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A few years ago, Laurel Merrick ’03 (Branford, Conn.) hated science and couldn’t envision a career that had anything to do with biology or chemistry. Then she took a women’s health class at Lafayette, listened to a midwife speak and changed her mind.

“It was one of those things that just clicked,” says Merrick, who created a major that combines psychology and women’s studies and now hopes to become a midwife herself.

This semester, Merrick is assisting nurses on the obstetrics floor at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, N.J., watching them take vital statistics and administer drugs, and helping them set up delivery rooms, read charts and encourage laboring women.

Merrick acknowledges that the first time she watched labor and delivery, she found it “a little unnerving.” As the internship progressed, she also was dismayed to learn that many of the hospital’s obstetrics patients had never received prenatal care. But none of that deterred her.

“It’s really interesting,” Merrick says. “I learn something new every day. I love the people and bringing babies into the world. Just knowing that I am helping someone makes me feel good. This has been a fantastic and incredible experience– too-much-for-words good!”

In addition to working at the hospital, Merrick writes a paper each week describing her experiences and exploring topics involving women’s health, including rape, birth defects and depression.

Deborah Byrd, associate professor of English and Merrick’s internship adviser, says she has seen Merrick mature during the experience.

“She had never had any real-life hospital experience,” Byrd says. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity for her to understand the demands of being a health care worker. There’s the excitement and fulfillment of helping someone to deliver a healthy child, but there are aspects that are troubling. This has been very eye-opening for her.”

Byrd adds that Merrick’s papers have been “very thoughtful” and that she has tackled some interesting research, including comparing the birth weights of babies from various economic and ethnic groups.

Merrick, who plans to complete a two-year nursing program and midwifery course after graduating from Lafayette, serves as president of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection and of the 511 College Avenue Residence Hall Council. She is also an alternate residence adviser.

Categorized in: Academic News