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Sisters to share pre-med study away syllabus at Furman Engaged

Dr. Ana Lucía Martinez Jiménez and Hannah Perkins '21 at the Hospital El Bierzo in Ponferrada, Spain, in 2018.

One is ambitious, dedicated and adaptive, the other self-controlled, principled and idealistic. At least, that’s according to the Enneagram types the two have included on their resumes. Zooming with them, though, you get the idea those traits can apply to both sisters.

“I’m not sure entirely how accurate it is,” says Hannah Perkins ’21, alongside fraternal twin Rachel Perkins ’21, about their behavioral-test results, “but it’s definitely something interesting to look at.”

Rachel Perkins ’21 and Dr. Rebeca Muñumer Blàzquez at the Hospital El Bierzo, Ponferrada, Spain, in 2018.

They will both graduate in May with health sciences degrees. And on April 13, they will present their Virtual Furman Engaged project: a catalog-worthy course syllabus based on their pre-med work overseas. Furman Engaged is an annual celebration of students’ diverse and immersive learning experiences, including internships, research, service learning, study away, creative projects, first-year writing seminars and capstone experiences.

Travelers to more than a dozen countries, both students spent the fall 2019 semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, and each shadowed physicians in Spain through Atlantis, a Washington, D.C., organization that provides one- to six-week fellowships, primarily in Europe.

“It was just a fantastic hands-on, firsthand learning experience in the clinical setting,” says Hannah. “We came back to Furman, and we wanted to find a way to make it count for coursework.”

All that summertime study and no credit hours?

“Like Hannah said, with the pre-med curriculum, it can be really challenging to go abroad because you’re basically taking multiple science courses with labs every semester,” says Rachel. “At the time, we just weren’t sure what our trajectory was.”

Now, to help up-and-coming pre-med students study abroad, they created a 200-level syllabus, “May Experience: Health and Medicine in the Global Context.” The proposal that they assisted with, which is awaiting faculty approval, lists six objectives, including: “To enhance your liberal arts education and prepare you for life as an informed, global citizen.”

For more than a year, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Elizabeth Holt had been working with Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health on developing a new study-away course for pre-health students interested in going into clinical fields. The Perkins sisters were an exceptionally good fit for the project, given their study-away experience and interests. They received a stipend to work with Holt in developing a new MayX study-abroad course as part of the Furman Student Teaching Fellows Program, a grant-funded opportunity for Furman students to work with faculty to develop or enhance courses and engaged learning opportunities. By applying their experiences from the Atlantis program, Rachel and Hannah Perkins were able to take the lead on developing activities and working with Holt on the syllabus.

Taking a longer look, however, Rachel, who is a Partners Scholar, aspires to someday serve a leadership role in the United Nations or World Health Organization.

Such success wouldn’t surprise Holt.

“Having the opportunity to work with and mentor Furman students like Hannah and Rachel is one of the best parts of my job,” Holt says. “In assisting with the development of a new Furman study-away course in health and medicine, they will leave a legacy.”

Rachel ’21 and Hannah Perkins ’21 in Versailles, France, in 2019.

But they will also leave each other – geographically, anyway.

Rachel, older by 12 minutes, will head to Georgetown University for a master’s in global health. Hannah plans to take a gap year closer to their parents in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ultimately, say the sisters, after medical school, they’ll work with children, one perhaps as a policymaker, another a pediatrician, maybe cardiology.

For now, they’re a heartbeat away from each other.

“This will kind of be our first experience not together for a year,” Hannah says, “so that’s going to be weird.”

Adds Rachel: “We’re not thinking about that too much. Not yet.”

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