all corners of the world. In addition to volunteering with Haitian migrants, Stanford has also given me the opportunity to design my own internship for the Summer with Partners In Health (PIH) through the Cardinal Quarter Program as a way for me to continue learning and growing while focusing on causes that I am passionate about.

There are so many people here to collaborate on innovative ideas that can have a powerful impact. You just have to ask yourself: what talents and resources are available that you can leverage to help others? In doing so, you may stumble upon your greatest joy.

Rodolph Lapointe

Management Science and Engineering
Transfer, Class of 2023

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