’burg and Beyond

In Lewisburg and far afield, Bucknellians make a positive and palpable difference
Mahder Etuma with blurred background
Photo: Courtesy of Mahder Etuma
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Beltsville, Md.

When Mahder Etuma ’16 was a teenager, her aunt suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident. As she watched her aunt gradually make a full recovery, Etuma gained an appreciation for health care and a fascination with the miraculous healing power of the brain. It’s what inspired Etuma to become a neuroscience major at Bucknell and what then led her to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to research post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Today, it’s what fuels her work ensuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive proper care in Beltsville, Md.

What She’s Doing

Etuma is a program coordinator with Frontline Community Services, a nonprofit dedicated to serving patients who have struggled to receive adequate care from traditional medical facilities. “We are here to help people who need specialized care, often those who have been left behind by other programs,” Etuma says. “Some of our patients are dealing with mental health challenges like PTSD and schizophrenia, or they are survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.”

In her role, Etuma acts as mission control, overseeing the provision of services that ensure patients remain healthy, including medicine, nutrition, therapy and activities. “I connect the dots to make sure they are cared for and engaged in society,” she says. “It’s very fulfilling.”

What She Wants to Do Next

Etuma plans to take all she has learned — from Professor Judy Grisel’s neuroscience lab at Bucknell, from Walter Reed and from Frontline — and create a hospital that will provide treatment regardless of patients’ ability to pay. “I have seen how health care is drastically different for people who can’t afford it,” she says. “Medicine is essential and shouldn’t depend on someone’s income.” Etuma’s dream is to create a fully funded hospital in either Ethiopia, her home country, or Ghana, where she traveled during her senior year as part of the Bucknell in Ghana program. That experience was so vitalizing that after she graduated, Etuma returned to Ghana to volunteer in an emergency room. “I’m a product of my experiences,” she says, “and Bucknell provided some of the most impactful experiences of my life.”

— Katie Neitz