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2015 Today's Top 10 winner and Woman of the Year finalist: Megan Light

The former Emory softball star plans to tackle international healthcare problems

When three American aid workers were treated for the Ebola virus at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in the fall, the uproar drew attention to inequality in international healthcare.

Megan Light
Emory University
Softball
Division III
University Athletic Association

Academics
GPA: 3.96
Major: Anthropology, human biology
Two-time Academic All-America honors
2014 Brittain Award (regarded as Emory’s highest student honor)
2010 Atlanta Sports Award Female Scholar Athlete of the Year

Athletics
Two-time NFCA All-America honors
Three-time University Athletic Association Player of the Year
Partin Award winner, Emory’s honor for outstanding career of season performance in team-based sport
Emory’s single-season and career leader for home runs and RBIs

Community Service
Organizations served: Global Health Action, Challah for Hunger, Zaban Couples Shelter, Global HEED, among others

Leadership
Two-time team captain
Four years on campus SAAC

Across the street from the infectious disease isolation units that housed the stricken workers, the school’s most prolific softball player was discovering ways to reverse that disparity.

“It’s a lot of work,” Megan Light said of her demands as a graduate student at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “Emory has a great relationship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with the hospital, obviously. So, it’s really, really cool to be in the middle of that.”

Light has been in the middle of public health for as long as she can remember. At 11 years old, she assisted at a local homeless shelter. Today, she embraces her two passions by championing youth sports as part of global health.

“I still volunteer at that homeless shelter. I was introduced to interacting with your community at an early age,” she said. “I know what it means to have your family, but also to have your community there with you.”

Light plans to create programs for children that incorporate sports not only for physical health, but also for mental health and its rewards: confidence, sense of teamwork, leadership and belonging to a community.

“I think the biggest thing that I would want to do is give them the opportunities that I’ve had,” she said. “Access to healthcare – we take that for granted everyday but it is something that is not there at all in developing countries – and access to sports or physical activity.”

Light’s passion for the field ignited when she visited one of the communities she hopes to help. In the summer of 2013, she traveled to Ghana for two weeks to aid the Hohoe District Hospital, which, like many in the region, faces problems with infrastructure, staff attrition and medical equipment.

There, she rotated between various units including the 53-year-old hospital’s HIV/AIDS clinic, antenatal clinic, physiotherapy ward and public health ward. Every shift, Light strove to make a tangible impact, informing staff and patients, for instance, about proper nutrition for infants. The stay reassured her about her ambitions.

“I knew I was interested but I wasn’t sure I was committed,” she said. “I was only there for two weeks and I already felt like I could do something. If I was there only two weeks, I wondered what I might do in the next two years.”