MEDLIFE Volunteer Trip Review: An Interview with Hannah Appleton - MEDLIFE

MEDLIFE Volunteer Trip Review: An Interview with Hannah Appleton

In April, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing a former MEDLIFE e-board member and SLT participant, Hannah Appleton. The University of Florida graduate chatted with me about her achievements as a pre-med undergrad, her upcoming work as a medical scribe, and her time as the President of her high school’s MEDLIFE Chapter. She also gave us an insightful MEDLIFE volunteer trip review, and reflected on what she learned during her Service Learning Trip in Ecuador. It was an honor to speak with her and hear about all the amazing work she has done, both with MEDLIFE and outside of MEDLIFE. Find the full interview below:

medlife volunteer trip review

Interview and MEDLIFE Volunteer Trip Review with Hannah Appleton

Mary: Hi Hannah. Could you first introduce yourself, talk about where you studied, and what your position title was?

Hannah: Alright, my name is Hannah. I graduated from UF in December of ’23. Now I have my degree in psychology with an emphasis in behavioral cognitive neuroscience. I’m pre-med so I’m taking some extra classes at FAU for med school right now and I start as a medical scribe in two weeks. I have some other research experience, in undergrad I worked in a neuroscience lab and worked in the oncology unit. And in high school, I went in the summer of 2019 to Ecuador with MEDLIFE and went on an SLT for 11 days. It was a very amazing and eye opening experience and through that I really fell in love with MEDLIFE’s mission and decided to bring it to my high school. COVID definitely made it a little hard, but we raised some great money for the project fund and even recruited around 20 people to go on an SLT to Lima that got cancelled because of COVID. But yeah, that’s my story.

Mary: That’s awesome! And you mentioned you were going to start working as, what was it, a medical scribe?

Hannah: Yes. So in two weeks, I start as a medical scribe at the Caridad Center. They’re a free clinic and they work with mostly the children of migrant farmworkers. It’s a non-profit for undeserved communities that need health care. They have a bunch of different specialties. They go through dentist, behavioral, like a psychiatrist, just a general doctor visit, and they basically just supply people with, and specifically children with, health care that they need and are not able to access.

Mary: Wow, good for you! The next question I had was, what do you do now, but you already kind of answered it.

Hannah: Well yeah, I’ve started that and I’m taking Organic Chemistry and Physics right now. So I finish that in a week. This was kind of my break semester with no other extracurriculars, but at UF, I worked in a neuroscience lab for a year. I was a research assistant on a really, really awesome Alzheimer’s study. I worked in a virtual reality for pain and anxiety management study for two years when I was at UF in the bone marrow transplant unit at Shands. I was an Alpha Epsilon Delta, which is a pre-health Honor Society, and did some volunteering with that. I worked at a few different chemistry and genetics labs over some summers and did some virtual shadowing. So that’s what I did at UF, but right now, I’m kind of in my break semester, and I’m just starting to scribe in a few weeks.

improving access to healthcare

Mary: Wow, very impressive. I was wondering, could you describe a little bit in detail what your e-board position entailed?

Hannah: Yes, so after I brought (the MEDLIFE Chapter) to my school, I was the President. I basically brought together an executive board, and my position was overseeing everything. Putting everything together, making sure that the executive board work together, that we all got along. And that all the ideas that we were going through, not only did the executive board agree on, but of course, all of our members would also want to do and enjoy. So, just making sure everything ran smoothly. I handled the social media and a little bit of the finances. I handled finances in terms of, you know, if we were doing a raffle or something. Making sure that everything is looking good and fine financially. I did a little bit of each position, just to make sure everything was running smoothly at the time. But yeah, mostly overseeing things.

Mary: How did you first get involved with MEDLIFE? How did you hear about us?

Hannah: So, when I went on my Ecuador trip, it was through MEDLIFE and also through West Coast Connection. West Coast did the hotel arrangements and the living arrangements, and then every day we would go to the mobile clinics and work with MEDLIFE. I had done West Coast Connection trips before. I went to Spain and worked with the Boys and Girls Club and did some other things of that realm. So when I saw this trip, I was like, “oh, this looks amazing, what’s MEDLIFE?” So I did some research. I went on the trip. And once I met the people who worked at MEDLIFE I was like, “this is so interesting, I would love to bring this to my school and run this organization, teach other people about it, raise money for it, and help out in any way that I can.”

Mary: And did your time with MEDLIFE in any way influence your academic or career goals?

Hannah: I think so. I think it definitely opened my eyes to the disparities in health care and accessibility. When I was in high school, I was working at a hospital before I went on this MEDLIFE trip and my only responsibility, with no training as like a 14/15 year old, was handing out food and drinks and things like that. When I went on the MEDLIFE trip, I was able to diagnose people with parasites, and then go to pharmacy and pack together the meds that they needed to then fight off those infections. And being able to do that as a 16 year old was so eye opening to me. It made me realize I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. But, working at that hospital, I wasn’t able to do the things that a doctor can do. And getting to actually shadow those doctors in a place where they are not as fortunate to have all of the cool advancements and stuff that we might have here, it was just really eye opening for me. And it made me realize that I really, really want to do medicine, or just health care in general. To help people who are not able to have access to these things. And I’ve always been very passionate about access to health care. So that definitely pushed me more in that direction of wanting to go into medicine in general.

volunteer trips abroad

Mary: What advice would you give to someone who has just started working with MEDLIFE? Or who has never really heard of us before, but is interested in getting involved?

Hannah: I would say that you need to make sure that you’re hearing other people out, especially if you’re trying to get up to the point where you are working on an executive board. You need to make sure you’re hearing out other people’s advice and that everyone is agreeing and working together. I would also say, just in general, make sure that you have balance when you’re joining something. If you’re very dedicated to it, that’s amazing. But also make sure that you have time for yourself and have balance in what you’re doing. I feel like that makes you a better member or leader. And also just love what you’re doing. I know that sounds cliche, but being passionate about what you’re doing makes it not seem like it has to be work. It’s supposed to be fun for you. I really loved when I was working with MEDLIFE, and that made it a lot fun for me. We could all get together as a group and wear our matching T shirts, take pictures, we’d play music, and it was a really great time. So I would say, just have fun with it.

Mary: That’s an amazing answer. Thank you Hannah for taking the time to speak with me today.

Hannah: Thank you.

It’s always a pleasure to reconnect with former MEDLIFErs and hear what they are up to. We couldn’t be prouder to see someone like Hannah going forth and building a career around improving access to health care. The world shines a little brighter with someone as dedicated and kind as Hannah in it, making a real difference.

If Hannah’s words about MEDLIFE have inspired you to learn how you can get involved with the movement and make an impact by assisting low-income communities on one of our volunteer trips abroad, fill out the interest form below or download our free brochure to get started today!