Liberal Arts Honors

Grace Eckhoff

Class of 2010

Grace Eckhoff

I was born in Haiti to American doctors and lived there, with the exception of a few years in the United States, until I turned 17. Growing up, I spent much time in the pediatric chronic care facility of the hospital where my parents worked. I played with and cared for children, the vast majority of whom had either tuberculosis or severe malnutrition. Between secondary school and college I took a gap year to live with my parents in Afghanistan. 

After reaching the University I started working in a molecular biology lab, focusing on projects with potential applications in the developing world. I used my experience in Afghanistan to design and later execute a project using DNA to gain a picture of rifampin-resistant tuberculosis in Afghanistan. For that project I contacted and collaborated with the Afghan National Tuberculosis Program, as well as the Nava Medical Research Unit in Kabul. I have continued to work around 15 hours per week in the lab, focusing on developing technology that can detect Single Nucleotide Polymorphism with low cost and technology requirements. Although detection of rifampin-resistant tuberculosis is the main goal, this technology has multiple potential applications in both developing and industrialized countries. In the summer of 2009 I worked as a Zuccaire Fellow in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Last fall I interned at the Texas Department of State Health Services, performing an epidemiological study of individuals who had delayed completion of tuberculosis therapy.

This summer (2010), the political situation permitting, I plan on returning to Afghanistan to perform fieldwork in public health. Next year I will earn an MSc at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Marshall Scholar. The following year I will return to the U.S. to attend medical school and become a physician. Upon completion of my studies I will return to the developing world. As a physician I will be able to improve the health of individuals, but I hope to use public health research and projects to have a broader impact on a community or systemic level.

The Dedman Scholarship has meant a great deal to me. First of all, I have not had to get a part-time job during school, which has given me time to devote to research and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, I plan to work for a non-profit organization with a relatively low salary for most of my life. I am extremely grateful to finish my undergraduate education debt-free, leaving me free to worry about how to make an impact in global health rather than how to pay back loans. Finally, I enjoy the community of Dedman Distinguished Scholars as a "place" to have great conversations and feel at home amid the vastness of UT.