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Marc Neith

June 2015

Though Marc Neith always knew his calling was in the health care field, it took a trip across the globe and dedicated mentorship for him to find his passions.

Neith graduated in spring 2015 from the Department of Biobehavioral Health with a concentration in Global Health and a minor in biology.

Neith took genetic courses his senior year of high school at Northern Lehigh High School. Upon entering freshman year at Penn State, Neith was interested in pursuing a health-oriented career when Dan Trevino, past professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health, encouraged him to take a course in Biobehavioral Health.

From there, Neith found out about Global Health minor, and his vision became clearer.

“The minor has impacted me,” he said. “It’s had a huge influence on me.”

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Neith, who found a home in the Department of Biobehavior Health (BBH), is one of those HHD students, and this is his story.

The Global Health minor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health accepts about 20 students a year due to fieldwork requirements. Students are required to study abroad in different countries based on their interests.

In summer 2014, Neith was assigned to spend six weeks in Tanzania, Africa. He said the experience opened his mind to the cultural and economic differences between State College, the United States and East Africa. Specifically, how people in other parts of the world live more simply, with less influence from technology.

Neith was part of two groups, of three students each, which traveled to Tanzania. Neith’s group, which focused on the public health aspect, shadowed Tanzanian medical students on site in health care settings. The first two weeks the group spent time at a local village to address and evaluate food security. This assignment included visiting houses in the community, interviewing mothers about their children’s vaccinations, and meeting with the village chief.

The first week was orientation in Dar es Salaam, where the group traveled to local markets and historical sites to gain a better understanding of how Tanzania developed into the country it is today.

“We also conducted interviews with people regarding their occupation, and the hazards surrounding them that may cause harm,” Neith said.

With his team, Neith helped develop ideas to make it easier for mothers to get their children vaccinated.

The second and third weeks we were spent in the local village of “Kibiti”

During the second and third weeks, Neith was paired with other Tanzanian medical students to learn about the Tanzanian health care system and structure. For this assignment, he shadowed the students in their places of work and saw live surgeries.

“We spent the fourth and fifth weeks in Lushoto with a different set of medical students,” Neith said. “The sixth week was spent back in Dar es Salaam visiting a few non-governmental organizations. For a weekend-long trip, we explored the island of Zanzibar. When visiting historical Stonetown, we learned about the slave trade routes as well as the strong Muslim and Indian influences of ornate architecture visible on most buildings. Lastly, we went to the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which allowed us to hear local musicians and watch traditional dances.”

Neith and his group were on assignment Monday through Friday, and had weekends free to explore.

“Three of us were in the village of Lushoto with Tanzanian medical students for the fourth and fifth weeks,” Neith said. “We arranged for two local tour guides to take us on our 30 mile hike. This allowed us to continue being immersed in the culture, while learning the values and traditions that take place throughout the villages we passed through.”

“It was a life-changing trip,” he continued. “Even when I wasn’t doing fieldwork it was still a learning experience to be engrossed in the culture.”

The group’s assignment at the end of the trip was to propose their own project based on the needs they discovered on the trip. Neith’s group interviewed medical students in Tanzania to address in what ways Western aid was helping the health care system, and how the Tanzanian medical system was working or not working.

“I truly believe that I’ve gotten more out of those six weeks than I would a study abroad program,” he said. “It just opened my eyes to how big the world is.”

Neith’s plans following graduating are to get involved with global or public health.

“For as long as I can remember I wanted a career that allows me to help people in need,” Neith said. “I want to provide help to people on a much larger scale through employment in global and public health organizations.”

Neith said the Department of Biobehavioral Health was paramount in helping him decide his career path. The major, he said, touches on so many aspects of health, including clinical health and psychological health.

“It lets you explore opportunities for a lot of careers,” Neith said.

In addition to BBH, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management.

“If I could give advice to any new student studying Biobehavioral Health, I would say to get involved in research, be a teaching assistant for a professor, or enroll in a minor that focuses on something that interests you in addition to your BBH classes,” Neith said. “You’ve been given the privilege of receiving a world-class education, and there are plenty of opportunities to make a name for yourself. Take advantage of it. Introduce yourself to your professors; they can help you accomplish more than achieving the grade you strive for in their class. They are here for you, and I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for their dedicated mentorship.”