Loyola Marymount University junior Stephen Speicher aspires to become not merely a doctor, but to become a compassionate doctor. To that end, he traveled to Peru for six weeks last summer to participate in a healthcare program as a recipient of an Honors Program Research Fellowship.
“I’ve always wanted to become a doctor. I love people, and I love helping them,” Speicher said. “My goal is to balance a clinical understanding of medicine with the compassion to treat a human being.”
Speicher, a biology major with a minor is sociology, arrived in Peru with more than 700 packets that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and a sample of sunscreen. The first week he visited community centers and elementary schools in Lima to distribute the packets and to teach the community about dental care and the dangers of skin cancer.
“Both skin cancer and dental diseases can be easily prevented if people are properly informed. I hope I made a difference and gave valuable information to the community,” Speicher said.
Speicher spent the remainder of his trip in the city of Cuzco, where he interned for a hospital and volunteered at a home for children with disabilities. He gained hands-on experience in the hospital, working in the emergency room, performing general injections and sutures, and running pregnancy and STD tests. But it was the time Speicher spent with the children that taught him what he considered the most important lesson.
“Interacting with the children was the best part of my day. It helped me realize that healthcare is not simply about learning clinical terms but about genuine patient care,” Speicher said.
During his senior year, Speicher plans to take classes in bioethics and entrepreneurship, topics not usually covered in typical biology courses or in medical school. But courses like these are among the reasons that Speicher chose LMU.
“A lot of other schools only focus on the clinical aspect of healthcare, but LMU combines that with a focus on humanity. As a doctor, I will take an oath to help people, and it will be important to make ethical decisions,” Speicher said.
Each year, the Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects around the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships, writing or tuition.
“I would never have been able to afford this kind of trip on my own. In fact, I never would have thought of going in the first place if the opportunity didn’t present itself,” Speicher said.