August 21, 2017

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Photography, Global Health Come Together for Medical Student Robin Sautter

Robin Sautter, Third-Year Medical StudentYou’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s one of the things ACMC third-year University of Minnesota-Duluth medical student Robin Sautter loves most about photography.

Robin first got interested in photography her junior year of college. She was involved in several extracurricular organizations and found that an image was a great way to communicate with people quickly. She also found that pictures were valuable educational tools.

“With just one photo you can convey so many things, capturing emotion, freezing a moment in time, teaching someone about something,” Robin said.  “At the time it was just something I liked to do. I had no idea how applicable it would become to my medical experience.”

Capturing a Snapshot of Global Health

Robin’s interest in photography began just in time. During her senior year she volunteered for Unite for Sight, a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. She traveled abroad to India, where she volunteered to develop an educational video so patients would understand the importance of cataract surgery.

It was also a way for her to explore two interests: public health and photography.

“I’ve always been curious about other cultures and as my interest in medicine grew, so did my interest in global health. I loved being able to help connect a community to their local healthcare system,” Robin said. “I also quickly realized how much I could learn and observe about culture and community through the lens of a camera.”

Everywhere she traveled, her camera did, too. In between her undergraduate studies and medical school, Robin spent a year teaching English in Taiwan. Three years ago Robin began working with a nonprofit called Pamoja Kenya Mentorship Alliance (PAKEMA). After her first year of medical school, she spent five weeks working with the founder of the organization to help develop health curriculum for high school students. While she was in Kenya, she also organized a class to help prepare students for life after high school. As a part of each lesson, students were encouraged to take photos to open their eyes as to how they could make a difference in their communities. In Kenya Robin also documented the life and culture she saw all around her in her photography.

One of her photos from her time in Kenya won first place in the University of Minnesota’s Global Health Day photo contest in 2014. Some of Robin’s photography will also be on display in an exhibit featuring the art of health care providers in Grand Rapids in February.

One day Robin hopes to display her photos in her exam rooms.

“Maybe my photos, the way I see the world, will pique someone’s interest, making them want to learn a little more about the world and the culture that surrounds them,” Robin said.

Incorporating Photography into Her Medical Experience

Even while completing her rotations in Willmar, Robin is finding ways to capture culture through the lens of her camera. She’ll be cataloging a day in the life of the Somali culture, using it as an educational piece for the healthcare providers at ACMC.

“There is culture everywhere you look—including in our own backyards. I thought it would be a great way to explore the community and a new culture,” she said.

Robin adds, “I’ve loved meeting people all over the world, learning about them, how they grew up and how that influences their lives and their health. It’s all connected, and I’ve been blessed to capture these little moments in time.”