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Doane offers free HIV testing.

Four students show up.


The free HIV test station in Perry Campus Center is the place to be one cold February Tuesday.

Testers run out of kits and turn a couple hundred students away.

The difference? Maggie Sheehy.

O.K. Maggie Sheehy and a little bit of prize money.

Sheehy saw the devastation of AIDS in Africa firsthand while living there as part of Doane's Semester in Africa program. She also spent summers as a counselor at Camp Kindle – a camp for children affected and infected with HIV and AIDS.

When she and other camp counselors threw around ideas about how to get young people tested, everyone agreed – you have to lose the stigma. So Sheehy came up with a plan. She’d challenge Doane Greek groups to participate and form the core of a testing event.

If 100 percent of a fraternity or sorority were tested, they’d get $100. If one member did not get tested, the reward would drop to $50 and then to a dollar amount matching the percentage tested.

Sheehy found faculty support from Dr. Heather Lambert, assistant professor of psychology. Together, they secured volunteers, free tests kits, a Doane Service Learning grant and donations. Sheehy and other Phi Sigma Taus knocked on nearly every student’s door, handed out flyers and sent reminders.

When 10 students lined up before the event started, she knew the work had paid off. The event drew 100 percent participation from four of Doane’s nine Greek organizations. Some 186 students were tested before they ran out of kits. A few hundred more had to be turned away, but left with information.

Her dad – Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy – arrived in time to take the test along with Doane’s President.

Sheehy heard students asking questions about HIV.

“This really opened up the lines of communication. It made it O.K. to ask about AIDS.”

The 2008 graduate in biology and psychology is now a second-year medical student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, considering a specialty in emergency and/or infectious disease medicine.

But she’s not done building AIDS awareness. She spent five weeks of the summer of 2009 in Namibia. She’s researching the difference in perceptions of disease in HIV-positive Africans in Nigeria and America. She’s also among select students in UNMC’s enhanced medical educational tracks. She was accepted to the HIV honors track and will graduate with an M.D. with an emphasis in HIV Medicine.

She hopes to add Fulbright scholar to her resume some day.

It wouldn’t surprise her Doane professors.

Whatever project she picks, she’s sure to make a difference.

Related Links:
Camp Kindle

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