Kaylan Galey

Kaylan Galey

Stepping off an airplane in Ecuador, Kaylan Galey was amazed by the new sights and scenery. The Sycamore took everything in: the Andes Mountains; the active volcanoes; the tropical climate; ancient Incan ruins; street food and vendors, and more.

She couldn’t wait to experience everything about the South American country.

Galey, a sophomore student studying applied medicine with a minor in massage therapy, aspires to become a physician assistant following graduation. A member of Indiana State University’s Honors College and a President’s Scholar, Galey had previously traveled abroad on personal trips, so she jumped at the chance to visit Ecuador during the winter of 2022. She went as part of the Honors College’s Timmy Global Health medical mission trip. The nonprofit organization connects health workers and other advocates to improve health outcomes in local and global communities.

“I had never been on a medical mission trip before, and the work helped me understand how much we take for granted in the United States,” Galey commented.

The trip was an extension of an Honors course on global health disparities and challenges, in which students learn about healthcare inequalities in developing countries. In the class, Sycamores study the people, history, language, and culture of Ecuador through the perspective of medical providers.

With a group of other Sycamore students and faculty, along with doctors and nurse practitioners, Galey worked in a health clinic with multiple service areas to treat nearly 500 patients. The clinic included specialty areas for optometry, vitals, pharmacy, and consultations. Patients received free vitamins, sunscreen, ChapStick, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and sunglasses. These supplies are easy for most Americans to obtain, but Ecuadorians have a harder time finding these resources.

“They are less likely to receive medication on their own, so getting a bottle of Tylenol or Ibuprofen made their entire day. It made me realize how much we take for granted here and the difference in medical systems amongst different countries,” said Galey.

The Sycamore also transcribed health records for a practicing doctor from Ecuador and learned more about the healthcare system of the community. She quickly realized that Ecuadorians have far less access to basic healthcare needs.

“As a medical provider, you have to understand the area you’re working in and the healthcare system,” explained Galey, who plans to work as a physician assistant in orthopedic care. “I want to provide for my patients. While in Ecuador, our patients felt cared about. As a provider, you want them to get better, but you also want them to understand that we care for them as individuals. We’re there for them.”

Galey said she experienced such compassion from a physician assistant during two knee surgeries in high school. She interacted with her doctors, but a physician assistant frequently asked how she was feeling. They had conversations—not only involving health but about Galey’s school life and personal interests. Galey felt cared for, and she looks forward to being a physician assistant and caring for another patient in that same way.

“Physician assistants see patients throughout the entire process. They’re there for the patients. That’s the kind of physician assistant I want to be someday,” Galey said.

Galey also credits hands-on, innovative academics in Indiana State’s Honors College for helping instill a passion for healthcare and medicine. For an Honors conversion course on health professions, Galey compared medical doctors to physician assistants. This project helped her decide to become a physician assistant, preferably for orthopedic offices in rural communities.

“The Honors College has harder classes, but they’re more engaging with smaller class sizes that allow me to build connections with my professors. I knew I wanted to take a step further in my education and challenge myself with faculty and peers who encourage me to learn new things,” Galey said.

Through her Honors studies, Galey has learned how to establish connections with faculty across Indiana State’s campus and with medical providers. She learned how to overcome challenges and how to approach different situations.

“I feel challenged by the Honors College, and that’s good because I know I’ll have challenges in my career in healthcare. Overcoming those challenges will be different every time. Indiana State has given me so many resources to learn how to grow from different challenges that I might not have gotten if I went somewhere else,” Galey said.

When she’s not studying or traveling, Galey devotes time to various campus organizations and service projects, including the Pre-Physician Assistant Association and the Honors Council. She also serves as co-vice president of community service for the executive board of Timmy Global Health. Galey intends to return to Ecuador in the winter of 2023 and plans to study abroad in Spain next fall.

Above all, Galey loves to help people, and she’s thankful to the Honors College for providing experiential learning opportunities for her to travel with peers and work with patients in developing countries. She hopes other Sycamores aren’t afraid to venture outside the classroom—even far, far outside the classroom—to become better learners and explorers.

“If you’re given an opportunity, take it and don’t look back,” Galey advised. “As you dive deeper into your education, these opportunities are going to keep rising. These opportunities are going to make your college experience full of memories that will last forever. Take every opportunity that comes your way.”

At Indiana State, Sycamores have every opportunity to make a difference—close to campus and around the world. Galey is already on her way to helping patients live and feel better. Because real caregivers wear BLUE!