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06-11-2015

Clarkson University Student in Nepal Assists with Relief Effort

When Katherine Furland needed direct patient care experience as part of her pre-physician assistant studies at Clarkson University, she figured she could put her skills to good use in Nepal, so she traveled there this spring -- just as two massive earthquakes struck.

Emergency room tent where Clarkson University pre-physician assistant studies student Katherine Furland worked with earthquake victims at the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital.A magnitude-7.8 earthquake occurred on April 25 followed by a magnitude-7.3 on May 12. According to the Associated Press, more than 8,500 people died and more than 21,000 suffered injuries. Some 600,000 families lost their homes.

“I originally signed up with a volunteer organization to work for two or three months in the Annapurna circuit and hike for another month before returning to the States,” said Furland. “After the first earthquake happened, I shifted my plans to suit the needs of the Nepali people. I ended up working in Kathmandu at an orthopedic hospital.”

Earthquake devastation at Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.A psychology major from Essex, Vt., Furland spent a year at the University of Vermont, and then transferred to Clarkson for its pre-PA program. She'll graduate in 2017.

“Clarkson's PA program requires 500 hours of direct patient care," said Furland. "I'm an EMT, which is a very meaningful and worthwhile position in the United States, but the actual patient contact can be sporadic. I wanted to have a meaningful impact on lives, and I felt I could best do that in a country like Nepal.”

Onlookers survey the rubble in Kathmandu.She has gained plenty of hands-on experience. The Nepal Orthopedic Hospital was evacuated when the second quake struck so now all medical care, including surgeries, takes place outdoors under a tent. Thanks to private grants, all food, medicine, surgery, post-op care, etc. is provided for free to the Nepalis.

“It's very reflective of the Nepalis' attitudes,” Furland said. “When the first earthquake struck, the first people to help were other Nepalis. There's a strong sense of community. Foreigners get swept into this web as well. Volunteers who aren't with aid organizations meet in hotel lobbies, restaurants, bars, etc., to coordinate their resources with others.

Clarkson University pre-physician assistant studies student Katherine Furland takes a respite to visit Bhaktapu, an ancient Newar city in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley about eight miles from the capital city."At the same time, everyone is experiencing an intensely traumatic situation. As example, the moment the second quake struck, terrified family members picked up the injured and ran screaming out of the hospital.

“These are the same Nepali people who are so strong and optimistic when their homes were destroyed, but I haven't heard anybody complain that it's not fair, or they wish they could have been in a different place. They just accept what it is and move on."

Furland will return to campus in August to continue her studies.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo captions:

emergency-room-tent.jpg: The emergency room tent where Clarkson University pre-physician assistant studies student Katherine Furland worked with earthquake victims at the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital.

durbar-square.jpg: Earthquake devastation at Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

kathmandu.jpg: Onlookers survey the rubble in Kathmandu.

kfurland.jpg: Clarkson University pre-physician assistant studies student Katherine Furland takes a respite to visit Bhaktapu, an ancient Newar city in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley about eight miles from the capital city.

[Photographs for media use are available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/emergency-room-tent.jpg, http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/durbar-square.jpg, http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/kathmandu.jpg and http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/kfurland.jpg.]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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