William & Mary

An International Reach

Williams Sharp studies health care in developing world.

When it comes to domicile, “out of state” doesn’t begin to describe Mireille Williams Sharp ’10. Currently hailing from Nairobi, Kenya, the globe-hopping junior has also called home such exotic locales as the Congo, Swaziland and Cambodia.

She also calls William & Mary home — and with good reason. Because of its outstanding reputation for global education, the College was among the many universities Williams Sharp considered when she was weighing various schools.

“I was looking for a good school with a strong international relations program on the East Coast,” says Williams Sharp, who is an economics major on a pre-med track. “William and Mary had many factors I was attracted to, and for the right price.”

One of those factors was the College’s ability to satisfy her many interests, which include medicine, economics, public health, international relations and community service. Named a James Monroe Scholar at the beginning of her sophomore year, she also knew she could apply her interests to a large-scale research project of her own design.

In the summer of 2008, Williams Sharp used a Monroe Scholar summer research grant, made possible in part by annual gifts to the Fund for William and Mary, to travel to Kenya, where she worked at a private clinic in Kawangware, a slum of Nairobi. For five weeks, she explored economic barriers to healthcare by interviewing 160 people to understand why they make certain healthcare decisions and how they budget their incomes, and basic demographics. She also interned at a nonprofit clinic for two weeks, talking with patients and staff about how the clinic is run.

Not only did Williams Sharp expand her knowledge of medicine and economics, but she learned a lot about herself, sometimes overcoming reluctance to work in unsafe areas of Nairobi. She also proved that she could handle being a doctor after watching and assisting with two births, as well as carrying out the routine and less exciting tasks that medical professionals face.

At William & Mary, Williams Sharp chairs the Service Committee of the International Relations Club, which raises money for different global non-governmental organizations and educates the College community about developing world issues. She is also a caller for the student Phonathon, a job she truly loves because of its impact on the College.

Williams Sharp is grateful for the many opportunities that enrich her college experience — as well as those members of the William & Mary family who make such opportunities possible through private support. “Without the summer research grant, I could not have done research in Kenya,” she says. “The costs would simply have been too high.”

Ultimately Williams Sharp sees herself working in a clinic very much like the one she visited last summer. “This research opportunity has been incredibly important to my future plans,” she says. “Medicine in the developing world is truly something for which I have a passion.”

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