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She's Walked in Commencement, Now C-Ring Winner Shadows Doctors in Burn Clinic in South America

Kimberly Bauer knows when you’re helping people with their health care that you need to speak their language. She has just the right personal chemistry to do that. It also helps that she’s graduating with a double major in chemistry and Spanish.

Date: 6/14/2009
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover, photojournalist
At its most basic level, chemistry is all about combining things. Combinations. Life is full of them: Opportunities and choices. Choices and results. Small wonder then, that the 2009 University of Cincinnati C-Ring Award recipient Kimberly Bauer chose to double major in chemistry and Spanish in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences — and then combined it with a passion to help others.

Kimberly has participated in six academic study abroad programs and visited at least 29 countries.
Kimberly Bauer is the 2009 C-Ring Winner

Debbie Brawn, director of Programs and Administration for the University Honors Program, nominated Bauer for the C-Ring, one of the most prestigious awards presented to a graduating woman each year.

“Kim has an immense passion for learning about the world. During her time at UC, she has participated in six academic study abroad programs and visited at least 29 countries,” Brawn wrote in her nomination letter. She also noted that Bauer lives a life of service and “does not hesitate to give her time and talents.”

Kimberly exemplifies the UC spirit not just in her desire to help others, but also in how she represents many of the programs and disciplines attitudes of UC itself — hence the 29 countries.

“Many different opportunities have presented themselves to me at UC,” says Kimberly. “For example, I went to Nicaragua as part of an Honors program. In Nicaragua, I worked in a maternity clinic — a casa materna. If the women were not brought to me, they would be left hours from any town with only a sister or a husband to help them deliver their babies.”

Kimberly learned medical Spanish in Peru so that she could communicate with patients better.
Kimberly plans to earn master's degrees in physician's assistant studies and public health. (Photo by Ashley Kempher.)

Kimberly had developed such strong relationships with the women in the village that when she returned to South America to study medical Spanish in Peru, she stopped by Nicaragua to check on the women whose babies she had helped deliver.

So how does she make her choices of where to go? No surprise there — it’s a combination of factors.

“It depends on what the opportunities are, what my needs are and what’s the best fit,” says Kimberly. “I’m interested in a variety of things.”

That goes for her career, too.

“I’d like to work in hands-on health care and in policy,” Kimberly says. “I feel you need the experience with the hands-on aspects to make the right decisions. Your policy ideas might be good but unless you’ve been in the trenches, they might not be workable or realistic.”

Paw power.
'I’d like to work in hands-on health care and in policy,' Kimberly says.

It’s easy to see that Kim has great people skills. She especially likes working with and for women, breaking down gender inequality barriers.

“In the United States, we have many resources at our disposal such as the Internet, commercials and other sources of information,” she says. “We are able to question our doctors. In Central and South America, women would never question their doctors. They don’t ask such things as, ‘Is there another non-invasive procedure?’ or ‘Is there another doctor I can consult?’ You don’t question a doctor’s authority.”

Kimberly points out that in Peru, where she was always dressed in a white coat and was always accompanied by doctors herself, she was viewed as a doctor and treated as such. When she asked questions, she was answered mostly in simple answers of “yes” or “no.” In Nicaragua she was alone more often and dressed more casually. It was there that the patients tended to let their guard down more and talked more openly with her.

It was also there that the patients tended to ask her some interesting questions, Kimberly found.

“They always asked me the same three questions,” Kimberly says, laughing. “How old I was, why I wasn’t married and how many children I had. Obviously at my ripe age of 21 there was something wrong with me that I was unmarried and childless!”

Breaking down barriers was the reason that Kim studies medical Spanish in Peru.

“I realized that I could treat more patients if I was bilingual and not have to rely on a translator,” Kimberly says. “It affords people more privacy without that barrier of a third party there.” Kimberly advised her patients to have the doctor write down words they didn’t understand so they could look them up later, or have family members look them up for them — good advice even if patient and doctor speak the same language.

Kimberly will be working in a burn clinic next thanks to a grant from Phi Beta Kappa.
Kimberly plans to go to grad school for an MPAS and MPH. (Photo by Melanie Cannon.)

Kimberly plans to enter graduate school and earn a combined master of physician assistant studies and master of public health degree, with the goal of improving the quality of women’s health. UC does not currently offer an MPAS degree and Kimberly decided on this career path after the point where she should have applied to graduate school, so she will be taking a year off between studies. In the meantime she will head back to South America to shadow doctors and work in a burn clinic, thanks to the "Live Your Language" grant from Phi Beta Kappa.

Ten years from now Kimberly could see herself working in Washington, D.C., setting healthcare policy and making a difference in the lives of women in her own country and elsewhere. Just as easily, though, she can see herself working for the World Health Organization or the Pan American Health Organization breaking down barriers and helping women gain access to the healthcare they need.

“We’re all very connected,” she says. “Our country spends a lot of money on other countries in the form of aid. So working toward better health affects trade and makes for a stronger economy. It’s a cycle.”

Kimberly's parents, seen here with her at the C-Ring award banquet, are both UC alums. (Photo by Lisa Britton.)

Will it be difficult to leave UC? Maybe just a little, even with all her wandering.

“We like UC in our family!” enthuses Kimberly. “We are a UC family.”

Kimberly’s older brother graduated in 2006 from UC’s College of Business with a degree in marketing and finance and a minor in real estate. Her mother paved the way for Kimberly’s own dual major by majoring in teaching and English, and her father earned both his bachelor’s in history and his juris doctorate from UC.

Kimberly says that her on-campus “UC family” has been very encouraging and supportive, too. She even started out with the same advisor that her father had had in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences — Dean Robert Fee.

Kimberly Bauer in front of the University of Cincinnati fountain by University Pavilion.
Kimberly says that UC 'ended up being the school that was perfect for me.'

“I received a Cincinnatus scholarship and everything fell into place,” she says. “Being able to combine chemistry and Spanish presented issues occasionally, but my instructors were always willing to work around any challenges that came up.”

Kimberly says her view of the University of Cincinnati has changed over her years here.

“It started out as a school that was close with an excellent research reputation and it ended up being the school that was perfect for me.”