Taylor Biology Grad Serves Refugees in Middle EastBy Daniel Morrill and Jon Stroshine Published: Jun 06, 2012
The Taylor University Biology Department and Hurricane Katrina;one is an integral part of a world-class institution of higher learning, and one was a terrible disaster that shocked a nation. But both helped to prepare ‘03 graduate Whitney Fry for a life of service and compassion.
Fry majored in biology at Taylor and took advantage of several study abroad trips. She went to Costa Rica, did her practicum in Uganda and studied for a semester in Cairo, Egypt. The trips gave Fry her first experience in working overseas.
“Taylor in an of itself is a very globally minded community, and a community that really fosters service and really encourages people to look beyond themselves and get out of their comfort zone,” Fry said. “I really felt like the Lord was shaping me to go back to the Middle East. I just didn’t know what that would look like.”
In addition to the opportunities abroad, Fry formed close relationships with her biology professors while at Taylor. It was actually department chair Dr. Jan Reber who presented public health to Fry during her sophomore year as a possible career path.
“I just think the world of Dr. Reber and Dr. Whipple and others. The relationships cultivated in those years were really special and formative for me. I’m so grateful for that.”
After graduating and working for a year, Fry traveled to Southeast Asia in response to the 2004 tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.
“I just had this real interest in responding to the needs of people after a disaster or a conflict. People who are experiencing some kind of oppression because of a force that’s bigger than themselves. There’s lots of ways to reach people’s needs, but I was really interested in the health response.”
Upon returning to the states, Fry moved to New Orleans to pursue a master’s degree in public health at Tulane University. In 2005 Fry was about to begin her final semester at Tulane when Hurricane Katrina hit. Fry had evacuated from New Orleans before the storm, but was unable to return to her home for over a month and a half. She was forced to move around, essentially becoming a refugee in her own country with only a backpack to her name.
“It definitely heightened my sense of empathy and understanding and compassion for what others go through. I think it even drove me further to want to reach out and respond, knowing that I had undergone something sort of similar to what some of these people had gone through.”
Fry responded in 2008 when she returned to the Middle East and lived in Jordan. While there she worked with internally displaced persons while teaching language learning and social entrepreneurship.
“The calling that the Lord has placed on my heart is to love, serve and intercede on behalf of the oppressed in order to peacefully counter injustice, facilitate wellness and restore hope. However I can do that with the skills that he has given me, that’s my desire.”
Fry has spent time coordinating medical supply deliveries and clinics for people living in Gaza while also working with refugees and internally displaced people in Sudan and Darfur. While Fry admits that she doesn’t use very much “hard science” in her chosen profession, she appreciates many of the other things that studying biology at Taylor taught her.
“You can push harder,” Fry recalls learning. “Also to have a critical eye to break down the elements of what my capacity is intellectually, and to really challenge myself as much as I possibly can.”
Fry is currently in a "holding pattern" in the United States, waiting for her next assignment. But she encourages any Taylor student who is interested to pursue education in public health.
“That’s a wonderful opportunity for students to think about how to use science in a different form and in a way that can really serve communities, whether here in the U.S. or abroad.”
Written by Daniel Morrill and Jon Stroshine