Lakhena Leang '18

Lakhena Leang '18 in Cambodia

"As a Klemm Fellow on a public health internship in Cambodia, I was part of a team that distributed basic treatment and medical supplies. During this experience, I realized that human beings and their symptoms cannot be readily cured or diagnosed the way that they are on ‘House’ or ‘ER.’ We didn’t have a cure for physical overexertion, chronic pain, or the pill to cure depression and psychosis. We had Voren Gel, an ointment that temporarily relieves joint pain, Tylenol and vitamins. One elderly lady who approached us was different from the others and for me, the most memorable of all. She told us that her husband beats her to a point of weakness, completely visible upon initial observation. ‘I would like some medicine that will give me energy,’ she requested. I remember that we were all speechless. In our bag, we didn’t carry any pills that would heal the fragility in her spirit, or cure the years of mental damage that had already been done. I wanted to say that she could fight this. That she could fight him. Instead, we handed her 5 packets of Royal D and 15 tablets of multivitamins and watched as she a limped away. The medical bag I carried back, despite its heavy weight, felt empty that day. In that moment, I realized that there will be days when you find yourself doubting whether the things you do for the people around you are worth it. Whether or not you’re worth it. And at times like this, more often than not, you’ll feel absolutely useless. In Cambodia, I learned how to combat this insecurity and use it as motivation to keep working towards something better.”