What I did this summer: Samantha Beebe

Samantha Beebe has taught allied health science and public health in higher education for more than 20 years. She is presently the coordinator for the Biobehavioral Health (BBH) program at Penn State Lehigh Valley. She coordinates program development activities, oversees the work of part-time faculty, advises undergraduate students and teaches numerous BBH program courses. 

group of students and faculty member

Samantha Beebe (second from left) and Global Health Minor students visited Ecuador's Middle of the World Museum.

Credit: Samantha Beebe

Beebe is active in global travel and instruction and recognizes that a global perspective is a transformative experience for students. She led numerous embedded courses to Denmark and is developing a BBH Global Health Minor for the Lehigh Valley campus.  As part of that effort, Beebe was the faculty lead for a group of Global Health students to Tanzania in 2018 on a five-week field experience and then another global health cohort to Ecuador for five weeks in May 2019.  

What was the highlight of your summer so far?

The highlight of my summer thus far is undoubtedly my recent trip to Ecuador. I was the faculty lead for the five-week field work experience in Ecuador for Global Health Minor students from University Park. This required experience allows students to apply knowledge obtained in the classroom in a practical setting.

How did this great opportunity come about?

I have always believed deeply that all students benefit from a global perspective, so when I began my position as the (BBH) program coordinator, I knew that I wanted to bring the BBH Global Health Minor to our campus. I met with Dana Naughton, director of the Global Health Minor at University Park, within my first month and we quickly became friends over our shared commitment to global health. Without hesitation, I agreed to become a faculty leader, which lead to my trip to Tanzania in 2018 and this year’s trip to Ecuador.

What did you do for the five weeks?

The students’ agendas were quite full for the five weeks.  We were based in Quito, and their typical day consisted of morning clinical observations in local health care facilities and then Spanish language lessons in the afternoon.  We took trips to other regions to expand their view of health beyond Quito. One such trip was to the town of Otavalo which is about 70 miles outside of Quito. There we spent three days at the Jambi Huasi Clinic, which is known for its ability to meet the health needs of the indigenous populations. Some students were fortunate enough to observe a traditional birth while there. We also spent time in the Cuyabeno National Park which is the second largest reserve in Ecuador. We visited with a “Curandera,” or native healer, and learned about the use of medicinal plants in traditional healing.  

What were your three favorite things from this experience?

Meeting the people of Ecuador - They were so incredibly warm, kind and genuine. And most importantly, very forgiving of my elementary Spanish language skills!

Watching the students grow – Global experiences are truly transformative, and I have witnessed that process numerous times throughout my many years as a global health educator and advocate.  It can sometimes take months for the students to truly realize the impact of these experiences, but it happens and ultimately has a positive impact on their personal and professional perspectives.

Learning from my students - During a five-week abroad trip, you all become a very close group whether you like it or not!  But I think we all benefit from that process.  This was a great group of students who were very passionate and knowledgeable about their goals in Ecuador and I learned so much from them as they shared their daily reflections through their lenses.  We also shared a lot of laughter together and I can’t thank them enough for that!

What do you hope the students learned?

I hope that the students learned to appreciate, value and respect cultural and social diversity.  Diversity is not something that should be feared, but instead embraced.  We are an interdependent and global community, and everyone has something to contribute and something to learn.  This experience will hopefully help shape them as good global health citizens.  If so, then we all win!

View from a tower of a church up high over Ecuador

View from the tower of the Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador

Credit: Samantha Beebe



Dennille Schuler

Public Relations Specialist
Penn State Lehigh Valley

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