Meet Diana Cahill, our Field Operations Manager at Project Restauración in the Dominican Republic! Diana has been with FIMRC since April 2014 and we are so excited to share some fun facts about her!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background:
I’m from Dayton, Ohio, and I went to school in Houston TX. I am SO EXCITED to watch the Buckeyes CRUSH the Oregon Ducks in the championship on the 12th! I love to travel, to take photos, and to read (which is great for when the power goes out). I also love coffee and Indian food.
What experiences led you to a career in global health before joining the FIMRC team?
I had a minor in Global Health Technologies from Rice University, which is focused on product design for medical technologies for use in the developing world. In my teams, I designed an after-market casing adaptation for a pulse oximeter so it could be used on infants as well as adults, and also a “Lab in a Backpack” that would allow a rural healthcare worker to provide pre- and post-natal consults to women outside of a clinic. (It’s literally a packing backpack with everything they need inside).
I had originally considered medical school, but I decided I wanted to focus on improving international health when I went abroad after my sophomore year of college. I travelled with Operation Crossroads Africa to The Gambia, and I was there in a rural government-run hospital for 7 weeks in a 10-person team. I had an amazing experience, but unlike the other members of my team, I felt like I could make a bigger difference in global health by focusing on international health policy and economics and systemic change (as opposed to being a care provider and practicing medicine).
To follow the policy side of international health, the following summer I had an internship at the US Department of State in Washington DC. I was in the Office of International Health and Biodefense, and conducted research for a fellowship on Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI, 2009). However, I decided that working inside the government necessarily meant that I would be a late-adopter of any health interventions, and I would prefer a role in nonprofits.
After I graduated from Rice, I moved to Honduras with a group called Shoulder to Shoulder. They have two secondary care centers and a contract with the government to oversee administration of 11 more rural clinics. I worked mostly with volunteers as a translator and with logistics. I also helped the nonprofit redesign their financial system and provided photos for their new website! It was at this time that I really learned Spanish. After I finished a year and a half in Honduras, I moved to FIMRC as the new FOM for Project Restauración.
What surprised you most about the community at Restauración?
Everyone is so nice! In particular, Angela and Cochita (my neighbor) are always looking out for me. Whereas in Honduras my community was within the clinic itself, I feel like the whole town looks out for me here.
What advice do you have to those who want to volunteer?
Push yourself! When you go abroad to volunteer, you really get out of it what you put into it. Going abroad is a great way to experience new things, but also to know yourself better – to find your limits, to find out your passions, and how to find out what you want to do in your career.
What is the funniest thing you've experienced living on site?
All the doñas are concerned that I am single in town. One of our host mothers, Cuca, was disappointed that I didn’t immediately fall in love with a particular nephew of hers. I apologized, and she told me “it’s alright, Diana. I have many more nephews!”
What does a typical day on site look like for you?
All my days are different! I usually wake up and cook breakfast (breakfast burritos if I’m feeling very fancy) and head to the office. I spend about half the day working in the office on preparing a class or writing new classes with Tania and making associated materials, and the other half teaching classes in surrounding towns. On Thursdays I go to the market and make healthy snacks for the diabetes club in the afternoon, and on Fridays I wake up early to do blood sugar and blood pressure tests at the FIMRC house. We also run a mobile clinic, go to Haiti, and visit our Diabetes Clubs with our diabetes specialist once each month. I eat lunch with Angela every day, and then for dinner I make American food at the FIMRC house, often with the local Peace Corps volunteers (once we made Thai food from scratch!). In the evenings I usually open the house up so local kids can come over to play with blocks and draw, and then at night I will hang out in the park, read a book, or watch a movie.
A fun fact about yourself!
I have my pilot’s license! My dad always wanted to learn, so we started lessons together when I was 13. I soloed in a glider when I was 17 and I got my FAA Private Pilot in 2012 (for powered flight).