Belle Delivers a Baby in West Africa
Summer Program Teaches Unexpected Lesson
Bennett College senior math and biology major Qaleelah Smith ’19 assumed her summer would be exciting. What she didn’t count on was delivering a baby!
Smith and Bennett senior Aravia Patterson ’19, a biology and Africana Women’s Studies major from Columbia, S.C., spent three weeks over the summer in The Gambia in West Africa through Drexel University’s Global Health Maternal Child Health Program.
On Aug. 14, they arrived at the Tanji Clinic with other students and shadowed in the labor ward. Neither had a clue of what was in store.
“There was a woman who’d been in labor for six hours, and she continued being in labor for the next four or five hours,” Smith explained. “The nurse instructed that we induce labor by giving her Pitocin.”
Fifteen minutes after the medicine was administered, the baby’s head started emerging. The midwife sat down, told Smith to put on some gloves and began giving instructions.
“I was happy she had the confidence in me to do it, but then I was nervous because I didn’t want to cause any harm to the mother or the baby,” Smith recalled. After the baby was born, Smith dried her off as she’d been taught by Dr. Yanick Vibert, an attending neonatologist at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Hahnemann University Hospital, both in Philadelphia. Vibert is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine.
“Qaleelah was motivated, driven, flexible and willing to ‘lean into areas of discomfort’ to fully experience a new country and immerse herself in a new culture without preconceived judgments…” Vibert said. “She was following the midwife that morning at the Health Center, helped the mother feel comfortable while she was pushing and was respectful and humble throughout the entire experience.”
Born in Fort Hood, Texas, Smith graduated as valedictorian in 2013 from The School for International Studies in Brooklyn, N.Y. She’s glad to be a Belle. “The sisterhood here is really nice and people are welcoming,” Smith said. “I enjoy Bennett most because of the opportunities I’ve had like going abroad and doing research…”
Smith traveled with Bennett President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins and classmates to Seoul, South Korea, in 2017.
“Qaleelah has demonstrated extremely high levels of intellectual curiosity, independence and self-motivation since I’ve known her,” said Dr. Althea Truesdale, dean of the Division for Student Success and Retention.