At Millsaps College, education does not begin and end on campus. The city of Jackson holds countless opportunities for students to further their education, one of which is the Frate Fellowship in Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The fellowship is a five-week immersion program that seeks to engage college students across disciplines in the complex ethical, social, and cultural issues surrounding health care.
The 2019 cohort included Samuel Saia, '21 and Saihou Ceesay, '20, who presented their work last Friday in the Frate Fellowship Capstone. Saia, a philosophy major, tackled the subject of teen pregnancy, STDs, and autonomy. He discussed the ethics of nondisclosure of minors to their families or communities. The rates of teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs in the South occur at almost 50% higher than the national average, and he wanted to explore the cause for this statistic.
Saia found that areas of financial disparity suffer from lack of health education, leaving those teens who are affected by unplanned pregnancy and STDs without the knowledge to move forward in an effective manner.
"The fellowship left me with even more questions than I started with, which I think is indicative of a good program because it showed me more facets of this field than I had ever thought of," Saia said. "From palliative care to NICU/PICU, to the legislature and more, this program went above and beyond. But ultimately, the program showed me how much we need to care, and how conscious we need to remain because it is so easy to fall victim to our own pride. We live a singular experience, and it's easy to forget that how limited we are because of that. Remain open."
Ceesay, meanwhile, chose to explore the ethics of using physical restraints in psychiatric hospitals. He became interested in the topic when their cohort visited the Mississippi State Hospital to meet with a psychiatrist, and he began to ponder whether patients should have the power to consent to being restrained. The topic, he explained, is dilemmatic in nature because it is an issue of dual loyalty. Should medical institutions eliminate restraints and see caregivers hurt by aggressive patients, or should they keep the use of restraints with all the negative impacts on psychiatric patients? He went on to say that either way, lack of funding could affect patient care and eliminate restraint alternatives.
"I must say that this is by far my best college experience," said Ceesay. "I had the distinct honor and pleasure to visit the different departments in the University of Mississippi Medical Center and discuss how the topic of ethics plays a role in their departments, what various forms do ethical issues take in these areas, and how do they deal with these issues day in, day out. Each day was a new day and a new experience. I did not have enough of it, even after five weeks."
Dr. Patrick Hopkins, professor of philosophy at Millsaps College, spoke about what a joy it was to watch each both Saia and Ceesay present their capstone projects. "I love working with college students because they're at the age where you're helping them turn into the person they want to be, and these kinds of experiences contribute to that. Sam is actually a professional photographer. It's been wonderful to talk to him about the meaning of life, and what counts as a good life to someone who already has a profession somewhat planned out."
Ceesay's future, it seems, has also been shaped by Frate Fellowship, as the director of the program introduced Ceesay's presentation by telling the audience they were about to meet the future health administrator of Gambia. Says Dr. Hopkins, "Saihou is one of those students who loves philosophy and anything that has to do with the mind." No matter where their career paths lead, both of these young men are determined to bring change to the world around them, and there is no doubt they will succeed.