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Sommer Scholars

Luana Araujo

  • Country of Origin: Brazil
  • MPH '20

A NEW DIRECTION

Luana Araujo’s trajectory was clear. After graduating from high school at 15, she attended one of Brazil’s best medical schools, specializing in infectious diseases. But her path took an unexpected turn at the age of 35, when doctors told her that she had a cancerous mass between her heart and aorta.

“The problem with being a health professional is that you can’t fool yourself with things,” she says. “When the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, I knew it would be complicated.” After an arduous surgery, Araujo faced a long recovery, giving her time to consider whether she was using her skills in the best way to help others. When she was ready to work, she accepted a job in the health department of the small inland city of Nova Mutum in the state of Mato Grosso to treat and prevent syphilis in pregnant women. There, she saw numerous problems with the health system in general—infectious disease patients who weren’t well-served through primary care, misuse of antibiotics, inefficiency, and mismanagement of financial resources. Araujo took it upon herself to institute system-wide changes, including education efforts for every person who comes into contact with patients—from specialists to janitors.

"Now it's time to polish my skills, develop others, learn from amazing teachers, and expand my work to the places it is needed."