Whitman alumna honored for her medical work in Uganda

January 9, 2014

Daniel Le Ray

Stephanie Van Dyke with an Engeye Clinic patientAlumna Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke '99 has just been presented with the eTown E-Chievement Award. This is in recognition of the work she performs with Engeye, Inc., a non-profit that offers a health clinic and education outreach program to rural Ugandan communities. Van Dyke and native Ugandan John Kalule founded the Engeye Health Clinic in Ddegeya Village in 2006.

"It was a real honor to be awarded the E-Chievement Award," Van Dyke said, "both because it was a privilege that one of my childhood friends nominated me, and because it meant that Engeye would receive international recognition."

But the story began during her time as a Whitman undergraduate. Van Dyke majored in psychology and enjoyed the broad education that the college could provide. "Because I wasn't certain of my passions or life's direction while studying at Whitman, I kept a broad focus, studying psychology and being an active volunteer in the community," she said.

As a student she worked at a local preschool as well as with the Humane Society. After graduation, she continued volunteering while Engeye founders Stephanie Van Dyke and John Kaluletraveling around the world. Her first stop was Uganda, where she taught English in Katooke Village. The need for basic medical care in such small communities was clear, so upon her return to the U.S., Van Dyke set her sights on an M.D., with the goal of helping to provide healthcare to underserved communities.

"My coursework at Whitman was invaluable for preparing me for a career in medicine," Van Dyke said. "Studying psychology taught me how to be a better listener, a better observer, and generally how to better communicate and relate with all types of people."

These traits have proven invaluable in her medical career. As of today, the Engeye Clinic provides medical services including birth control, HIV testing and counseling, vaccinations, malaria testing and treatment and laboratory tests and treatments tailored to the community's needs. For Van Dyke, collaboration and community are what built such a strong organization.

"John Kalule and I started the non-profit organization, but the only reason it has flourished is the relentless team efforts both in the U.S. and Uganda. From building the clinic to the hard-working, local clinic staff and the board of directors' substantial time investments, so many players contribute to Engeye's success."

The other cornerstone of Engeye is independence and empowerment. In 2008, they added an education branch, with the goal of improving regional school resources and providing scholarships for students to receive better educations.

"We have been able to empower the local community rather than create a culture of dependency," Van Dyke said.

The organization is committed to sustainable solutions that do not create foreign dependence and believes that respect, partnership, and advocacy are more beneficial to the communities they serve than handouts or charity.

"Whitman prepared me to succeed," Van Dyke said. "Being surrounded by students and professors who had high standards and were passionate about a variety of causes empowered me to set the bar high."

Above all, she said, Whitman taught her to keep striving until she could be proud of her accomplishments.