Swimming outside the lanes

Chemistry & Biochemistry Health, Exercise, and Sport Studies Modern Languages Spanish
August 3, 2015

Each week, when Michelle Howell ’15 volunteers as a Spanish translator at a free clinic in Columbus, her desire to become a bi-lingual doctor is reinforced. Howell began her work in the clinic as part of a classroom assignment. She is continuing her service after graduation as part of her medical training.

“This is a great shadowing experience that also helps build my medical terminology in both languages.”

Howell first began to volunteer at the clinic through a Spanish class with Dosinda Alvite, an associate professor of Spanish.

“Dosinda has been an amazing mentor. From the moment I walked in her office asking her to be my advisor, she was all smiles. She’s 100 percent friendly, and 200 percent supportive.”

“Most people volunteer at elementary schools, but Dosinda knew I had an interest in medicine so she looked into openings at the free clinic in Columbus,” said Howell, who majored Spanish and minored in chemistry.

Howell stays with the clinic’s patients throughout their entire visit there, from registration through the doctor visit, finishing with the check out at the pharmacy. All this time spent together gives her ample opportunity to get to know her clients.

“I hear some really inspiring stories,” said Howell, who asked one woman how she got to Ohio.

“When she said she walked here, I said, ‘No, no, not to the clinic, but to Ohio.’ And that’s exactly what she meant, she had walked to Ohio from Mexico,” said Howell. “I’ve gotten a really eye-opening cultural experience, one I don’t think you could get in a classroom or anywhere else.”

“I’ve gotten a really eye-opening cultural experience, one I don’t think you could get in a classroom or anywhere else.”

Howell’s other passion is swimming. She is Denison’s first double individual medley national champion. Howell won the first 400 individual medley national championship in the college’s history and won the 200 individual medley as well. She is only the tenth double national champion in the NCAA swimming and diving history.

“Swimming was by far the biggest part of my life outside of class,” said Howell, who regularly spent 20 hours a week or more in the pool. “My goal when I came to Denison was to become a NCAA national champion. I didn’t know how probable that was but Coach Gregg Parini instilled me from day one that I could do it.”

Howell overcame some significant obstacles to reach those championships. She suffered from a herniated disk in her back, a separated AC joint in her shoulder and even Lyme disease.

“I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without Coach Parini’s guidance and support. The team motto says it all, ‘Sempre Avanti’ — always forward,” says Howell. “Coach makes it his goal to make his swimmers better people, not just better swimmers.”

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