Med Student 08-2010
2nd Lt. Megan Donahue negotiates the La Comina obstacle course at Aviano, Italy.
Spending a couple of weeks in Italy was not exactly a summer vacation for medical student Megan Donahue, but then again most med students don’t wear Army uniforms to class.
In between her first two years of study at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., 2nd Lt. Megan Donahue was in Vicenza, Italy, in early August to complete an operational clerkship with U.S. Army Africa, part of her military medical field studies program.
And it all could have been different if it hadn’t been for an accidental meeting with a West Point cadet.
Donahue studied biology and anthropology for her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. She considered entering medical school there until she spent a summer doing volunteer work in Gambia with Operation Crossroads Africa, the precursor of the Peace Corps. It was there she met the West Point cadet who told her about USUHS.
“I’ve had a growing interest in Africa,” Donahue said. “I was interested in tropical medicine, so I wanted to do something like Operation Crossroads. I knew the military was increasing its interest in Africa, taking on a new mission. That expanded interest in Africa was one of the reasons I joined the military.”
Her two weeks with Army Africa were an eye-opener, exposing her to the scope of medical research and military-to-military programs under way in Africa, Donahue said.
“It’s supposed to be kind of seeing the operations side of the Army, how much oversight is involved in organizing operations on the continent. I’ve learned a lot,” she said.
While in Vicenza, Donahue participated in Army Africa’s second conference with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, an annual meeting that allows medical researchers on the continent to share information, network and develop future military partnerships in the medical sphere.
“The coolest thing was the conference,” Donahue said. “I was alert and fascinated all the time. My particular interest is in malaria, so it was very interesting to hear about some of the hardships and obstacles people in the field have to overcome to do their work.”
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But there were other, less conceptual components to her field studies that exposed her to other facets of the Army.
“I got to go out last week to the rigger’s shed and pack parachutes. That was a new experience. It was a lot of fun.”
Donahue also worked out on the obstacle course at La Comina, the Italian military training facility near Aviano.
“I have some awesome bruises to show for it,” she said.
The eldest of three siblings, the West Melbourne, Fla., native is from a family with military connections in the past, the present and the future. Both of her grandfathers served in the Navy, and her brother just recently announced he had joined the Navy’s JROTC program.
“I am now definitely the cool sister because I’m an officer, and because I joined the Army,” she said.
After finishing her clerkship, Donahue will join her mother and her aunt for a week of sightseeing in Italy before they all return to the United States, and she resumes her studies at USUHS.
“I think they’re very proud,” Donahue said.
And her family can continue to be proud of their ACU-wearing daughter for the foreseeable future. Donahue can look forward to three more years of study at USUHS and then a series of residencies, probably at Walter Reed or Brooke Army Medical Center.
“At least another six years of school and training, if not another nine,” she said.
To learn more about U.S. Army Africa visit our official website at www.usaraf.army.mil
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