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Mission-focused doctor supports service learning

When Janet Eddy, M.D. (M.D.’87/M), learned that VCU’s service living-learning community, ASPiRE, was sending students to Belize, she gave $1,100 to provide supplemental funding for two students who otherwise could not afford the trip. In July 2016, 12 students, including two who benefited from Eddy’s gift, ran a camp for 75 local children in Sandhill, Belize; stayed with host families; and traveled within the country to learn more about its history, ecology and culture.

Eddy traveled on medical missions abroad as a family physician for years, but a trip shadowing local midwives in Guatemala about 10 years ago allowed a true cultural exchange, and she saw community practices at work. Having worked with underserved communities in Richmond for the past 25 years, she came back from her trip to Guatemala with an expanded worldview and a deeper understanding of service. 

Eddy wanted to give in a way that provides students an opportunity to expand their perspective on the world. ASPiRE’s community-oriented and cultural exchange service trip presented the perfect opportunity.

In Richmond, ASPiRE students live in a dedicated dorm for two years while completing 100 hours of co-curricular service hours and take classes each semester that develop their knowledge, skills and disposition for community engagement.

“It’s not just a do-good type thing,” Eddy says. “The students who do ASPiRE work with the community get to know what the challenges are, and they try to do the work that the people who live in the community think will really help people they know.

“Whatever we can do to help, particularly in the areas of education and health, is really key to boosting people who grow up in poverty into the middle class and better health.”

To learn more about VCU ASPiRE, contact Nannette Bailey, community partnerships coordinator, at (804) 827-2300 or nabailey@vcu.edu.