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Alessandra Intili 06: One person at a time

Alessandra Intili '06

As a 19-year-old biology and English double major from Toms River, N.J., Alessandra Intili '06 spent the summer of 2005 working in Ugandan medical clinics, treating children with sexually transmitted diseases.

Some had contracted the diseases through their parents, but others -- even as young as 4 or 5 years old -- were infected through intercourse. According to local legend, men could be cured of their "curse" -- AIDS or gonorrhea -- by sleeping with a virgin, Intili says.

Intili had taken an internship in Uganda in part to discover why she wanted to be a doctor. She found the answer in the faces of the children she saw at the clinic.

"I want to better someone else's life through medicine," she says. "One person at a time, I can make the world better."

After Intili returned to America, one person's story in particular continued to haunt her. During a late-night power outage at the orphanage one night, Intili had spoken with Peace Kekande, who was responsible for all the cleaning, cooking, and washing for the orphanage volunteers.

Kekande explained to Intili that as a rape victim, she and her daughter were treated as "third-class citizens." Besides working in the orphanage, Kekande was struggling to take classes at a local university.

"She lived a really hard life," Intili says. "I felt I hadn't done enough."

With help from her sisters at Alpha Omicron Pi, Intili used photographs she had taken in Uganda to create a calendar. They then collected advertisements from local businesses, and convinced Lehigh's Printing Services to help the cause by offering her a reduced rate. Soon, Intili had collected enough money to pay for the cost of the calendars, and she and her friends began selling them to the Lehigh community, raising $3,000.

Intili then used $500 to buy 300 hand-painted African tapestries, which she has sold for $50 each to people all over Bethlehem. All of the money raised was sent to Kekande and her daughter.

After graduating, Intili traveled to Antarctica and then studied abroad in Siena, Italy, for a year. She plans to begin medical school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in the fall, and hopes to eventually work for a public health organization such as the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization.

One day, she may even open her own international clinic.

"I was careful to pick a medical school where I can develop as a person," Intili says. "Hopefully, I will never become a one-dimensional person."

--Becky Straw

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Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2007

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