Mark Box, a University Honors Program alumnus, found out about Honors student Leigh Loving’s Honors-based student organization, the Jayhawk Health Initiative (JHI) earlier this year. When he learned about JHI and its mission to give experiential learning opportunities to students in pre-health programs while providing health care to those in need, he wanted to help.
“The opportunity to help students with doing outreach is like a double charity. It helps them with their education and career goals, and it provides much-needed care in Central America,” Dr. Box says.
Leigh plans to have an annual medical mission trip to Central America for JHI students. This past summer, about 25 students traveled to Panama. The students distributed supplies such as toothbrushes, participated in local health clinics and taught local residents basic hygiene and self-care. Student interest has grown so rapidly since the Panama trip that the number of students going will most likely double for this coming year.
Specializing in adult internal medicine for the past 20 years with Kansas City Internal Medicine, Dr. Box knows the importance of learning all facets of a medical career, not just the science.
“There is the conceptualization of providing patient care versus the act of providing care. The students get to see what it’s like. This experience gives them an edge on being able to care for people,” he says. “This kind of program teaches philanthropy by going into very underserved areas, and at the same time, it is an opportunity to be exposed to the field of medicine.”
Although Dr. Box did not come to KU initially as a pre-med major, he learned in his first semester that architecture was not the right career path for him. He then became part of the Honors Program to probe his interest in biology and chemistry, his eventual majors.
“I really used the Honors Program for math and science courses very extensively. They were good classes that were more stimulating. It was nice to have higher-level courses, and I really appreciated having top-notch instructors,” he says.
Dr. Box says that he has contributed to the Jayhawk Health Initiative with hopes that others will do the same, to keep the program going for a long time for future Honors students.
“Three decades ago, I took Honors classes at KU. Since that time, I always appreciated it as a good program. To me, I am interested to help students in their outreach to third-world countries and their interest in careers in medicine,” he says.