Creativity and adaptability key to Peace Corps service

August 16, 2013 11:00 AM

Dee Boling

Alumnus and Peace Corps volunteer Herre Echsner

Herre Echsner’s Peace Corps experience "was the most valuable aspect of my degree,” he says. (Photo from Herre Echsner)

The Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine boasts the largest master’s international program at a public health school and the second largest overall in the United States. Master’s international students complete their classroom experience toward a master of public health or a master of science in public health degree, then apply what they’ve learned in the Peace Corps.

For Herre Echsner, a May 2013 graduate majoring in global environmental health sciences, the Peace Corps experience took him to Paraguay. Although Echsner was taken on as a rural health and sanitation extensionist, he soon found himself working on a lot of different projects.

“Peace Corps requires you to be creative and innovative, adaptable when serving in the assigned community,” says Echsner.

The Peace Corps experience gave him confidence to apply public health theory in unconventional, creative ways.

In Paraguay, Echsner worked in an elementary school promoting dental health and hygiene and in a high school teaching life skills and sexual health education. He developed a class that encouraged self-expression through writing, the arts and photography.

He also assisted a community group on the Modern Kitchen Project, an effort to found 12 modern kitchens to promote proper food preparation and reduce contamination and foodborne illness. 

Echsner presented a workshop on safe working practices in the kitchen, stressing that hygiene was the responsibility of everyone in the family.

He introduced the community to growing pigeon peas, a tropical green pea. While men typically work in the fields in Paraguay, he was able to show women how they could invest their time and effort in a small garden and cultivate a sustainable and easily grown secondary protein source for the family.

Echsner is studying for the medical college admission test, aspiring to become a physician working with minority populations conducting community-based health outreach.

Dee Boling is director of communications for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000